Vince Carter & Toronto
Vince Carter nearly broke me last Sunday.
We know the script: Two-point Raptor lead, six seconds to go, New Jersey rebound, push up the floor, Kidd to Carter off the curl, 34 footer, game over.
And there's Vince standing close to mid-court, pretending he isn't addicted to estrogen pills, juxtaposed with 19,000 people mortified by what just transpired. How could he do that to us? He was supposed to do it FOR us.
Vincent L. Carter arrived in 1998 and had an unprecedented effect on the city of Toronto. Until Vince exploded into our consciousness the best thing you could say about the Raptors was they were semi-entertaining in the '96 - '97 season when Damon Stoudamire wasn't high.
Sunday was a seminal moment in my life as a sports enthusiast; at least, I'm anticipating that, in retrospect, it will be viewed that way. It's as though every latent inadequacy in professional sports seen through my perspective unceremoniously emerged to announce their intention.
Honestly, I don't know if I should really care about sports anymore.
The criticism of professional sports you hear or read is emoted - predominantly - from people that don't like them. This to me seems wholly backwards. Don't you first have to enjoy and believe in something before you can extrapolate the flaws in its structure?
All in all, following a professional sport is like being in a relationship where one party cares for the other significantly more than they care for them.
Case in point: Roberto Alomar, Al Leiter, Roger Clemens, David Wells, Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Antonio Davis and Vince Carter.
It would be foolish to think that the respective management teams for the Blue Jays and Raptors were not at least partially responsible for alienating any of the players mentioned above. But by and large these players egregiously screwed the organization and fan base responsible for paying them exorbitant amounts of money and offering them, essentially, unconditional affection.
As fans we don't need much. More importantly as an athlete you actually have to work HARDER if you're modus operandi is to cultivate a brooding, "me first" persona. And yet, professional sport is littered with athletes that are completely oblivious to their integral role in the community. So why has the community, Toronto in this case, not responded accordingly? If anything, Torontonians have thrown themselves into the culture of professional athletics with more voraciousness, even as the gap between fans and the athletes we blindly hold in high esteem continues to widen.
Sports media, by and large, exacerbates this problem by searching for complex answers to exceptionally simple questions. Such as: why did Vince Carter's play improve by approximately 335% when he was traded to New Jersey? Miraculously, this has been a source of considerable debate.
Vince Carter - the instigator of this essay - quit on his team. Moreover, as an employee of the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, Vince Carter did not live up to the terms of the contract he signed in the summer of 2001. Vince took his $93 Million in guaranteed money and did his best impersonation of my scholastic career once I was accepted to acting school in California.
Those are the facts. They are irrefutable.
If this were a relationship Vince Carter would have met us (being drafted), courted us (his sensational rookie season), tested us (his dreadful first playoff appearance against the Knicks), married us (the 7 year contract in 2001), impregnated us (coercing management into signing Hakeem Olajuwon), stole our money (2002, 2003 and 2004) and finally demanded a divorce after gaining sixty pounds and refusing to sleep with us. Post relationship Vince would have immediately gotten in shape (becoming the second half MVP with Jersey), admitted cheating on us (his interview on TNT were he alluded to not giving 100%) and finally, he would date our mother and leak a sex tape featuring the two of them (his last second shot two Sunday's ago).
So why watch? Why invest facets of your life into something that so rarely gives you anything back? It's a simple answer: at the core of every sports fan there is an optimist. Regardless of whether you have been conditioned to expect consistent winners, or marginal, relative victories, you always know that sports with either elate you, frustrate you or test your resolve; occasionally all at once. Each of those emotions can profoundly effect and shape your life. Sometimes, you can even learn a lesson.
In the case of Vince Carter, his example illustrated to me the type of person I would never want to be.
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