Sunday, 14 January 2007

I May Even Call It Football

That David Beckham is coming across the Atlantic to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy is some of the most exciting news I've ever heard in my life. Ever. As my friend Tim noted on his blog last week, this coming April sees Toronto FC begins its inaugural campaign in the MLS.

As a lifelong soccer fan, it's hard to put into words how much this team has already thrilled me. I first heard of Toronto FC (or Inter Toronto FC as it was rumoured to be called) when Suzanne and I were living in Vancouver and dreaming of coming back East. We had adopted the Whitecaps to a certain extent, and while I genuinely enjoyed going to their games, and I cheered their goals, it never really felt like my team. Which has been the problem all of my life: as a kid, when I first got into soccer, I chose Liverpool because my best friend was born in Warrington and he was a mad Red, but although I've followed them now for over 15 years - with admitted periods of indifference - they too have never felt like my own. When they came back from sure death in the Champions League final of 2005, I was happy, and the game was pure joy, but it didn't change me as it did true Liverpool fans. I was in Vancouver, watching a tape of the game by myself in the middle of the afternoon on a different could it?

But when I heard that Toronto was getting a top-level franchise - the first expansion team outside the US - I flipped. I'd never really followed the MLS, but I knew it had been improving over the last ten years, even sending the odd player over to the Premiership.

So we dreamed of returning, and I began to use 'they're getting a really good soccer team' as my number one reason when people out there said, "What? Are you crazy? Why would you want to move back to Onscario?"

Of course I remember the Blizzard vividly - when I was younger I once spent the afternoon on the astroturf pitch training with the team's two goalkeepers, then spent the first half of the following game (opponent: Jacksonville Tea Men) selling giant team-photo buttons in the concourse - but I was to small to follow the sport, and the team folded within two years.

Suzanne and I recently watched 'Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of The NY Cosmos', the documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of North American soccer's greatest ever team. At the end of the 70s, as went the Cosmos, so did the NASL. When Pele joined, their popularity exploded, and when he retired, so did the league.

But now it's different; MLS has learned from the mistakes of the NASL and appears to be looking good. The Beckham transfer is a move by the league as a whole, not one team. There is a LOT of money involved of course, and only time will tell if it was worth it. But for now, my heart tells me its going to work out and I can't wait to see ol' Goldenballs play in the summer.

We bought season's tickets the week before Beckham made his announcement. At that time Toronto FC had sold 6000+ Club Membership packages: two weeks later that number is approaching 10,000. For a stadium that only holds 20,000 it's an incredible achievement, and for season's ticket sales we're only second in the league to LA.

So when they come here, I'm going to cheer for David Beckham. I even hope he scores against us with a free kick. Of course, at that point, we hope to be leading by 4 or 5 goals, but still. As a lifelong soccer fan, it would be a real highlight. Summer 2007 is going to be filled with them.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

It appears that the holiday season is over. I've gained back all the South Beach weight-loss and our room is now packed to the rafters with goodies. Suzanne and I spent Christmas in Parry Sound with my Dad and Nancy, where we ate and drank and played games until we could do no more. After that, we opened prezzies until the room was three feet deep in wrapping paper.

It was a lot of fun, and even though there was no snow, we had a very Merry Christmas. In Newmarket, the Boxing Day blowout set records for attendance. 14 people all crammed around the table made for an interesting meal, as did the squash, my new favourite food.

New Year's Eve saw us down in Buffalo, once again at the home of Paul and Crystal Bogner. They were the consummate hosts, as usual, and we had an excellent time as we always do. For the celebration itself, we went out to Brodo, a restaurant owned partly by Joe, a friend of Pauls'. He sorted us out with giant slabs of meat and glasses of The Macallan. We rang in to the New Year with Champers and noisemakers, but I retired relatively early because I was tired from carrying around a small cow in my belly.

It was am extremely busy December, and Suzanne and I both looking very forward to some rest now.

Hope You Had A Happy One!