“Toronto, I just want to say … this is the greatest city in the world” — the double football championship of 2017

Dec 12th, 2017 | By Dominic Berry | Category: In Brief

Jozy Altidore scores first Toronto FC goal as team brings home MLS Cup in 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders.

Football means one thing in North America, and another in the rest of the world.

(And even just North America north of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. There’s also Australian Rules Football, I guess, but that’s … well … something completely different.)

In the late fall of 2017, as it happens, Toronto, ON, Canada has won what some might reasonably call two football championships — one, as it were, for each of these two current meanings.

(Though each championship, it should be noted, is vastly more obscure in the United States.)

To start with, only a few weeks ago in an Ottawa snow storm the current incarnation of a team originally invented by the Argonaut Rowing Club on the western Toronto waterfront won its 17th Grey Cup — coveted ultimate trophy of today’s Canadian Football League (CFL).

Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders in warmer weather. The Argos also won the Grey Cup this year — for a double football championship in the new global city.

(Canadian and US football in this sense “both have their origins in rugby football” and are very similar, if not quite identical. Broadly, the Canadian field is larger, and a team has 4 downs to advance the ball 10 yards in the US game, but only 3 downs in Canadian football.)

For the second great 2017 sports moment in the new global city of the Great Lakes, just over this past weekend the Toronto FC has won the Major League Soccer (MLS) championship — which “represents the sport’s highest level in both the United States and Canada.”

Soccer, of course, is what the rest of the world calls football. Major League Soccer’s  “first season took place in 1996 with ten teams.”  It now has “23 teams—20 in the US and 3 in Canada.” After some rocky early years today “average MLS attendance exceeds that of the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA).”

Toronto FC and Jozy Altidore

Toronto FC MLS championship victory parade moves up Bay Street. Photo : Emanuele Garau.

The Toronto FC (where “FC” in fact stands for “Football Club” ) joined Major League Soccer in 2007.

For a good short report on everything important from early days to this past weekend’s championship victory I’d choose John Molinaro’s “Toronto FC defeats Seattle Sounders to win first MLS Cup” on sportsnet.ca.  (“From the worst team in the world, to the greatest team in Major League Soccer history. That’s the story of Toronto FC.”)

As John Molinaro notes, in the great game on Saturday, December 9, 2017 : “Jozy Altidore — named MLS Cup MVP when all was said and done —  scored the game’s winning goal midway through the second half after Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei stymied Toronto all evening.”

Altidore has also been the player we not well informed  but well intentioned local Toronto FC admirers have heard the most about on TV — perhaps because he has been so good in 2017.

In all this light, I was struck myself by something from Joel Peterson’s “Toronto FC Wins MLS Cup, and a Little Redemption” in the New York Times : “‘Toronto, I just want to say, on behalf of the team, the staff, everybody — this is the greatest city in the world,’ Altidore shouted to the crowd after the game.”

We who live here know only too well that Toronto is not exactly the greatest city in the world. But we love Altidore for saying so anyway. He deserves to be at least as big a local hero as the Toronto Argonaut quarterback from far northern California, Ricky Ray.

In some ways as well Altidore’s career in professional soccer, on both sides of the Atlantic, has had a similar arc to the career of Toronto FC. (See his Wikipedia biography for details.)

Beyond strictly soccer/football activities, Jozy Altidore was “born to Haitian immigrants in Livingston, New Jersey” in 1989 and subsequently “raised in Boca Raton, Florida.” And when US tennis star Sloane Stephens defeated Venus Williams late this past summer, her “boyfriend and soccer stud Jozy Altidore, was spotted inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.”

The double championship of 2017

“Paulette Blake celebrating Toronto FC champion win. ‘This is my Christmas gift,’ she said.”

As for all the other great global city players, the Toronto Star article “Toronto FC holding victory parade following MLS Cup championship” notes that in 2017 “Toronto also won the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, beating the Montreal Impact in a two-game series in June.”

(And how terrific is it that Canadian sport finally has a Voyageurs Cup?  I’m reminded of a passage from my friend Randall White’s work-in-progress on Canadian democracy : “The transcontinental east-west fur trade in northern North America was the first modern Canadian resource economy. On Harold Innis’s view, its  golden age was dominated by the North West Company (1779–1821) — ‘the first large-scale continental organization in North America,’ and ‘the forerunner of confederation’ in Canada, ‘built on the work of the French voyageur, the contributions of the Indian, especially the canoe, Indian corn, and pemmican, and the organizing ability of Anglo-American merchants.”)

Anyway, my own hat is off to both the Toronto Argonauts led by Ricky Ray and the Toronto FC led by Jozy Altidore — and all the local fans and supporters, who have helped inspire both teams.

(Even though the snow is falling, falling, falling on this cold, dark night. Happy double football championship to the “city with the heart of a loan shark” 2017.)

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