"From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight, hate you.
But goddammit, do I respect you."
Wes Mantooth, Anchorman
Toronto FC. Fuck them.
This is pretty much just the Southsider in me talking, but the FC can go to hell. Stealing the Voyageurs Cup we so rightly earned, stealing Canada's best players from our biggest competition for three years, generally acting like they're the be-all and end-all of football in this country. "Oh, Montreal beat Vancouver in a thrilling championship encounter, that's nice, but our lead story is Toronto FC vs. the San Jose Earthquakes!" Getting so smug because they managed to put up a banner. Big deal. Everybody has banners, and we don't feel the need to make ours so huge it almost compensates for our penis size.
(I am pretty much overtly angling for hits now. From my experience, the more rude things I say about Toronto FC, even if I don't mean them, the more attention I get. I am gradually turning into the Canadian Bill Archer.)
Truth be told, I don't quite feel that derby-like resentment yet for Toronto FC. I know that I should, and there are the seeds of a mighty rivalry here, but my bitterness over the Voyageurs and Gold Cups is still cloaked by a warm, fuzzy joy that there's a soccer team in Canada cracking the front pages of sports sections. I can say things like "I want all the Toronto FC players to suffer career-ending injuries in a bus crash," but then I start qualifying myself. "Well, okay, not the Canadians. And that Stefan Frei's pretty good. Actually, I pretty much just want Chad Barrett and Pablo Vitti to suffer career-ending injuries in a bus crash" and by then the Toronto fans are agreeing with me.
So, with all respect to the esteemed Out of Touch Guy, I still want Toronto FC to do well. I still want them to make the playoffs and roll through a couple rounds and maybe kick the pants off the Columbus Crew. Part of me wants them to lose in time for De Guzman, De Rosario, Attakora, and company to be available for the Macedonia - Canada friendly in November, but I can't say I'd be embittered if they went on a triumphant surge to the MLS Cup. I may resent them, but I respect them in equal measure.
Let's be honest, non-fans of the FC. Apart from everything else, it's fun to have a team to hate, and there's nothing that says "hate" like "a first-division sports club in Toronto". How could you hate the Toronto Lynx? That was like kicking a one-legged puppy. Cheering against the FC while rolling waves of white-hot loathing from 20,000 fevered supporters crash into you like breakers is more viscerally satisfying on every level. I like that. Cheering for the Whitecaps to beat Toronto was so much more fun than cheering for them to beat Montreal because I hate Toronto anyway.
And the simple fact of the matter is, as awe-inspiring insipid and ridiculous as it was for a Toronto regular-season game to get more coverage than an all-Canadian USL-1 championship, the fact is that it did. Toronto is not the centre of the universe but it's the centre of the Canadian media. The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post, It's Called Football - Canada's greatest media luminaries focus on Toronto and are usually based there. Some of them try harder than others to maintain balanced coverage, but they are each Toronto-centric to a greater or lesser degree. So when Canadian soccer does well in Toronto, it gets that much more attention.
How can we say that Toronto's fans don't deserve that success? They pack that stadium night in and night out, even for crappy friendlies against Spanish prima donnas at overinflated prices. The one national match at BMO Field since Toronto FC featured the greatest Canadian home crowd in decades, a stark contrast to the letdown later that month at Stade Saputo. Dick jokes aside, their Danny Dichio banners were the products of dedicated and possibly insane men. Toronto finally making some noise in MLS after three seasons is still only a downpayment on the triumph those supporters have earned. The more glory they get, the more attention Toronto FC gets, and the better the odds that maybe next time we play Honduras the crowd will be more in our favour.
Go kick the pants off of the Red Bulls tomorrow, Toronto. I'll be cheering you on. Reluctantly, and with a vague sense of shame, but I'll mean it nonetheless.