Canada’s Team: The Toronto Blue Jays, the Playoffs, and ‘Finally’

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

What’s your favourite word?

Mine’s finally. Today, at least. This morning and last night… I love finally.

Finally we won. Finally it’s over. Finally we’re here. Finally, finally, finally.

For Toronto, it’s all about finally. It’s all about the exhale.

Read: ‘Blue Jays clinch American League East, first playoff spot since 1993‘ via Black Press, Surrey Leader (September 30, 2015)

How is it, that there’s not possibly a more tortured fanbase – city – in North America than Canada’s biggest. Nowhere froths for trophies more than that Big Smoke below Montreal, and somehow it’s like everywhere else can win them. Anywhere else can win them, everywhere except Toronto. The more they want it, the further they get. And the further we get because, maybe to Toronto’s delight or maybe to its annoyance, the Blue Jays really are Canada’s team. They’re Canada’s team every one of those weekends in Seattle, when the Mariners home at Safeco is flooded with British Columbians wearing powder blue and the best hats in the majors. The Jays are Canada’s team to the guilty pleasure of everyone who rolls around in it – we don’t like Toronto, really, way over here in Vancouver, in what’s basically Hawaii by comparison. We think they don’t care about us, and they don’t. Does that make us angry, to know they don’t? Or does it make us happy, to know we’re right?

But we understand what finally means. Everyone does.

We knew what finally was in 2011 and 1994. Toronto knew what finally was in 2013, when their Maple Leafs – and really, that’s why they love that team so much, because it’s the only remaining Toronto team that’s actually and only THEIRS – make the playoffs. It was their first trip since before two lockouts ago, and it was against all odds for that reason alone. Did it end in a hilariously thunderous collapse? Yes. But nobody could take away their finally, win or lose, just like nobody can take away any of the Canucks’ or Vancouver’s finallys, win or lose. And we can sympathize with Toronto, because it’s always been ‘or lose’ for us, too.

That’s why last night was so damn… special. And I wish there was a better word, but there’s not. Special’s a great word, because it means a million things – all colliding in seven letters – and we all understand it still. When someone tells you something is special, you never have to ask, “Oh yeah, how so?”

Read: ‘Jays fans dreaming of a third World Series‘ (September 30, 2015)

Last night was special. From the centre of Toronto, where fans got to celebrate their team. To the coasts of Canada like out here in British Columbia to wherever else Jays fans may be, the audience on the periphery united under a national umbrella for a team from the Centre of the Universe. It was special from the outside and then into the locker room, where the actual winners were spraying each other with bubbly and toasting their own accomplishments – they did this maybe with their fans in their minds, but they did it mostly for themselves and for each other.

That’s the wonderful thing about sports, especially team sports – it only works when the guys on the field are selfish and unselfish at the same time. To be a good teammate means to be a great individual, and vice versa.

Does Josh Donaldson or Troy Tulowitzki or David Price have any understanding of just what this means to Toronto – or to Canada? No, not really. They’ve only been Jays for a few months. Does Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion? Probably a little more, but even then it shouldn’t matter. We love them because they hit home runs, not because they vote here.

And still, this finally is just for today. It’s temporary. Of course it is. Relief is always temporary – one day to revel in what you have. Tomorrow, you have to defend it.

“What is happiness?” asked Don Draper. “It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

I was asked the other day if I thought the Blue Jays would choke. I didn’t understand the question. Choke? I guess there’s a worry that maybe Toronto won’t win the World Series this year – a sudden realization that the Jays are one of 10 teams celebrating their playoff berth, one of six celebrating a division title. But it’s our first clinch in 22 years – how can we go from Cinderella to Goliath so fast? Only favourites choke… are the Jays favourites already?

Toronto just sat down – how are they at the head of the table?

But I know now why that question was asked.

Because this team is uncomfortably excellent. They’re so good, it makes you uneasy. You’re not used to this… to  They’re so good, you’re hating me for writing this right now, because you don’t want me to jinx it. Because you don’t understand that this team is impervious to jinxing.

Not saying they can’t lose or won’t lose. Hell, there’s a chance they don’t win a single playoff game. It’s just a chance, but it’s there. Because sh*t happens. Columns and colosseums fall, and “the low and level sands stretch far away.” But if Toronto’s going to lose, it’s not going to be because of a jinx or because nobody knocked on wood. The terrific thing about this Jays team – and the thing that’s been so rare to any Toronto team in the past two decades – is that they’re so skilled, so talented, so driven, and so on-fire, that any losses they sustain or any wins they surge to are completely in their control.

Finally isn’t just satisfying. Finally is relief.

It’s just so nice, even if only for one day, to have your hands on a banner. The first popped cork, the first cracked beer, or the stretchy pyjama waistband being pulled over your hips, it’s all met with a smile and relaxed shoulders. Not saying comfort’s perfect – hell, the best thing that’s happened to the Jays has been the Yankees pushing them for that East title. Toronto hasn’t been able to coast ahead of New York. They’ve had no time to look back or even forward – it’s all been about this at-bat, this count, this bottom of the ninth. And yes, you know comfort has to be temporary, too, just like the finally.

So temporary that, if you’ve going to have a drink, you can’t afford the hangover. Enjoy that cigar. Until you cough.

Good morning. It’s tomorrow already.

VIDEO: Blue Jays clinch first playoffs in 22 years