For a lot of hockey fans, the love of their team is a like a stormy relationship. You love them, you hate them, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. So many games does an NHL team play in a week these days, many loyalists will go through this in as little as a week. “I love you! Come back to me! Get the fuck out, you irrational, crazy freak. Come back! Get out!”
Following the Maple Leafs, though, has become something different entirely. Right now, if I had to compare it to something, I’d have to say it was the sports equivalent of flying 100mph, headfirst, through a tunnel filled with pigshit.
After this eight-game slide, as I squint at blogs with gritted teeth and through a thin film of salty tears, reading stats like we haven’t dropped that many in a row since 1985, I realize that the club makes me so angry that I want to do things like completely change my opinion from one day to the next.
Yesterday I was calm, breezily writing that I thought whatever happened against Detroit, Leafs fans should remain rational, not do anything stupid like demand the firing of Randy Carlyle and the running of Dion Phaneuf straight out of town. But now I’m fizzing with rage, demanding that Randy ‘Hey check it out, I got my bread stuck in the toaster. What am I like eh? Megalolz’ Carlyle be the fall guy.
Surely, surely never in history has a sports club made you work so hard to love them. What did I do? What did I do to deserve to watch my hockey team completely disintegrate into a miserable sack of players who, in the most important stretch of the season by far, drop eight in a row. It’s complete and utter unacceptable garbage.
We, as Leafs fans, put up with the smug ones on forums and comment sections saying things like, ‘Your organisation is a joke/you’ll never win anything/hahaha Laffs/enjoy another 250 years of winning nothing’. And why do we put up with it? Because the club is ours. We grew up with it, wearing little Leafs jerseys as toddlers, cradling a stick, watching Rock Em Sock Em and screaming at the television at our heroes.
Deep down, those asshole fans know this. So does the friend who texted me a while back helpfully suggesting I switch teams to “Rangers or Flyers, maybe – it’s not too late”. When I patiently pointed out to him that supporting sports teams didn’t quite work like that, he cruelly scoffed: “OK. Just a dorky team to like is all”.
I’m not sure why that wounded me so much, but I knew what he meant. I’m dorky because I continue to support a team that treats its fans with such breathtaking contempt. Year upon year raising ticket prices to punish fans for their loyalty. “Hey asshole! Did you enjoy that epic fucking meltdown in Boston last year? Did you? Well here’s a massive price rise, you absolute sucker.”
It’ll be the same this summer. “Hey you, 7 year old kid with his face painted blue and white, staring at the ice open mouthed after your father shelled out stupid money to treat you to an experience you’ll never forget… fuck you. Have another price rise. Little jerk.”
I’ve heard it before: they know we’ll keep coming back, so that’s why we get treated like this after watching a team which clearly has a centre as soft as the pigshit that now covers my face give up on a season. But the really depressing is part is, I’m coming back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
Why? Because I’m a fucking Leafs fan. I hate it, but that’s what I am. Unfortunately for sports fans, your team is part of your identity. So it’ll go on and on and on. Maybe it’ll never get better. But I, along with the other poor suckers who were born in the wrong city, or who had parents born in the wrong city, or who made some awful mistake when they were young, will still be here.
But that’s next year and beyond. This year? Eight games (possibly more) in a row.