Having never watched a basketball game it was incredible being given two tickets to attend to see Toronto’s Blue Jays. It was a wonderful experience. They were playing the Yankee’s from New York, where I have family connections, so I sort of felt like I could support both sides with integrity!
Given the result saw the Blue Jays lose 5 to 8 this type of integrity of course became more relevant. In truth though, whilst I loved the experience, I have never been a tribal supporter of sport. I don’t have obsession following any team of any sport, indeed the same applies to my musical taste. I might love ‘Super Tramp’, the Bare Naked Ladies or ‘Deep Purple’ but ask me about who the members are or to recognise them and I fail immediately. Thus it is very rare that I watch a football match but even I cheered like mad for England as they won against Sweden to enter the semi finals of this years’ World Cup. They are my country and they represent my sense of ‘place’.
The basketball match was intriguing. The game play itself is extended and highly tactical. I struggled a bit but the ‘three strikes and you are out’ phrase is so well known even I followed that part fairly easily. What fascinated me was the crowd. It was a huge family event. Whole families were there and there was no clear definition between opposing supporters. Yankee supporters were shouting at the Blue Jays in the midst of Blue Jay fans. There was zero violence or any hint of it. Now part of this is the long period of being in the arena. Unlike football the game play ran from 16:00 to after 19:00 with lots of breaks. The ability to get into the game obsessively so that tempers flare is therefore much reduced. However there is a clear culture difference inculcated into the local society that simply makes poor behaviour unacceptable. Mostly the areas were also clean and tidy, with fans going to use the recycling bins provided. Walk around Bristol after the harbour festival and I am ashamed to say we cannot hold a candle to this. Our culture appears to routinely just discard rubbish onto the ground at such events and of course, whilst violence is not a major problem, it is there, ever present simmering away over a can of Stella or Special Brew.
Part of me is searching for a format or approach within Celtic Christianity which would help take our society and move it towards behaviour as I saw today. I’m not sure if that is possible but it would certainly demonstrate an aspect of the Christian faith which would make it positively different if it can be found. In the mean time I’ll raise a glass of Toronto beer to the Blue Jays lamenting their loss today and of course to the Yankee’s to keep my integrity in order!