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Game On! #ComeTogether

#ComeTogether If you have dipped even a baby toe into the vast social media ocean recently, you’re familiar with the above.
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#ComeTogether

If you have dipped even a baby toe into the vast social media ocean recently, you’re familiar with the above.

It’s a hashtag; a word or phrase that, when prefaced with the number or hash symbol, can be used to identify a certain topic, thus making it easy to search, share, and spread across the Internetisphere.

This specific one was created by the marketing folks at Rogers Communications at the beginning of the 2015 Major League Baseball season to promote its franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Every modern sportsball team’s promo boffins come up with one of these catchphrases, to show the team as both brand and popular movement.

Some are more successful than others.

#CofRed worked for the Calgary Flames because, well, they wear red and their logo is a giant C.

Bit on point, but still…The NFL’s Oakland Raiders have gone full Dr. Phil with #CreateYourGreatness. 

Baltimore’s #PlayLikeARaven suggests the team knows little if anything about the tackling ability of birds.

Tennessee’s #Titanup? It’s just terrible, full stop. 

#ComeTogether though? It suggests something more: A sense of team, of community, maybe even family, and the idea that the collective will always be stronger when united, pulling for one another, and having each other’s backs.

The idea with these hashtags is to capture a feeling, and to hope it catches on and trends, and drags the team along in its wake.

I’d say they succeeded. Wouldn’t you?

In July, the team stood with a ho-hum 50-51 record, poised to let another season of great promise fizzle into mediocrity and obscurity; another damp log to toss on to the massive woodpile of Toronto sports disappointments.

This time around however, was different.

There was a sense, with baseball experts including their own GM Alex Anthopoulous, that this team was far better than their record.

A tweak here, a move there, and maybe the sleeping giant that was the ’15 Jays would awaken.

Cue the trade deadline and the eye-popping acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, and others.

The giant didn’t just wake up. He leapt out of bed, crashed through the front door, and proceeded to stomp his way through Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Tampa.

Step aside Godzilla. There’s a giant blue passerine coming through (I have a bird-watching guide), and it’s coming for your souls, and possibly any seeds you have left out. 

The rest, as you certainly have been aware, is history.

The team nearly ran table, snatched the division from the detestable Yankees, went all Mission Accomplished on George Dubya’s Rangers, flipped bats like no bats have been flipped before or since, and nearly took out the Royals for a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1993.

Which segues neatly to the Sault, in keeping this column’s M.O.

1993 was rather a special year for sporting heroism here too.

Our Greyhounds; the small-town team with the giant red heart, that fought through all manner of adversity over decades, Lindros-related and otherwise, won the Memorial Cup right here at home. 

Like the Blue Jays a few months earlier, the Hounds had shaken the ridiculous “choker” label (The Soo due to back-to-back Cup appearances without a title, the Jays because of 3 pennants without one).

It was The Big Time on a smaller scale, and we went nuts.

Like Toronto’s long-suffering fans, a wave of relief and euphoria rolled over us and we knew we needed never take a back seat to anyone in our sport again.

Flash forward to 2015 and there are parallels again.

A promising team with an ability to frequently mash its opponent into a fine paste senses that this may be its year, and its young, forward-thinking GM loads up on veteran skill at the deadline.

The team continues its propensity to avoid acts of mercy upon its foe, and storms into post-season action with a swagger and a trail of fresh casualties.

Early playoff success keeps the fan temperature at full boil.

Seats are nearly impossible to acquire. The streets are ablaze with Hounds Red and Jays Blue. Teams, and fans, are thinking title. 

Then just like that, it stopped.

Now granted Kansas City didn’t have a demon-spawn prodigy on its team like Erie did with Connor McDavid, although Alcides Escobar did his level best to accommodate.

The feeling was much the same.

As brilliant and satisfying as this campaign was, it still ended too soon.

We had more shouting to do; more officials to cast into Heck; more fives to high; more tags to hash.

Sport at its worst is a cynical enterprise.

The purity of the game is spoiled with commercialism, greed, entitlement, disregard for health, and worse.

At its best however, it can be a wonderful thing; a tool even.

It teaches its players the value of hard work, discipline, and commitment.

It instills the concepts of fair play, healthy competition, and the collective strength of the team.

The moments that arise from these can be etched into history.

For the fans, it can bring us something else entirely. In a busy, noisy, fractured world, it supplies much needed distraction, camaraderie, and joy.

It can bridge generations.

It can reignite our own competitive spirit, as rivalries are born and maintained.

It can blend numerous, disparate voices into one unified call.

We can cheer together, curse together, stare in wonder together, bump fists together, and cry together.

More importantly, we can #ComeTogether.

Which we did. Let’s do it again next year.

Everyone cool if we use the same hashtag?

Thought so…