It doesn’t happen often, but from time to time somebody asks to have their thoughts and feelings on a particular topic hosted on cowhideandrubber, and I’m grateful that they thought of this site as a voice for their opinions. Today, native Montrealer Max Harris explains why he can’t and won’t support MLS’ newest member, the Montreal Impact. Max can be reached on twitter, or by leaving a comment in the area below.
As a sports fan, it’s my belief that you should always root for your hometown teams, unless you can provide a good reason not to. For instance, if you’re a transplant or the descendent of a transplant with roots to another team, you get a free pass. I grew up a die-hard Expos fan, I consider myself to be a loyal supporter of the Canadiens and I pull for the Alouettes (I’ll admit I watch very few of their games, but I wish them well). I take pride in my hometown even though we’re among the worst sports town in North America (largest Canadian/American market without an MLB or NBA franchise is not exactly something to be proud of). That being said, I have not watched a second of either of the Montreal Impact’s first two MLS games and I have no intention to start any time soon. Despite being my hometown team, the Montreal Impact do not have my support. Trust me, I have a good reason.
Full disclosure: I am not a fan of soccer, but I do not detest it. I played the game a little bit when I was younger but the sport has failed to capture my imagination like the “big four” have. The only time I regularly watch soccer is during the World Cup and European Championships, which are global spectacles more than anything else. This is not a diatribe against the sport of soccer; my ambivalence towards the game does not explain why I am not rooting for the Impact.
Ever since the Expos have departed in 2004, I have wanted nothing more than to see Major League Baseball return to my hometown. The fact that Montreal is now a part of a second-tier professional soccer league provides little solace. Throughout the city, youth enrollment in baseball has sharply declined, while more kids are turning to soccer. Meanwhile, local diamonds have been plowed in favour of soccer fields, which require a lot less maintenance. (The above Statistics Canada link shows the nationwide increase in organized soccer, along with the decrease in organized baseball. I have to imagine the numbers are fairly similar for Quebec).
In an ideal world, baseball and soccer could both successfully co-exist in Montreal. Unfortunately, the ascent of one sport is directly correlated with the decline of another. In a city with crumbling infrastructure, the two sports compete directly for scarce resources, namely: land, city maintenance and of course, kids. Our relatively short summers, combined with a general decline in parental commitment to youth sports has made it nearly impossible for kids to play both. I can give you several reasons why it’s better for your children to play baseball, rather than soccer, but if the infrastructure is not in place, it unfortunately becomes a moot point.
I know that we’re a long way from seriously contemplating the return of Major League Baseball to this city. Given the way things are going, I can’t help but have my doubts as to whether or not I will live to see that day. One thing’s for certain, it cannot happen without the support of future generations. Without our children and their children having baseball in their lives, the sport will never return to our city. So without sufficient infrastructure, future generations will be unable to play this game, which means it is even less likely that we will get a team back. My friend Dave Kaufman does a great point of communicating this point in the following Gazette op-ed piece.
I’m a big believer that every action has consequences, even though most of them are often unintended. Whether we like it or not, the proliferation of soccer is killing baseball’s future in Montreal. That’s why I can’t support the Impact. It’s not because I don’t like soccer, but because I care about baseball too much to support its demise in my hometown.