It’s hard to know what to say when someone famous dies. When it’s a musician or filmmaker, I talk about their work. I can’t do that with sports.
Normally, I don’t write blog posts about athletes when I they die, as I don’t feel as close to athletes as I to do artists, it’s just my nature.
But Roy Halladay was my favourite Blue Jay; the only baseball player whose jersey I’ve ever purchased. He was also only 4 years older than me. So this death has hit me harder than I would have imagined; not only is it shocking but it feels as though some part of my youth has died with him (something I can’t say I’ve felt when other athletes who’ve meant a lot to Toronto have died in my lifetime).
Of course, saying something like that feels a little absurd because Halladay was a real person with a family who must be suffering more than I can imagine right now. It feels selfish and shallow to equate my momentary grief of “Wow, really?” with their loss. That being said, let me try to say a little something.
For years, Roy Halladay was the reason – often the only reason – you went to see a Blue Jays game in Toronto. We planned our attendance around his starts. I remember one time my friend and I sat above the bullpen so we could watch him warm up. We joked that now we couldn’t wash our faces because they contained traces of the aura of one of the greatest baseball players we’d ever seen up close.
Sports don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, of course. But there’s something about seeing a human being so good at something your not that really feels significant. When I watched Halladay pitch, in person or live, I thought I was watching one of the great people to play his position. That felt especially true given how bad the team around him often was. Halladay was often the lone bright spot but he was more than that. We knew he was good and we wanted the rest of the baseball world to acknowledge it (more often than they did). Watching Halladay felt like we were witnessing history being made.
In addition to being a fantastic pitcher, Halladay always seemed like a consummate professional and a very decent human being. Though the sports figure as a role model is a cliche, Halladay felt like a true role model. At a time when the Toronto sports scene was, to put it mildly, not great, Halladay was the great hope we had that maybe one of our teams would be good enough again.
I never met the man but I don’t know that I’ve had the pleasure of watching another Toronto athlete that managed to combine such high levels of achievement with such professionalism and humility. It was a pleasure to watch him while he was here and it was a pleasure to watch him achieve greater success in Philadelphia.
There’s nothing I can say to make this better for his family or anyone who knew him personally. But I just wanted to say that, while he was alive, he touched my life, and the lives of many other Jays fans and we will never forget him.