Didn’t even join the party until late Saturday afternoon.
(In Peterborough on personal business, you see. Not exactly a “marriage” marriage, but an exchange of rings to symbolize deep and lasting commitment, on one knee, on the sidewalk, on Hunter Street across from Karma’s if you know the town.)
Next thing I can figure out, I’m in Toronto at a “Blogger’s Summit” in a swanky downtown pillow-stop, face-to-face – and off the record – with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.
No, I didn’t meet Bill Archer. Didn’t see anyone from Big Soccer at all, now that it comes up. (Maybe they’ve been torching bridges south of the border, as well?) (Hush now. Remember that no one wants to hear from a mouth-breathing twatwaffle from beyond the ice curtain.) (Wink.)
As the home team and new kids on the block, Canadian Soccer News was given a warm reception. We had three seats at a table which included Beckham Experiment author Grant Wahl, Ives Galarcep, Steven Goff, Fake Sigi and many others.
The chat focused mainly on the business of blogging, and what writers and the league can do to help each other out. Apparently, the days of slobbing around in your undies, writing on your home computer, have come and gone. Two years after reclaiming my amateur status, I discover soccer blogging is becoming an actual industry.
(Fear not, slob fans. I realize no one needs to think of me and underwear in the same sentence, but your normal level of casual-attire service shall be proudly maintained!)
Refereeing did come up, and while Garber’s exact words are off the record, I can report he feels frustration over not having a greater say in who does – and doesn’t – officiate MLS games. His remarks were general. No specific names were mentioned.
Next thing after that, Duane and I are getting bursts of pressurized air shot at us from multiple directions as we pass through security for a ride up to media happy hour atop the CN Tower. (Happy to report that no American writer within my earshot called the thing the “CNN Tower.”) (That happens a lot.)
Settled comfortably in over Lake Ontario, we all got to gasbagging on about the Toronto-Columbus “rivalry” and how much everyone hates “Sporting Kansas City” as a new name for the KC Wizards. Would have been handy to find someone from Big Soccer to join in the Columbus conversation, given how much they have done to create the controversy. Again, no sign.
MLS throws media events in pretty much the same way it stages soccer games: low-key and functional. Nice hors-d’oeuvres, a few drinks, they gave away a couple of custom-fitted suits. I’m normally an alien stranger to schmooze-fests, but this proved to be a useful exercise. Geography is a huge barrier to face-to-face communication in MLS. Good to have the occasional night where the barriers fall.
Next morning came a surreal stroll through downtown with nine forest princesses and a marching band.
This would be my annual gig as a marshal in Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade. We strolled past along about half a million people, which is relevant only in that I saw one and only one Toronto FC hat, and no sign whatsoever of either FC Dallas or the Colorado Rapids. More tellingly, I saw no promotion at all for the MLS Cup.
Off to Maro, then, where U-Sector were hosting the travelling Colorado support.
Three hours to kickoff, and the stone floor outside the downstairs bathrooms was already well-coated in regurgitate. Finally, some clear enthusiasm for the event!
For all of Toronto’s reputation for invading other MLS cities, we have hardly ever seen visiting fans come to town in real numbers. There were at least a hundred Rapid-Ralliers present, and they were in terrific voice.
U-Sector responded by running through a few standard South End set-pieces, before both groups exploded into a spontaneous singing salute to ex-TFC Colorado defender Marvell Wynne.
Very real joy and admiration on both sides, going both ways. TFC management must find a way to make a full section in the North End available to visiting fans, when needed.
Northward through the warehouse district, up to Shoeless Joe’s. Leaders of the Red Patch Boys were helping prepare several hundred FC Dallas fans for their march to BMO Field. Lots of flags and drums … but strangely quiet.
When the mob squeezed into the tunnel under the rail tracks, Red Patchers were hollering at them to sing. It’s a tunnel! Ya gotta sing! They didn’t. But, half way through, they did let off a heckuva lotta drums. Battering sound levels were – at last – achieved.
Part two – the actual match – tomorrow.