Trash Talk: Take me out to the (Basket)ball game

Sorry, Expos fans. The NBA will move to Montreal before the MLB

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

On Nov. 13, Montreal sports journalist and broadcaster Moe Khan—not to be confused with Link Vol. 43 Coordinating Editor, Mohammad (Mo) Khan—responded to a post from Legion Hoops on the platform X. The post mentioned that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Montreal has interest to be a potential expansion team in the future.

Khan’s first line set the tone for this take: “This might irritate Montreal baseball fans W/this news.”

To echo Khan’s sentiment; Baseball fans, respectfully, be prepared for a basketball team to come back before the Expos ever return.

Let’s start with the most obvious point, how many current francophone/Quebec-born baseball players do you know? Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

For those of you who said Vladimir Guerrero Jr., he grew up in the Dominican Republic and chose to represent that country at the World Baseball Classic in March. We will include him for being born in Montreal but I bet you can’t name any other players apart from him. 

On the other hand, Montreal has produced notable NBA talent: Chris Boucher, Luguentz Dort and Benedict Mathurin are the three studs that come to mind. 

On top of this, basketball has grown internationally at a rapid rate. The multicultural aspect of basketball is marvellous, and with international talents taking their prowess to the NBA, this means more European and African-born players from  French-speaking countries would be able to play in a city where they have the liberty to speak French. Non-Quebecois francophones such as Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama could be potentially swayed to compete in Montreal as a result. 

Meanwhile, diversity in baseball still seems to have a long way to go. The sport is labelled as America’s pastime, and the demographic of active players in the MLB reflects that. American players made up roughly 71 per cent of athletes on a 26-man roster in 2022, according to Baseball Almanac and Baseball Reference. In contrast, the next closest French-speaking country, Canada, is listed as roughly one percent. Fifteen total players and only four are Quebec-born—one of them being the aforementioned Guerrero Jr.

Currently, the NBA has 57 players from Canada, 40 from France, and many more players who were born in French-speaking areas or families, according to Basketball Reference

Even at the collegiate level, basketball is thriving. Khan—a play-by-play commentator for the Montreal Alliance—makes the case. 

“They’re sending a lot of boys and girls to the NCAA/U Sports level [...] Go to a High School/Cegep game, it’s packed,” he wrote in the same post.

Having covered both baseball and basketball at the U Sports level for a few years, I can attest to the mostly empty, freezing-cold metal bleachers of the Gary Carter field for an October contest, versus the packed sweltering seats of the John Dore Court. 

The disparity of both funding and participation is starkly different between the two sports. 

This isn’t to knock on passionate coaches such as Stingers head coach Howie Schwartz, who has painstakingly advocated and worked for the nascent Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) baseball league. But the low attendance and financial struggles are glaring issues that the league is still fighting to overcome.

Meanwhile, basketball thrives at the university level. U Sports has an RSEQ division for both the women’s and the men’s teams, and the atmosphere is palpably high-energy every game—with the men’s team selling out most of their home games this season. The Concordia programs garner sponsors and support at a far higher level than that of baseball.

All this to say, baseball fans, I’m sorry you are still missing out on your beloved Expos, but the Olympic Stadium is a death trap and we have nowhere else to put the team if we miraculously get them back. The Bell Centre, however, has been renovated well for the NBA Canada games they’ve displayed in recent years.

While the likelihood of an NBA, or even a WNBA team, coming to Montreal is still a stretch, a basketball team’s arrival is a slam dunk, versus baseball; a swing-and-a-miss.