A desperate plea, from me to you
As the Leafs trek to Florida this week for a road trip, I took a sidewalk trip this morning and went for a long stroll before work.
The iPod was cranking out a bittersweet playlist of Beach House, Broken Bells, The Middle East and Band of Horses. And in the darkness, as I ambled forth in my ridiculously puffy vest, I couldn't stop thinking about some of your weekend comments.
To quote from Denial's poetic epiphany:
And then, after it was all done, and I sat in a dull, lukewarm stasis that I've come to know very well as Post-Leaf-Game-Syndrome (or PLGS), I arrived at a happy place.
I don't know how I got there. Or maybe I didn't go anywhere, and it just came to me. Or maybe we met half way – though don't ask me to show you the way.
But the last tumbler clicked. The lock opened, and out of it emerged a peace of mind that said, gently and calmly: you may now stop watching Leaf games.
It was wonderful. It was LIBERATING. It wasn't an angry, stomping out of the room "I'm never going to follow this @!*&#$ team again." We all know that the momentum that takes us away in those moments quickly turns around and we find ourselves in the same old, same old. I mean, we've all quit drinking -- permanently -- after bowing before the porcelain god at 4 am, wondering why beer tastes better coming out than going in. But we know that this kind of "quitting" doesn't work.
I am not quitting the Leafs. I am simply done. My tenure is over.
I am a free man.
Next, Pyramid Power – one of ALF B’s most prolific commenters and a Leafs fan who is following this team while living in China – jumped into the thread to announce his departure:
Washing my hands of the Leafs is truly a liberating feeling. I too am free. Thank you to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have cleansed myself of thee. I have my life back, and it feels fantastic. Amen.
Then responding to Denial and Pyramid Power, Hoofheartz added:
Can you imagine if all TML fans were as fed up as PP and Denial? The shockwaves would reverberate through the ACC and maybe, just maybe an end would come to the pain of being a TML fan. The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem, so even though BB doesn't read this blog, he has my solemn pledge that there will be no more Leafs for me until at the very least, that most useless of all coaches has been dispatched to any ECHL backwater you can name. Aaahhhh, that is liberating.
All this liberation left me feeling very caged. And so a desperate plea, from me to you: Don't leave!
People, misery loves company and I don't want to be miserable alone. If you guys start burning your passports and defect from Leafs Nation now, how will I make it to April? Hell, how will I make it to January?
So as the Leafs prepare for their excursion in the Sun Belt, let's try to look on the bright side. You know, technically, um, this team has picked up points in 8 of 13 games this season! Despite the hideous slide of late, they are still, hang on, a .500 team!
But let's forget about stats for a minute.
Moe Green posted another thoughtful comment this weekend. His provocative theory, more or less, is that, "Burke's a guy who talks a good game but really could care less about the franchise, the city or its fans."
With great respect, this is the one time I must disagree with Moe.
I can tell you, with some personal certainty, that this losing streak is gnawing at Burke's intestines. He wants to win. And he loves this city. Before the season even started, he told me Toronto is where he and his wife want to settle down after retiring.
On another occasion, he said this about Toronto:
"You are talking about one of the great cities in the world. So you can look at this as a crushing pressure-cooker or an opportunity. A player that wins a scoring title here can run for mayor when he's done playing.
"I have the greatest job in hockey. Right now people might say it might be the worst job in hockey – the pressure, the media. But I have the greatest job in hockey because I view it as an opportunity. The guy that wins a Stanley Cup here, the GM, they will name schools after him."
I bumped into Burke after the Florida game. The Leafs had just won but he looked like bloody hell. He was distracted. His eyes were glazed. His visage was so unsettling I actually asked if he was ill.
He later told me he just trying to "gear down." Win or lose, the games are so emotionally draining that he turns into a walking zombie for a couple of hours afterwards.
Another time, at lunch, he was on his blue BlackBerry and his face suddenly got as red as a nearby painting. He muttered a string of obscenities and later said, "Changing a culture is the hardest thing to change."
Make of this what you will.
If you're not buying what he's saying, that's your prerogative. If you're fed up with the perennial emotional slingshot that starts with guarded optimism and ends with bitter disappointment, well, I actually understand.
But from my perspective – and, yes, take this with a large grain of salt because I have to stick with the Leafs this season – I believe things will get better. I do. That is, I don't believe Burke will just wallow in the putrid mediocrity we have witnessed over the past nine games.
So the question becomes: Will this team turn things around quickly enough or will the mass exodus from Leafs Nation become the defining hallmark of the 2010-2011 season?
PHOTO: VINAY MENON/TORONTO STAR