Published On: Tue, Jun 18th, 2019

Can we channel outpouring of support for Raptors into something even more positive?

Can we bottle some of that and save it for later? Can we find a way to channel the outpouring of support for the Raptors and goodwill for the city into something even more positive?

Everyone knew Toronto was primed and ready for a major-league sports victory, but this exceeded all expectations. The sheer number of people who came out to celebrate the Raptors’ NBA championship showed, if there was any doubt, that the city was starving for a winner and ready to embrace all that represents — pride in what Toronto has become and confidence in its future.

Along the way, seemingly impossible things became reality. Across the country, the traditional resentment of Toronto melted away. Halifax, Edmonton, even Montreal for heavens’ sake, rallied around the Raptors. Their victory was embraced as a national triumph.

Still, many will say, it’s just sports. And the day certainly didn’t go off without without problems. With the mayor, premier and prime minister all on stage, there were shots near Nathan Phillips Square. Two people were seriously injured and some people on the edge of the crowd fled the scene.

That’s bad enough. But imagine how much worse it might have been, with the square and adjacent streets packed as tightly as anyone could remember. A celebration involving hundreds of thousands of people could have turned in a split-second into chaos and potential tragedy.

But organizers interrupted the official ceremony for just a moment with a calm announcement. Police made arrests and ended the situation within minutes. A general panic that might have prompted a stampede with who knows what consequences was avoided.

And, overwhelmingly, the mood was positive toward both the team and the city during a long, hot day that tested many people’s patience. Toronto was happy with itself, and on this particular Monday had good reason to be.

Along the way there were examples of Torontonians showing real generosity.

A sporting goods company, for one, installed new nets on a dozen basketball courts in the middle of the night. Toronto fans taken aback by the cheering for Kevin Durant’s injury in Game 5 of the championship series got together through Go Fund Me and donated $ 30,000 to KD’s charity foundation. Others tried to persuade Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto not by promising him a free apartment or more goodies he doesn’t need, but by donating to charities aligned with his values.

Small things, perhaps, but examples of how the positive energy unleashed by the Raptors’ triumph might be harnessed for something more than pride in a sports team (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Toronto has discovered some very good things about itself in the past few weeks. We’ve shown we’re proud in the right kind of way. And when things go wrong, we’ve shown we can handle it. Time to build on all that.

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TORONTO STAR

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Can we channel outpouring of support for Raptors into something even more positive?