PREST: The biggest loser of the NBA finals is bedtime

Halftime of the big game, and one of the key players was in desperate need of a pep talk.

This is for a championship, young fella. You need to channel that energy, control your emotions. This is no time for meltdowns or mistakes. This is when you need to be at your best. Opportunities like this don’t come around all that often. In fact, you may never have a chance like this again. Seize the moment.

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This, of course, was Game 5 of the NBA finals Monday night. The series was 3-1 for the Toronto Raptors over the Golden State Warriors – one win away from Canada’s first Big Four professional championship since the Canadiens and Blue Jays both won in 1993 – but the halftime score was 62-56 in favour of the two-time defending champs from California.

The pressure was on, for one person in particular: my six-year-old son.

Yes, he was there watching it on TV for the first half, gleefully blasting past his regular bedtime as he enjoyed a rare late night with the chance of history on the line. It was rare indeed, as my wife is a hardened sleep warden, protecting the sacred slumber of my children since the day they were born. She’d skip tea with the Queen if it conflicted with nap time.

“Dreadfully sorry Ma’am, but could you keep it down over there with your orange pekoe? If you wake my little one, I’ll knock you into a London Fog.”

She’s not threatening queens for fun though – the research is quite clear on the importance of proper sleep for growing minds and bodies. She doesn’t want our children growing up as sleep-deprived, unintelligent zombies fit enough for tasks only a brainless dolt could perform, such as president of the United States.

But I, a bad parent, wanted both my boys to stay up as late as necessary Monday night so they could watch the entire NBA finals game, in case it ended in a win for the Raptors, a team we have followed for many years as a family. I believe that championship opportunities like this, so rare for so many people except the bad little boys and girls of Boston, are can’t-miss moments that can become seminal memories for children.

Some of my oldest, strongest childhood memories come from magical 1989 when both my beloved Calgary Flames and Saskatchewan Roughriders won championships. On the night of the Grey Cup my family was supposed to be at church getting ready for a big choir concert. I clearly remember us gathered in the living room – dressed in our Sunday best football jerseys – definitively not leaving even though we were already 15 minutes late. With a title on the line, we stayed for the final kick. When Dave Ridgeway nailed his iconic field goal, we were out the door and into the station wagon, on our way to church in pure ecstasy.

“Daddy, can we honk the horn?”

“Yes, son. Yes we can.”

“Hallelujah!”

A few years later it was back-to-back championships for the Toronto Blue Jays. Watching Joe Carter’s hit sail over the SkyDome fence for a championship-winning home run is something I’ll never forget.

Moments like that, however, have been hard to come by since then. There has been some Olympic glory – Donovan Bailey sprinting to gold is a race I’ll never forget – and our national hockey teams have scored a few unforgettable golden goals, but the reality of life as a sports fan is that you spend almost every year watching someone else’s team celebrate the championship win you so desperately wanted, while you are left pondering missed opportunities with nothing left to do but set your city’s downtown core on fire. 

On Monday I wanted to make sure that my boys had a chance to make some championship memories of their own as the Raptors were going for their first title. But there was a problem. My younger son was fading, the excitement of the moment and the novelty of being up past bedtime manifesting itself in some poor choices. This, in turn, put the sleep warden on high alert.

By halftime, my son was down to the dreaded “last chance.” One more misplaced fist and it was bedtime for buddy boy, buzzer beaters be damned.

I’m happy to report that he responded like a champion. He was still going strong in the fourth quarter, and when Kawhi Leonard made a big shot, he responded with a hilarious and perfectly timed shout of “board man gets paid!” Then he belted out the Toronto anthem, which is just three fake air horn noises: “phwahh phwahh phwahhhhh!”

Sadly the Raptors didn’t get their own championship performance, and Golden State claimed a one-point victory.

Toronto still leads the series 3-2, so we’ll do it all again Thursday with another shot at a title. It’s another chance at glory, young fella. Get some rest while you can. Come Thursday, we’re going to need that air horn.

Andy Prest is the sports editor for the North Shore News and writes a biweekly humour/lifestyle column. Reach him via email at aprest@nsnews.com.

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