As two Toronto Maple Leafs walk onto the carpet, one leans in and says to the other, “Don’t forget to shake hands.” They don’t, smiling and gregarious as ever.
The Red Raptor bumps shoulders as he sweeps onto the carpet in front of the Team Up kids. He has to: the place is packed, and excitement is mounting in the air. It’s the One4One event at the Real Sports Bar & Grill.
Monday marked the momentous occasion that brought the four Toronto teams together: the Raptors, the Leafs, the Marlies and Toronto FC together in one room. Tickets sold for $275, with proceeds going to held the Team Up Foundation.
It was a whirlwind affair, and the Foundation had outdone itself. The Raptors once again showed up to help the cause, this time meeting with their fellow Toronto teams. Charity events like this are always exciting, but bringing the four teams together made it something special.
As the players stood together for photographs, the media crowded in. These events are democratic in the way different media shows up to cover it, and you could see a girl for Leafs TV talking excitedly into a video phone right next to a guy with an enormous camera and mic. All sorts and types.
The teams kept to themselves at first. You could see DeMar DeRozan leaning over and chatting with Jerryd Bayless, glancing over at the other teams. It was up to the photographers to yank them out of their cliques and get them standing with the other teams.
The players looked great for the photos, dressed sharply in black-on-black. As they stood together smiling and posing for pictures, only DeRozan was the exception, forgoing the black for a grey sports jacket. Maybe it’s his due: he’s a big deal these days, not just in the Raptors, but in the NBA. He wants to stand out.
The DJ got the event started with pounding mash-ups between oldies and a hard dance beat. When the guests piled into the enormous venue, they discovered that it was the players who were helping to serve their drinks. It was an inspired decision, and it was great to see the athletes juggle drink orders, sign the Team Up’s signature white hard hats, and make the rounds about the room to sign tickets and make themselves available.
On the ground floor, the guests were a picture of glamour, a sea of sharp suits and shimmering dresses. The bar’s staff had to help the players serve drinks; they may be great athletes, but some of them couldn’t quite nail the trick of pouring beer. Several times, they had to dump out a glass full of head and start over, but they laughed and looked like they were having fun.
Meanwhile in the center of the room was the auction, where guests bid on signed jerseys, basketballs and hockey helmets. Above the auction table, on the wraparound second floor, there were surreal sights, like watching Andrea Bargnani play as himself on the NBA game for PS3.
Out of all the Raptors, Reggie Evans looked like he was enjoying himself the most. That’s expected, though: Evans is always sociable for the media, sounding candid on interviews, talking off the cuff. It’s one of his strengths. Whenever you feel NBA athletes are too managed, too careful in what they says, He’s is one of the players who likes to shake things up.
The One4One event was everything a sports event should be. Excitement, good music, and fun appearances by the athletes. It’s not often you get to see the Leafs and the Raptors together in the same room. That it was for a good cause was just the icing on the cake.