Thursday, January 22, 2009

De Ro in TO, but hold the parade ...

Yes, you have to be pleased with the December 08 trade that brought Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto FC. A hometown athlete who has won the MLS cup four times and has been a strong player on this continent for years, De Rosario could be a key contributor to a much improved team in 09. TFC introduced him to the city today (Jan.22) at a media conference.
De Ro seems very happy to be in Toronto and I have not read or heard a negative word on this important acquisition. However, I do feel the need to rain on the parade just a little.
Some fans/bloggers/pundits are willing to hand out the keys to the city and declare De Ro potentially a new top sports figure in town. The dream is that he will be a part of the breakthrough, the full arrival of TFC as a player, not just a novelty, in the sports landscape.
Of course, that dream links the rise of TFC to the acceptance of soccer in Canada. The awful prospects of the other Toronto teams encourages hope for the footy fan. It was great to hear De Ro stating his confidence that TFC was playoff bound in 09. That level of confidence is scarce amongst Toronto athletes wearing other uniforms.

I will cheer his onfield success, but De Ro should not be burdened outside the stadium with these grand breakthrough hopes. It will take a player capable of winning (qualifying for ?) the World Cup (a goal that slipped away from De Ro in 08) to take on that task.
Time will change this, but I say that Toronto is a bigger media town than sports town. The established media in this market will continue to support the franchises that have historically had the big viewer ratings (hockey and baseball). They are the old guard media catering to the old guard fans. It is considered Canadian to put those two at the top of your list. The winter sport and the summer sport locked into their own universe.These old guard millions either does not know or care that TFC or MLS exist. They are not very receptive to change no matter how many games are won at BMO.
The CFL, which is just about off the map in Ontario, will see themselves as having the most to lose to soccer, so expect a fight for their turf. TSN = CFL, so don't expect much there. The CBC have been good to TFC as they provide sport in the hockey off season. If a TFC playoff game ever lands on an October Saturday night, do you think Hockey Night in Canada will even mention it ?? A Raptor fan is most likely to either be a TFC fan or be receptive to soccer. The two sports share the same young and diverse demographic, but that does not translate into ratings.
So accept the arrival of De Ro as a gift to the faithful and that perspective will help. Don't expect him to do it on his own, but his contributions could be a huge factor in the season ahead. I can't wait and you can't wait, but the neighbours have no idea what we are talking about. Their loss.

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