Guest Post: An MLSE conspiracy theory
What If Winning It All Means Losing Fans?
BY BRIAN KALLION
There's been a lot of talk recently about Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Specifically, is winning or profit their goal? But I would like to propose another theory: Fear is a large motivator (or de-motivator) in the thinking of MLSE.
Any of us over 30 remembers the great Blue Jays run of the 80s and early 90s, culminating in the last major championship seen around these parts. All of my friends say the same thing: The strike of 1994 killed their interest in baseball. But I would say the '92 and '93 championships were strike one and two, if you will.
We were all about the thrill of the chase and dropped out once the chase was over.
I think MLSE will always be a bit nervous about seeing the same kind of success befalling them. Are we die-hard Leaf fans or are we just hanging on for the thrill of the chase? Maybe we won't stop being fans but I think the nature of our fandom would change significantly if the Leafs won it all.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the season ticket renewal rate drop drastically. Even if others jumped in to fill the void, would it be a stretch to suggest that the season ticket waiting list gets cut in half? And what about TV ratings and merchandise sales? Something would change there too.
Of course, there's no way to confirm or deny this theory until the Leafs actually do win. However, what I'm saying is nobody really knows what a post-Cup Toronto would be like.
Leaf fans have lived through years of drought and we can't say what we would do if it started to rain. So maybe MLSE, on some level, fears this unknown. Maybe they fear the potential of a drastically different attitude coming from their fans. Maybe this is also why they will do everything they can to prevent a second team in this market – another big unknown for them.
So the company will continue to walk a fine line between (measured) success and failure, knowing this will keep our attention at status quo. At this point, all we as fans can hope for is that Brian Burke doesn't subscribe to this theory and that he has the autonomy to hopefully drag this team and its fans into the great unknown.
Brian Kallion is a Toronto-born and raised IT worker and cat lover. He lives a stone's throw away from the ACC but unfortunately faces the wrong direction.
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