No professional sports team turns passionate fans into kooks like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Usually when teams lose, fans are disappointed and the media wonders what went wrong. But there is always tomorrow and you live to fight another day. That doesn’t seem to happen in Toronto where people hang on every game as if their life depended on it. No better example than last week when three so-called fans were charged for throwing jerseys on the ice. Their act is hardly considered criminal but I’d be hard-pressed to call them Leafs fans from now on. Sure there are fans in Montreal and Vancouver that riot in the streets when their team loses. But it’s kind of ironic that the most peaceful of protests creates the most stupidity.
Anyone who followed the Leafs during the Harold Ballard era knows this is not the first time the team is mired in a lengthy stretch of futility. The difference is that they didn’t have Twitter back then or forums like this one to whine and complain. Couple that with the amount of television coverage the Leafs are getting, there is more opportunity for people to do stupid stuff in public. And that is what all this “outrage” is really about. When I started out in journalism I was taught not to report on people who commit suicide. In television, we were told not to show those who run out into the field or on the ice during the game. Doing so encourages attention for those who crave it. I believe the same goes with anyone who likes to throw jerseys, crutches, or waffles (or any kind of food) on to the ice during a game. This not like a throwing a hat on to the ice to celebrate a hat trick. No one is doing it to seek their 15 minutes of fame.
There will be those who welcome this kind of response to the team’s erratic play. Let’s get a couple of things straight. First of all, as I mentioned a number of times before on this blog, this is a Leafs team that is easily pushed around and does not want to get in other player’s faces. Second, this is the type of team those in the media and rogue fans want to see: no goons or enforcers, just ones who make highlight-reel plays. That to them wins hockey games just like the Detroit Red Wings. And they claim to be “mad as hell” at the Leafs for their recent play? Please.
Look at the Canadiens. If you see how they hit, battle, and fight, you see why they are at or near the top of the Atlantic Division much to the chagrin of a majority of Habs fans that prefer skill over toughness. Marc Bergevin has been able to assemble the kind of team Brian Burke promised to put together in Toronto and the Leafs are nowhere near it. But you don’t hear Habs fans complaining about their team do you? Perhaps not publicly. Even Montrealers who are cut from the same cloth as fellow Quebecer Brian Mulroney are considered pacifists.
But back to Maple Leafs fans in Toronto. It is sad to see that there are those who want to make these nut cases into some kind of hero. They need serious mental help and not a parade in their honour. The ones who come to the Air Canada Centre wearing paper bags over their heads might as well have balaclavas covering their faces, just like the thugs at political protests claiming they are doing it for peace and justice. The one common denominator of the two: there is no aim towards a solution, only a means of getting attention and creating chaos. The Leafs’ soon-to-be 48-year Stanley Cup drought is the least of their worries. I bet you they don’t even know what a Stanley Cup is. Torontoians seem to been quite comfortable in the victim role and that has got to stop.