Here’s some reasons to get excited about the Raptors season

The Toronto Raptors have wallowed in mediocrity for the better part of their 20-year existence. For the most part, the experience of watching the Raptors over the years has been trying at best and depressing at worst. They’ve qualified for the post-season six times and have won ONE measly playoff round all the way back in 2001. Throughout their history, they have a win-loss record of 630-882, just under 42%. To be fair, we haven’t been the only tortured fan base in the league, seeing as how only 17 teams have ever won the chip. But there have been times when every new Raptors season has felt like a foregone conclusion: complete and utter insignificance.

Ladies and gentlemen, here to bring some much-needed positive vibes to this whole debacle, I present to you the 2014-15 NBA season. At the time of writing, the Raptors have the best record in the East (13-3) and the highest average point differential (10.6) in the entire league. Our record sits just a smidge behind two Western Conference powerhouses  in the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.

Tack on a super-successful #WeTheNorth (#WeTheFourth?) marketing campaign and this season has been a ball so far. It’s finally time to feel good about our team. We’re deep, we’re likable, we have all kinds of swag, we have Drake sitting courtside, and we’re finally having fun playing basketball. Here’s some top moments so far.

 All things Drake

I’m trying my best to resist posting a series of pics and gifs of Drake being Drake and just calling it a day, dropping the mic. Because when he’s sitting in his courtside seat (sometimes in awesomely lame outfits such as the one above) clapping, cheering and generally going nuts, it’s hard to not get down with that. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the best (some might say the best) at his craft right now and he’s a legitimate fan of this team, having grown up in The 6.

Probably my favourite Drake moment of the year came at the George Constanza glasses/grandpa sweater game, a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. In the fourth quarter, with the Raptors easily handling the Sixers, James Johnson broke free for a breakaway dunk. Old man Drake had quite the reaction:

Drake’s official title is the Global Ambassador for the Raps. I’m not entirely sure what that entails but if it means more Drake-ey things from his courtside seat, I’m all in. And I’m pretty sure an official Drake Cam is the best idea I’ve ever had. Just throw it in the top-right corner of the screen and we good.

The travelling band of merry Raptors’ fans

So we all know we have one of the best fanbases in the league. We’re loud, we’re passionate and we can be a little crazy, over the top even. In one of the more satisfying wins of the season, the Raptors travelled to Cleveland and soundly beat LeBron’s new superteam. But one of the more interesting aspects was something that was happening in the stands. In one section of the arena, there were, according to the Toronto Star, “a few hundred” diehard Raptors fans cheering on their team. Decked out in Raps gear, they were chanting and screaming their heads off. They even sang the Canadian national anthem at one point. In a classic backfire, the arena staff decided to turn up the music to drown out the pro-Toronto chants. And what did they play, you ask? Yup, they played Drake. Yeah, I doubt that did much to dampen their collective spirit.

Oh, and they didn’t stop once the game was over. Don’t let anybody tell you Toronto doesn’t love basketball. The Toronto Maple who?

The blowouts

Sure, we could have a real debate about strength of schedule. Eleven of the Raps’ 16 games have been in the friendly and supportive confines of the Air Canada Centre. They have played zero road games against the much tougher Western Conference. And they’ve played Orlando twice and Philadelphia once, both relatively easy outs. But the Raptors didn’t make the schedule. They have to play the teams the NBA tells them to play. Sure, it’s been favourable but what I’ve really liked is the ease in which they’re dispatching opponents. They beat Philly by 32, Utah by 18, Milwaukee by 42 and took down LeBron and co. by 18 in their house, apparently with the whole city of Cleveland behind them. All of these wins results in the 10.6 average point differential mentioned above, tops in the league. So sure, it hasn’t been the most gruelling schedule but this is a deep league where nearly every team can beat any other team.

#forgivevince

It was about time, right? It’s been a full ten years since Vince Carter left Toronto for New Jersey. And he’s been loudly booed ever since. Sure, he was far from perfect on his way out of Toronto whether it was not giving 100% on the court or childishly refusing to dunk. But he brought excitement and credibility to the Raptors around the same time the other Canadian team was going belly up out west. It’s time we forgive him. And earlier this month, the fans took a step in the right direction. After a video tribute played on the jumbotron, the fans stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Vince even shed a few tears.

This was the right thing to do. Finally, some closure. Now let’s start focusing on our team. And so far, what a team it’s been.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Here’s what I noticed going from the upper bowl to the lower bowl at the Raptors game

 

At last night’s (long) triple-overtime Raptors’ loss to the Washington Wizards, we started out in the upper bowl. A couple of tickets were purchased off StubHub for the very reasonable price of $10 a pop. We were in the 15th row in the upper bowl. Not the best vantage point, but for less than the price of a beer at the Air Canada Centre, there wasn’t much to complain about.

People often talk about how the real fans are in the upper bowl and the lower bowl is filled with investment bankers entertaining clients. A simplistic view but when I took my seat, I found myself beside one of the realest fans I’ve seen. The guy was decked out in Raptors gear and had a Raptors flag to wave whenever something good happened. He had his extra-large pop by his feet to keep his vocal chords loose as he had a loud reaction to everything that happened on the court. He was ignoring whoever he went to the game with. Hopefully that person wasn’t expecting a conversation. I mean, this guy had tunnel vision.

Here’s an idea of just how passionate he was.  About a couple minutes into the game. Kyle Lowry headed to the free throw line. “C’mon Kyle, hit these!” he yelled. Lowry hits the first of two. “Nice going, KL! Make the pair!” he screamed. Lowry makes the second. “Way to go, KL! Way to hit those free throws! Let’s go Raps! Get back on D!” When a fan gets THAT excited about free throws, you know you have a superfan on your hands. Anyway, I dug this guy’s enthusiasm but we ended moving a few seats down just so he wasn’t screaming in our ears.

After halftime, we snuck down to the lower bowl. Shh. We weren’t too close to the court but had a much better view. But things felt different. You had less screaming passionate fans. People’s clothes were noticeably nicer and more expensive. More people were looking down at their phones. It wasn’t all bad, of course. When good things happened for the Raptors, people cheered, which was great. But it was a far cry from cheering for made free throws in the opening moments of the game.

Anyway, once the third overtime hit, a lot of fans had headed home and we saw an opportunity. A few moments later, we were down in the sixth row, the best seats I had had in almost 10 years. And down in this section, a quick scan around me made me realize I was mostly surrounded by suits, both the type of person and the garment. I’m not saying I was surprised by the lessening passion, nicer clothes and higher number of Blackberries as I made my way closer and closer to the court. It’s to be expected. This would happen at any event with different ticket prices. But it was interesting to see the gradual change in demographics as one’s seat improved.

And late in the third overtime, I looked up to our original spot and made out the superfan from earlier. Still there, still waving his flag, still screaming himself hoarse. Still loving the experience from the nosebleeds.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Changes to All-Star Saturday night and what I think of them

The NBA seems to have a fear of change. The calls to shorten the season and/or reconfigure the NBA Draft have been growing louder. Any reaction from the tall foreheads running the league? Crickets.

Change for an organization as big as the NBA is probably going to manifest itself in baby steps. Well, one NBA event desperately in need of a shakeup will take a few such steps this weekend.

I’m talking about NBA All-Star Saturday Night. Let’s take a look at the three premiere events of the evening (no need to discuss the one with retired and WNBA players), what has changed and, most importantly, what I think about it. I’ll even thrown in a pick just for fun.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

The Event: Six players compete against each other in a timed dribbling, shooting and passing obstacle course. The top three fastest times from the first round move on to the second and final round. Fastest time in final round wins the event.

The Change: The number of participants has been upped from six to eight and four teams of two have been formed, with each conference represented by two two-man teams. Players on each team run the course one after the other in a relay format, resulting in one total time per team. The top team from each conference faces each other in the second and final round.

What I think: If All-Star Saturday night was three siblings, this would be the one that everybody ignores. That being said, it can be an entertaining event and I like the change. Perhaps inspired by the Olympics, turning this into a team competition is a cool idea. There won’t be a whole lot of strategic planning except “Run as fast as you can” but I suppose there will be some thought put into who goes first. You’d probably want the faster player going second (or the one who has more of a “second gear”) in a bid to make up as much time as possible.

Random question(s): How will the first player tag his partner? Will there be a baton? Will there be fist bumps? Low-fives?

My pick: DeMar Derozan (Go Raps!) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Go impossible-to-pronounce names!)

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

The Event: This is the second-most popular event of the night and maybe even the first for some fans. It is also the event that is least in need of a makeover. The premise is pretty simple. There are five racks with five balls each surrounding the three-point line. Every ball is worth one point except one multi-coloured ball per rack (i.e. the money ball). Each player has 60 seconds to shoot and sink as many of the 25 balls as possible. A little bit of quick math means that the highest score possible is 30.

The Change: The new wrinkle this year is that one of the racks is ONLY MONEY BALLS, changing the highest possible score from 30 to 34. Again, this event is more or less fine but letting each player decide where they want to place the rack will add a little intrigue.

Random Question(s): Will players choose rack position based on proficiency from that spot or wanting to be warmed up when they get to it? Will anybody break the record of 25? And if so, will people argue for an asterisk?

My pick: I’ll say Arron Afflalo just because Kendrick Lamar used to be jealous of him.

Sprite Slam Dunk (Sidenote: I suddenly want to drink a Sprite and eat a taco while wearing some fresh kicks)

The Event: Without a doubt, this is the marquee event of NBA All-Star Saturday night. Remember Vince? Remember Nate? Remember Blake? Yeah. I thought so. But for all the great ones, there have sadly been at least as many duds. The major reason why this event has gotten rather blah is a lack of star power. There haven’t been any LeBrons, Carmelos or Durants. Instead, we’ve had Gerald Green and Jeremy Evans. And somebody named Fred Jones won it in 2004. Anyway, the format has been tweaked a few times but for the most part, it’s been an individual competition with judges deciding the outcome.

The (Inadvertent) Change: I’m cautiously optimistic this year. We’ll get to the format change but let me first say that the field is made up of Paul George, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Terrence Ross, Ben McLemore and Harrison Barnes. Half of the participants this year are playing in the All-Star Game. Not too shabby. If 2014 is the year the dunk contest gets saved, it will happen because of the star power (and not the format change), although the latter could help.

The Change: OK, rule change. Similar to the other events, this one has become more conference-based. The first round (i.e. the freestyle round) will have the three dunkers from each conference do whatever they want for 90 seconds. Now, this could be pretty entertaining, depending on how creative the players get. Three high flyers given carte blanche to come up with a dunking routine? Could be very cool.

The freestyle round doesn’t make any real difference for the battle round (cool names by the way, NBA). In the battle round, East dunkers go head-to-head against West dunkers, with judges selecting the winners. The first conference to win three battles wins the competition. So we get a team win and then fans select the Dunker of the Night.

Now, this new system isn’t perfect but I respect the NBA for trying something new because this event was becoming pretty hard to watch. But it was always more about the lack of stars than it was about the format. Also, just the general idea that there aren’t a whole lot of ways to put a ball through a hoop.

Random Question(s): Will there be some crazy double-alley-oop, off the backboard routines in the freestyle round? Will a player dunk over both his teammates? Will the dunk contest be saved or, at the least, revived?

My pick: Eastern Conference and Paul George

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

The NBA and its endless entertainment value

The NBA is such a fascinating league. While the actual games are obviously entertaining, the behind-the-scenes, off-court stuff is often equally intriguing. Consider it the salt on your french fries or the mayo on your sandwich. You’d be fine without it but the final product just wouldn’t be quite as good.

I’m talking about everything that happens in the Twittersphere. I’m talking about the tension between the new school (“We’re all bros”) and the old school (“If you’re wearing another jersey, don’t even look at me”). I’m talking about how social media allows players to be more creative when interacting with fans. And please, we simply cannot forget about the questionable fashion choices that occur each and every day in this wonderful sports association.

What I’m trying to say is that the NBA has something for everyone. Even if you’re not a fan per se, you should still relate to these stories on some level. NBA players are eccentric, quirky and downright entertaining. It’s what happens outside the lines that really makes this a special league. To pay homage, here are my favourite off-court moments of this young 2013-14 NBA season.

Roy Hibbert’s Twitter Account

In a league where swagger is an essential ingredient to success (Thunder, Heat, Warriors, Clippers, etc.), there is perhaps no team with more swag than the Indiana Pacers. And that combination of confidence, arrogance and cockiness is exemplified by the man in the middle, Roy Hibbert. For example, after the Pacers won their first five games, Hibbert took to Twitter:

Only five games into the season, this tweet rubbed some people the wrong way. Personally, I loved it. It’s no different than an athlete wanting to make it to Sochi. Or an employee wanting that promotion. We all have goals. Hibbert just chose to broadcast his goal to the world. NBD. Here’s what he had to say in response to the haters:

While his DPOY tweet irked some people, this next set of tweets is so adorable that you can’t help but sit back and appreciate the fact that Twitter exists. Here’s the story. The PS4 was hitting the shelves but Hibbert didn’t feel like waiting in line to pick one up. So he offered to buy it off someone. But that’s not it. In addition to the money, he would also go to your house and “chill w the fam n eat dinner.” No word on whether this actually happened but the tweets themselves are priceless.

Is this a joke? Hibbert wants you to know that no, it is definitely not a joke.

Once again, not a joke.

Amir Johnson and Drake

Being a Torontonian, there’s no way I could forget about Amir Johnson and all the refreshing things he does off the court. He once, for no reason whatsoever, went and bought every single copy of Drake’s new album from Future Shop and HMV and proceeded to hand them out to fans. If you’re cynical about this (i.e. Drake sucks anyway, he just did it for the good press), then you really need to start enjoying life. He didn’t have to do this. He wanted to do this.

But wait, there’s more! He did the Zombie Walk in Toronto…

And! He shaved the Raptors logo into the back of his head. And dyed it red!

Raptors fans love a player who embraces the city (Matt Bonner taking the TTC comes to mind). So it’s probably fair to say that Johnson is the people’s favourite around these parts, no matter what his statline might be.

Jason Kidd spills his drink

Forget about the Nets’ horrible start amid such lofty expectations. Forget about how they mortgaged their future for two aging (washed up?) superstars. Forget about how somebody with zero coaching experience parachuted into a head coaching gig. Because the biggest story of the Nets season so far is something called Cupgate or Spillgate, depending on your personal preference.

In the dying moments of a close game, Coach Kidd somehow produces a cup of pop with ice. (Sidenote: I’ve been watching hoops for a while now and never have I seen a coach with a cup of soda, but I digress). The Nets are out of timeouts so to buy some time to draw up a play, the savvy Kidd instructs one of his players to hit him on the way back to the bench, thus spilling the drink, thus giving him some time to draw up a play while the mess is being cleaned. At first, Kidd denied it. Then, he realized that you don’t have to be a professional lip-reader to determine what he said to the player. You can’t make this stuff up. Ladies and gentlemen, Spillgate.

DeMarcus Cousins keeping it real

A lot of people pine for the NBA of the 80s. Their argument is that the league has gotten soft, blowing too many whistles for ticky-tack fouls. In the 80s, you also had real animosity between teams. Not everybody was buddy-buddy. If you were in a different uniform, you ain’t shaking my hand. So when DeMarcus Cousins wouldn’t let Isiah Thomas give Chris Paul some dap after a game, actually dragging him off the court, it symbolized a battle between new school and old school, between “We’re all in this together” and “F you, y’all ain’t my friends.” After the game, Chris Paul said that Cousins needed some “guidance.” No doubt a fair point but fans of the gritty, physical play of the 80s sure enjoyed what they saw that night.

LeBron, Christmas and some bonus LeBron

I’m a sucker for creative commercials, even once going to a movie theatre to watch an hour-and-a-half of TV ads. Yes, that really happened. So far this year, there have been two NBA-related ads that I have absolutely loved.

In the first, LeBron James runs, bikes and swims his way around South Beach with an ever-growing throng of fans and supporters close behind him. From the pack of fans waiting for him outside his mansion to LeBron sprinting into the Atlantic to LeBron crashing a game of pick-up basketball, the spot is perfect. I could watch it a million times.

Forget the presents. Every Christmas, I look forward to about 12 straight hours of hoops. The NBA is unique in the sense that they schedule all their box-office teams on Christmas Day. From noon to midnight, it’s a day of non-stop hoops heaven. This year, to make some more money on top of all the money they already have, the NBA has decided that all teams will wear short-sleeved versions of their jerseys on Christmas Day. And look, they made a commercial to celebrate the moment. What we’re left with is a xylophone-type-thing with basketball meshes, with a nice little surprise at the end. I wonder how many takes this took. Either way, it’s pretty damn cool.

Fashion

Oh, the fashion. No words are necessary here. Just pictures. Thank you NBA for your endless entertainment value.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

The Gravity Experience

At times, I felt nauseous. Other times, claustrophobic. Most of the time, I felt downright uncomfortable, like I was struggling to get back to Mother Earth just like George and Sandra. Like I was on a roller coaster where part of me wanted to stay on and the other part wanted to jump ship.

To be honest, I’m not even sure I enjoyed this movie. Enjoyed is not the right word. But I do know that it was all worth it.

In every sense of the word, Gravity was a unique moviegoing experience, experience being a term that gets thrown around a lot undeservedly but undoubtedly belongs here. It sounds corny but I didn’t just watch Gravity; I experienced it. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my day but I had never seen a movie like this. And even if the acting or dialogue was sub-par (Important note: It wasn’t), I would still give it a good review based purely on the ground that it broke.

Alfonso Cuarón seems to have figured out how to feed the hype machine. Basically, it comes down to quality over quantity. When you’re pumping out two movies a year (See Allen, Woody), you don’t leave much time for anticipation to build. But for whatever reason, Cuarón’s movies are few and far between. Y Tu Mamá También was 2001, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was 2004 and Children of Men was 2006. Gravity came out a few weeks ago, meaning seven years came and went without a Cuarón joint.

All of the hype was deserved. The first part of the movie was rather calm but left no doubt that trouble was around the corner. It was the calm before the space storm. And in a place as vast and wide and empty as outer space, trouble becomes that much harder to deal with. Hopelessness becomes the feeling du jour. You can’t call 9-1-1 or your parents when you’re in space. You can’t call an ambulance to your house. Did I mention that gravity doesn’t exist in space? Where in the world (or other worlds) will these people turn to for help? That’s what I was feeling for the refreshingly short one-and-a-half-hour runtime.

I think I know why it all felt so real to me: There were no scenes on Earth. From the very start, we are in space with the characters, and that’s where we stay until the very last moments. There were no flashbacks to Clooney at Mardi Gras or Bullock driving in her car. Space is the only reality Cuarón gives us and that’s what made the whole experience so claustrophobic.

General rule: When a movie makes you wonder how in the world they made this movie, that’s a good thing. It means that it’s new to you. It means that they’re pushing the envelope of what a movie can be. That’s what I liked about Gravity. It wasn’t playing on past conventions. It was unapologetically unique. This was a statement movie. It said “This is where we set the bar, try to top it.”

I’m sure Cuarón knows he’s achieved something special. And I’m almost positive the Oscars will agree. Gravity is almost guaranteed a nomination for Best Picture and Best Director. If they go all the way in one or both categories, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment

An open letter to Jesse Pinkman (SPOILER ALERT!)

Dear Jesse,

How are you holding up, buddy?

These past few years have been pretty rough on you. I mean, you’re still so young yet you’ve experienced a lifetime worth of tragedy. I can’t even begin to comprehend the depths of your despair right now, how entirely hopeless you must feel.

And by the way, I was pulling for you when you tried to escape from the Nazi prison. Really pulling for you. Slick move asking Todd to leave the sheet off so you could see the stars. Sorry it didn’t work out. I still think that guy, unlike his uncle and his buddies, has some empathy left in his body. And doesn’t it seem like he’s totally crushing on Lydia?

Anyway, back to you. You must really have it out for Mr. White right now. I mean, wasn’t this string of tragic events set off when he became a part of your life? It’s not like you were doing great before he came along but it’s fair to say that things have quickly deteriorated since you two went into business together.  What would you do if a defenseless Mr. White was standing in front of you right now? Wait, don’t answer that question. I don’t even want to know.

I mean, the guy made you kill Gale Boetticher even though, deep down, you’re a decent person with a good heart who doesn’t want to hurt, let alone kill, anybody. He could have saved your ex-girlfriend Jane when she was choking on her own vomit but chose to simply walk away and let her die. And what a moment to tell you that little piece of news, right?! Talk about adding insult to injury. And please, don’t even get me started on him poisoning Brock.

And finally, even though it was the Nazis who shot Andrea, isn’t Walt indirectly responsible for that as well? I can still hear your screams, Jesse. Through that mouth gag they tied around you. Oh, those screams will be with me for a while.

And to top it all off, Mr. White was never that nice to you, was he? Treated you more like a punching bag than a partner, you know what I’m saying? In fact, there’s even a YouTube clip devoted to him yelling at you. Being called a junkie and an idiot over and over must not have helped things much. I guess given your current circumstances, you can’t really click on that link. Sorry about that. Consider it something to look forward to.

Yet despite all this, Mr. White still seems to be a hard man to pin down. On one hand, he’s completely evil but on the other, the motivation behind his actions could be considered honourable, right? You’ve heard him say it a million times. He’s doing all this for his family. I bet at one point you might have considered yourself part of his family. Guess not.

All that being said, he did save your life from those drug dealers. And he did bring you into a business that made you a millionaire, even though all that’s gone right now, last I checked. And I genuinely feel that part of him still thinks of you as a son-figure. I think that deep down, he cares about you, Jesse. What he does next will determine to what extent.

But there’s at least one person left in this world who you do still care about, Jesse. One person out there who still needs you. No, I’m not talking about Badger and Skinny Pete though they seem like pretty cool dudes.

I’m talking about Brock. Before Mr. White came in and complicated everything, you seemed to be at your happiest when you were with Andrea (R.I.P.) and Brock. Playing video games and what-not. That Fruit Loops-eating kid may be your last glimmer of hope in a world that must seem like a living hell to you right now. A world you might have even considered leaving.

So hold on to the idea of that kid while you’re trapped down there, buddy. Put him in your thoughts and your dreams. Have him be your inspiration to escape your current, dreadful situation. After all, he’s an orphan now. He’s going to need a father figure in his life. This wasn’t my idea but I think the best-case scenario right now for you is that, somehow, someway, you get to raise that kid. If I had things my way, this would be the ending I would wish for.

I want something good to happen to you, Jesse. Something to put a smile on your face and help you put this whole mess behind you. And here’s some free advice: If you do get out and you do get to raise this kid, stay away from the drugs. This means making them, taking them, or selling them. Put all of your energy into Brock’s future.

This is the ending I hope for you. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

Let’s use our heads and make helmets mandatory

Here’s a question for all of you: How is it that a helmet is mandatory for an e-scooter but not for a regular bike? Am I missing something or is there a serious disconnect going on here?

The other weekend, we rented a two-person e-scooter for a few hours to zip around Toronto. Max speed? A (whopping!) 35 km/hr. Plus, given that we were two people, hitting 30 km/hr was a rarity that day.

I mean, this thing was pretty feeble. It struggled going up hills from a standstill. Fellow motorists (in their appropriately-powered vehicles, I might add) yelled “You’re too slow!” more than once. And to top it off, the thing made a rather obnoxious beeping sound when you clicked on the turn signal.

Eventually, we clued into the fact that this thing should basically be ridden like a bicycle: Stay to the right side of the right lane whenever possible without actually riding in any bike lanes, recently ruled a big no-no in Toronto.

We saw a lot of things that day but not once did we see somebody riding a scooter (electric or otherwise) without a helmet. Many cyclists eschew the helmet even though it’s not uncommon for them to hit 35 km/hr (the max speed of our scooter), especially coming down hills.

(From Wikipedia: Typical speeds for bicycles are 15 to 30 km/h (10 to 20 mph). On a fast racing bicycle, a reasonably fit rider can ride at 50 km/h (30 mph) on flat ground for short periods.)

In recent years, I’ve become a somewhat passionate proponent for cyclists wearing helmets. It just seems so obvious to me, such a no-brainer. We read about cyclists getting injured (sometimes fatally) on Toronto’s streets all the time and yet we go on thinking that we’re somehow invincible, that it could never happen to us.

I’ll often tell anybody who’ll listen that they should probably consider wearing a helmet in Toronto. And so far, I’ve yet to hear a valid argument for NOT wearing one. Here are some ways one may try to justify it:

“Wearing a helmet makes me less cool.”

Really? I would understand this argument a little more coming from a high school student, a place where superficiality reigns, where it determines one’s “popularity.” A place where having the latest generation iPhone or the newest pair of Jordans makes you cool.

But as we grow up and escape that bubble, shouldn’t we be maturing as well, getting more comfortable in our own skin, less susceptible to peer pressure? In my opinion, adults should not be worrying themselves with what’s cool or what’s not cool, especially when it comes to protecting their skull and brain. They should be cluing into the fact that self-preservation should be high up there on their list of priorities.

“It messes up my hair.”

Would you rather something else get messed up? Anyway, here’s the solution. Walk into the office (or cafe, bar, wherever) with your helmet in clear view. Carry it with pride. People will see it and understand. And probably respect you for it. I get that people’s hair is important to them but it can’t be more important than their life, can it?

“I like to feel the wind in my hair.”

Take a ferry ride to Toronto Island if you really want to feel the wind in your hair. Or go to Canada’s Wonderland. Or sprint down your street. Or stand in front of a fan. I get it, it’s a pleasant feeling. But it’s is still not a valid excuse.

“I’d still hurt myself if I was in an accident wearing a helmet.”

Ya, maybe. Unless you equip yourself with knee and shoulder pads, a fall will almost always result in a few cuts and bruises. Or maybe a broken bone if you’re really unlucky. But here’s the thing: Bones heal! Cuts and scrapes heal! Your brain? Sometimes, there’s no coming back from a brain injury. Sometimes, it’s permanent. This is why it should be your most prized possession and why you should treat it as such.

“I’m a good rider. Nothing will happen to me.”

Sure, you can control yourself. And on a quiet country road with little to no cars, you’d probably be okay. But you can’t control others. You can’t control drunk and/or reckless drivers. You never, ever know when a car will do something unpredictable. Good drivers still wear seatbelts, right? So no matter how good a rider you are, it doesn’t really matter because a lot of things can happen on a busy downtown street filled with cars, buses, streetcars, motorcycles and scooters.

_____________________________________________________

If it wasn’t already clear, I would be all-in on an expansive helmet law in Ontario. So would the Office of the Chief Coroner. If you’re zipping around the streets of Toronto, going in between cars, changing lanes, running stop signs, WITHOUT a helmet, I just don’t get that. Motorcyclists (and those who ride e-scooters) wear helmets. Motorists wear seatbelts. Cyclists should wear helmets.

Here are some highlights taken directly from the 2012 review, linked above:

  • There were 129 accidental cycling deaths between 2006 and 2010 in Ontario, two-thirds of which took place in an urban setting
  • 73 percent of the victims were not wearing helmets at the time
  • A strong majority of the deaths occurred during clear weather, on dry roads, with good visibility

Just so you know, it wasn’t easy for me to come to this decision. If there’s one thing that irks me about Ontario, it’s that it’s a bit of a nanny state, especially when it comes to alcohol and smoking laws. People should have the right to live their life as they wish. But a mandatory helmet law just makes sense to me. And in case you were wondering, four Canadian provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and British Columbia), as well as Australia, require all cyclists to wear helmets so it’s not like this would be some out-of-left-field law. Ontario currently has mandatory helmet laws for those under the age of 18.

How many memorials will it take for us to re-examine our helmet laws?

Just from my own observations, it seems like helmet use has gone up in this city. And that’s encouraging. Maybe I haven’t convinced you. But ask yourself this: If you had a child, would you not make sure that he/she wears a helmet at all times? I know I would, whether he/she was a pre-teen or a young adult.

Need another reason? Check out this map. It details all the cycling fatalities on Toronto’s streets since 1986.

Here’s another question: What would it take to change your mind? God forbid, but what if a friend or relative suffered a serious head injury while riding his bike without a helmet? Or died? Would that be enough to convince you? How close would you have to be to a victim for it to hit close enough to home to change your behaviour?

People often read a news story as if it couldn’t happen to them. Not true. The fate of everybody on that Google map could be met by anybody else.

3 Comments

Filed under Sports