The Problem of Promise
MONTREAL--People love promise in sports. It's better than an I.O.U., for it requires an emotional investment in the imagined result.
Blue Jays fans, looking at Colby Rasmus, Ricky Romero, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez and others, are feeling it. Leaf fans, with Phil Kessel, James Reimer, Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and the youngest team in hockey, are banking on it.
At some point, however, promise has to turn into reality. We'll see if either the Leafs or the Jays will get to the promised land, and for Canadian tennis fans, it's been about waiting to see if the great promise of Milos Raonic and Rebecca Marino will translate into the country's first big-time singles competitors in a long, long time.
Raonic looked to be well on his way before being injured at Wimbledon. He's not at this week's Rogers Cup in Montreal, he might be ready for the U.S. Open later this month, he might not be. Patience is a virtue, and all signs remain good, but there's a way to go yet.
Marino? Her loss to Russian veteran Ekaterina Makarova on Monday night in Toronto has to go down as a major disappointment. Yes, she was 0-2 against Makarova lifeitime, and Makarov, as a leftie, is a rarity on the women's tour, and therefore a problem to deal with for most players.
But Marino was on her home turf playing in front of a big Rexall Centre audience pulling for her against an opponent with a lower world ranking. She had her moments, nearly fighting back from a huge deficit in the first set tiebreak, but the mobility issues resurfaced and her big serve and forehand game were exposed as incomplete as she went out in the first round.
"I am disappointed losing my match here, especially first round. Not many people enjoy that, I think," said Marino afterwards. "But, you know, I do put it in perspective. I think about where I was a year ago and how far I've come. I don't want to sound sort of egotistical when I say this, but I'm very proud of myself just how far I have come.
"You know, yes, it's disappointing, but just so long as I stay positive about it, I can move forward and hopefully have a better showing next year."
Three more Canadian women - Eugenie Bouchard, Alexsandra Wozniak and Stephanie Dubois - take their swings today, as will Vasek Pospisil on the men's side. Lots more promise on the way, but will results follow?
And when is it fair to demand results from promise? That's a harsh question, but one Jays fans will start asking next season if this doesn't become more than a .500 team, and Leaf fans will surely start asking if next season delivers yet another non-playoff team.
Canadian tennis fans, meanwhile, want to believe, particularly in Raonic and Marino, both of whom are only 20 years of age and have delivered promising results in 2011. They know it takes time. Like fans of the Jays and Leafs, they'll hang in a while longer.