A forlorn Brad Wilkerson exits the field with Claude Raymond following the final Expos home game in 2004.
I sure as hell am happy to take this excuse to go party in Montreal for the weekend, as are, I’m confident, a veritable metric shit-tonne of Ontarians who are also making the trip down the 401 — or, in cases like mine, the Quebec-Windsor corridor — in order to revel in nostalgia for a team they didn’t ever really care as much about as they want to believe they did.
Holy shit, that’s cynical!
But I do count myself among those, and do look forward to genuine enthusiasm for the sport that we’ll both bring and be surrounded by this weekend, as Montrealers open up their arms to our team and dream big about what might lay ahead for them, if ever the numerous and not-insignificant obstacles that stand in the way of that aspiration are somehow surmounted.
Sorry if that sounds like I’m pissing on the parade a little bit — fuck me, and at the joyous apex of it to boot! — but as much as I think a return of Les Expos would be a great, great thing — not only for a jewel of a city that has certainly shown (albeit not while being dicked around at the end) that it can support it, but for baseball in Canada, and baseball in general — in the back of my mind I can’t help but think of Hamilton’s doomed courting of the NHL, and other eager, team-less cities simply being used as leverage by ownership groups looking to extract public money for stadium projects in the places they actually want to be.
Paul Beeston says that he believes he’ll see a team return to Montreal in his lifetime, which, since he’s entirely full of shit, doesn’t exactly bode well.
The hope is that it doesn’t go that way, of course, and Montreal at least knows that their only current MLB-sized facility is entirely unable to host games on a regular basis, and that the stadium issue looms large over any remotely realistic discussion of this project ever actually coming to fruition — as does the whole in-excess-of-a-billion-dollars-of-someone-else’s-money thing — but… well… supporters there can want it all they want, making it happen is a different thing.
But I don’t think I’m telling anybody anything they don’t know, and the other side of this coin is, without the conviction and the passion of the fans there, they don’t have any hope of a team returning. The fact that this is even a conversation so soon after the departure of the team for Washington D.C. in 2005 is itself beyond remarkable — an effort worth celebrating perhaps as much as the great players and the great teams of the past we’ll see feted this weekend, and a testament to the near-universal feeling that Montreal is truly a special place, and that the game deserves the city as much as the city deserves it.
Getting a bit maudlin here, but I suppose that’s appropriate given everything that this weekend represents. It’s the celebration of a dream, and of the rekindling of foggy memories that no one was ever really ready to let go. That itself is seems reason enough to shelve the sort of cynicism I started this piece with, about phoniness, grim realities, bullshit and economics. For a lot of people it isn’t phony in the slightest, and if this all goes off the way it should, right now — before the dubious hand of Rogers starts milking it, year after year, for all it’s worth until it’s fucked to death, like you and I both know that they will — I’m happy just to bask in that for a bit. And then go get shitfaced and do it again tomorrow, bleary-eyed, dry-mouthed, and uninterested in being anywhere in the world other than where I exactly am.