I took my two younger kids to see the Toronto Raptors’ championship parade and rally in Nathan Phillips Square.
We had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the train to Toronto, then walk from Union Station to the square, which is already a pretty tiring start to a day for kids aged 8 and 12. Then we stood for five hours in the tightly packed crowd, rationing our water and food, the day getting hotter all the time, so everyone was exhausted by the time the team actually arrived.
Now, I had pretty much expected all of that. What I hadn’t bargained on was the haze of pot smoke that had settled everywhere, so strong sometimes that my kids were complaining of dizziness and had to sit down on the ground among all those feet. And they weren’t the only ones. Throughout the day, several people passed out in the crowd and had to receive medical attention.
At about 10 a.m., the show finally got started, but my kids couldn’t really see much. They took turns standing on the little fold-up stool I’d brought, but the stage and the video screens were a long way away. They got more amusement from the crazy signs in the crowd, from the Kawhi Leonard look-a-like who carried a fake trophy around, and from the dozens of people who climbed the arches in the square.
They also got a kick out of chatting with the other fans (most of whom were really great), joining in with the various chants and songs that were struck up now and again in the crowd, and seeing the television personalities doing their broadcasts from the upper concourse. Almost everyone was in a great mood, with the booze flowing freely and openly already when we got there a little before 8 a.m., and still going strong when we left, just after the team arrived. People shared sunscreen and food, threw balls around, waved signs and flags, and generally partied. It was a blast. But it was a tiring blast.
And the trip home, pushing our way through thousands of people on the street and then in Union Station, was almost more than my kids could manage after a long day in the square. The station concourse was filled, shoulder to shoulder, with sweaty, tired, buzzing fans, all trying to get home in one piece. People were mostly polite (an occasional chant would even still break out), but you could tell that nerves were beginning to fray.
We were able to get a train at last, not all the way home, but at least out of Union Station, so our wait would be in a less congested station, where we might actually be able to use the bathrooms and buy some drinks without waiting in lines that seemed to have no discernible end. My kids were exhausted, but far too excited to actually sleep on the train, so they were already awake longer than a normal day by the time we made it home and had some supper.
Then they crashed. My youngest fell asleep in the middle of his first story. My middle guy laid down on his bed for a minute, just for a second, before he changed into his pyjamas, and ended up falling asleep in his clothes.
As I lay in bed, my wife asked me whether it was worth it, worth all the craziness and the exhaustion, just to glimpse some people I’ve seen far more clearly on television dozens of times. And I told her what I knew before we left, what I’d been feeling all day, even when we were tired and cranky and fighting for a train home – “It was totally worth it. They’ll remember it forever.”