On Sunday evening, I stood in Maple Leaf Square with thousands of other Toronto fans. Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.
When Auston Matthews scored for the home team, we went nuts, waving our white flags and jumping up and down. I was so happy.
But that joy pales in comparison to yesterday afternoon. I was watching the Grade 6 girls from South Dorchester School play in the finals of a basketball tournament. The score was 9-8 with about two minutes left. “Monica” was well outside the foul line when she launched a ball skyward. A sweet touch on the backboard and then nothing but net. Ecstasy coursed through my arteries and veins. I stood and cheered. After a few close calls at the other end, the whistle blew and there was a mass of hugging 12-year-olds.
The difference was love. I know those youngsters as human beings and I care deeply about them. Oh, I say I love the Leafs but we all know that’s a junior version of a very fine thing to feel.
The image staying with me is all the jump balls that were called. Two girls would have their hands on the basketball and wouldn’t let go. Sometimes they’d be rolling around on the floor, still hanging on. Go South Dorchester! You girls are fierce. I loved seeing your energy – pushing the ball up the floor, falling down and getting up, missing a shot and keeping your head high. Wow.
My wish is that twenty years from now, when you think of yesterday, the first thing you’ll remember is your teammates – how you hung in there together, patted each other on the shoulder when things were bad, high fived each other when things were good. You gave it all for your friends.
So this is what walking on air feels like.