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Watching the ball game

If there’s one London pub where you can guarantee that Canada-related sports events are being shown on the telly, it’s the Maple Leaf on Maiden Lane, just south of Covent Garden. Last year, it was where we saw the Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey final, during which a lifelong habit of refusing to leave a game before the final whistle was put to good use. Last Wednesday, I was having drinks elsewhere but ended up heading down there to join the crowds of expat Canadians watching the Toronto Blue Jays in a must-win game.

After seeing off the Texas Rangers in spectacular fashion the week before, the Jays had made it to the American League Championship, a best-of-seven series against the Kansas City Royals to decide who would get to play in the World Series. After four games, the other lot were 3-1 up so the Jays had to win in order to stay in.

By the time I got there, they were about half-way through the game but the pub had stopped serving as it was past eleven o’clock, not that anyone was leaving; above the din, the barman explained to me that they’d saved the late licence application for the World Series itself (I admired his boss’s optimism). Outside, a Canadian TV crew had set up an outside broadcast, the man with the microphone being none other than John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto who happened to be in town – in addition to visiting the Crossrail sites, being impressed by Canary Wharf and speaking at Canada House, he found the time to take in the game. A sports-mad city like Toronto would expect no less of its mayor, especially as it’s been a while since the Jays got this far.

I, naturally, managed to get to the pub mere minutes after the four-run sixth innings which more or less guaranteed that the Jays won, thus living to fight another day. Friday, to be precise. Allison and I pondered going back to the Maple Leaf for game six … before realising that, as it was scheduled to be an evening start in Kansas City, that would mean that it would start at one in the morning in London. We didn’t stay up – like the Maple Leaf and their late licence applications, we said we’d reserve that kind of behaviour for the World Series.

It was not to be, sadly – although if there’s any consolation, the Toronto Star reckons that sports fans do get some sort of reward even if their team loses; they’ve even got a neuroscientist to talk about what that means. Scant consolation? Still, there’s always the Leafs in the NHL…

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