Michael Bradley ended his exit interview on Tuesday by spending a few minutes telling a story. It’s reproduced in its entirety below, so apologies in advance that this article will be a little bloated as a result.
“After the second game in Montreal I mentioned to you guys that at my son’s school, they have these ‘spirit days’,” Bradley said. “When the Blue Jays went on their run, the kids would all go to school in Blue Jays jerseys, you know.
“So after the first Blue Jays game, my son comes home and says, ‘Daddy, I need a Blue Jays jersey’. I said, ‘Of course you do’. So we went to Sport Chek or whatever and got him a little Josh Donaldson jersey.
“So then, like I told you guys, as we went farther and farther in the playoffs they obviously have these TFC spirit days, and so everyone comes dressed in red; parents, kids, teachers, everybody.
“I don’t go out of my way, ever, to tell anybody who I am, but little by little people start to notice. So after the final the other day - yesterday, actually - I go to pick up my son for the first time since Saturday night and again I see some kids, some parents, everybody - again, extremely proud, extremely… [they] went out of their way to say how much they enjoyed watching the game and how proud they were of the team.
“I go to pick up my son and he’s got into a little trouble, and so the teacher tells me that she needs to speak to me. I’m looking at him and I go, ‘You gotta be kidding, of all days’. So I walk inside, and essentially he’s four years old so what a surprise, he’s not a very good listener at the moment. So she’s mentioning a few things to me and we’re talking to him and you know, nothing out of the ordinary for a four-year-old but again, important that he learns these lessons.
“As we’re talking to him, a few older boys walk down the hallway and they go, ‘Michael Bradley! We watched you the other night!’ In that moment, obviously you’re trying to be a parent, you’re trying to make sure your son understands what the best way for him to move forward and grow up [is]. But like I said, even in that moment there was the pride that I had of being able to be in his school and with some of his friends or some of the kids in that school and being able to relate to them and say hello.
“It’s a special city, there’s no two ways about it. I’m extremely proud to be here and obviously the way things went this season, the other night, they’ll only continue to push us on even more.”
It’s been a great feeling for everyone associated with Toronto FC to see their home city embrace them to the extent they have during this year’s MLS playoffs. Fans of other Toronto teams, the sports media and even some of the star players on the Raptors, Blue Jays and Maple Leafs have expressed their support during the club’s run to the MLS Cup final.
But not the Toronto Argonauts.
Instead, a handful of Argos and other CFL players took the chance to ridicule Sebastian Giovinco on Tuesday for daring to share his thoughts on why he might not have played his best soccer on Saturday against the Seattle Sounders, and why he was substituted in extra time as a result.
Giovinco had the temerity to suggest that the BMO Field pitch has suffered as a result of the stadium being shared between two teams this season, causing him to endure - having come back from a muscle injury late in the campaign - debilitating cramps in the latter stages of games.
At no point did he say anything derogatory about the Argos or Canadian football, and as big a factor as the Argos’ games was, of course, the fact that BMO Field additionally hosted the Grey Cup days before TFC’s return leg against the Montreal Impact.
“My only point is about not having been able to help the team until the end, until the very end,” Giovinco said through a translator. “The game - the final - maybe we would have lost anyway. Nevertheless, over the last four years I never had a single episode of cramps, and in the last four [home] matches I suffered from cramps three times. With all other factors being equal, something must have changed somewhere else.”
Seems inoffensive enough, right? Wrong:
That's some serious mental weakness...dude needs some help. https://t.co/tpPJwQsl53— Rob Bagg (@R_Bagg6) December 13, 2016
Haha wow softer than baby ish! https://t.co/J865pmqVCo— Wayne Smith (@WayneSmith52) December 13, 2016
It really is a treat; a truly perfect example of the kind of worthless macho posturing that is contributing to football’s decline on both sides of the border. You will find more maturity at your local elementary school.
Anyway, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a solution to the actual crux of the issue here - the deterioration in the BMO Field pitch during the playoffs. It’s at times like this that MLSE’s bottomless pit of cash becomes especially useful. TFC president Bill Manning, who described the pitch as “not ideal”, says team officials plan to travel to Europe to examine hybrid fields.
Even if a change in the turf does not materialize, there is no Grey Cup to worry about next season and the Argos (I promise this is not a dig) have some work to do to turn a joint-CFL worst 5-13 record into the kind of deep playoff run that could create a clash with TFC’s attempt to do the same in MLS. The stadium’s grounds staff, who by all accounts did an excellent job in the circumstances this season, will have a year’s experience to learn from and undoubtedly some further investment in new provisions and technology to help them along the way.
Nevertheless, I’m happy Giovinco spoke out here, because he and the rest of the team had earned the right to do so. It’s hard to accuse someone of making excuses when they - individually and as part of a group - really could not have done anything more to win, as Giovinco pointed out himself.
“You asked me the reasons I left the pitch, and I gave you the true answers,” he said. “The playoffs… I’m not looking for any kind of excuse in any way. We dominated the playoffs from start to finish.”
That’s not to say, of course, that this is the only roadblock standing between Toronto and an MLS Cup in 2017. But a player of Giovinco’s status and ambition is entitled, from time to time, to push to ensure preventable problems like this do not make winning a championship more difficult than it already is.