A lesson from the Toronto Raptors

I’ve grown up an avid basketball fan and being young in the era (and city) of exciting Toronto Raptors NBA playoff matches it was hard not to be a die-hard Raptors fan. We had a great team and our players were filled with heart, dedication and drive. I’ll always remember the first game I went to which happened be a playoff game that we won against Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. What a first game to see live! I was high off the energy I felt from the fully packed arena and supportive fans, despite being able to barely see the game because of how high my seat were. After the game, my siblings and I drove around downtown blasting our horn and waving Raptors flags outside the car window. Yes, we were those annoying kids.

I make it a point to see a few Raptors games every season so I was eagerly anticipating the game against the Atlanta Hawks that I had planned for my siblings and I to attend last week. It was upon returning to our section from grabbing some game snacks where the whole story unfolds. My brother and I were waiting for the play to finish before we could take out seats, as they often make you do, when a Raptors employee asked if I wanted to participate in a giveaway that was to be held at the nearby DJ booth but displayed on the big screen to the entire crowd. Now, of all the Raptors games I’ve been to I’ve never won anything (if you don’t count that time I got a free blanket by signing up for a credit card which I never used but somehow accumulated hundreds of dollars in ownership charges and ruined my credit score for what is seeming like an eternity. Kids, take note) so this was a big deal. I obviously said yes, without even fully knowing what I was going to do. At the DJ booth I quickly put my name on a waiver and waited to meet the employees boss. The game was pretty simple, there was going to be four cards on the screen and one would have the BMO logo on the back. The cards were going to shuffle for a minute and then I was to guess which one had the BMO logo on the back. The employee told me to try and pump up the crowd and ask them for their help when picking an answer. In the brief ten seconds I met his boss the only thing he said to me was “pick number two” and right before we were on air the female host reminded me again to not forget to pick number two.

When the game started, it went by like a big blur. I tried keeping up with the flying cards and when the shuffle was completed I personally would have guessed it was card #1 that I should have picked. I asked the crowd, I did a classic ear to the stands and held up fingers indicating numbers. Apparently I was not alone, the entire section to both sides of me were yelling to pick #1. In the brief seconds I had I did what I was told and picked #2. The crowd beside me started booing. They unveiled the cards and to my surprise the winner was #1. As soon as the camera went back to the game I turned to the host beside me and asked if I had heard her and her boss correctly when they said to pick number two. I was told they messed up and I would get the $100 pre-paid Visa card prize regardless. At first I didn’t think much of it. I know mistakes happen and I was still excited to have the opportunity to play. It wasn’t until I exited the DJ booth when the crowd beside me started booing and yelling again. A girl near the end of the aisle loudly proclaimed “Well that’s embarrassing. How stupid can you be?” I held my head high and ignored them as I went back into my section. A group of guys a few rows up asked how I could possibly have picked #2. I defensively told them that I had been told to and although surprised, they started to question the legitimacy of the game. At that point, so was I. By the time I got to my seat it felt like eyes and criticism were being pointed at me from many angles. Needless to say I had no motivation to get up again until the end of the game. When the game was over I exited the stands and was approached by another group of guys who said they had told me what number to pick and asked why I didn’t pick it. I didn’t even get a chance to defend myself before they walked away. At this point I took off my beloved, and yet easily identifiable, hat that I stuffed into my purse and zipped up my jacket. One could assume I was hiding but I mostly just didn’t want to have to continuously defend myself.

I’ve thought about this situation a lot in the five days that have since passed, probably more obsessively than I should, and why I was left with a bittersweet feeling from having participated in the game.

What I’ve learned:

1. Trust the crowd and more importantly, yoursef. Just because the rule makers tell you what to do doesn’t mean you have to go against yourself or your peers. I care about how this situation reflect on myself and what this says about how I follow my instincts as opposed to what others tell me to do. I aspire to be a great leader and a constant rule breaker so I take with me a greater lesson in both leadership and rule breaking from this experience. I also get a great reminder to live by my values, one of which is about believing in oneself. I was raised to know what is right and what is wrong, and this story is a prime example that I need to always do what I think is right.

2. Always create honest experiences. There was no need to cheat the system and tell me the answer. If I got it wrong, I got it wrong. I was set up to fail and was put up against the crowd. One employee told me to ask the crowd for the answer and then another employee told me to just pick the number that he assured me was right. If I picked his number, which I did, I was immediately set up against the crowd by asking them for their help and then not taking it. That on its own seemed like the wrong way to play the game regardless of whether the employee gave me the right or wrong number.

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