Game 32: Throw a paper bag over your head and get ready to jump
Nobody expected the Leafs to beat Vancouver tonight. So for once, at least our expectations were met. That's something, right?
I won't lie to you. It is not looking good. It is really not looking good.
Yes, there are 50 games left to play. Yes, there are 100 points up for grabs. Yes, mathematically speaking, this team could engineer a spectacular second-half and bridge the 10-point chasm that now separates them from a final playoff spot.
Yes, we could get a taste of postseason play for the first time since 2004.
Then again, I could wake up tomorrow and suddenly be fluent in Swahili. You could learn to fly. We could sit down over lemon squares and tequila shots and come up with a scientific answer to this paranormal question: Are the Leafs cursed? Are the vultures already circling?
More important: Are we cursed?
Are we doomed to make feeble excuses and search for silver linings even as the grim reaper gives us wedgies twice a week under storm clouds? Are we wasting our time? Was commenter Denial on to something when he left us weeks ago for Planet Disengagement?
People keep talking about patience and loyalty. People keep patting me on the shoulder while preaching about "rebuilding," a process that could take three, four, five – God knows how many years.
Okay. Fine. For the sake of argument, for the sake of our splintered sanity, let's say the rebuild is proceeding exactly as planned.
All these gritty but demoralizing losses – that's just part of the learning curve. This is the youngest team in the league and they are absorbing painful but valuable lessons that will shape their experiences and game instincts.
Okay. Fine. This should be super-awesome. Really.
But until this super-awesomeness dawns, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to cling to the hypothetical pledge of a better tomorrow and ignore the concrete reality of a bleak today? Should we just shake our heads and fake our smiles and punch ourselves in the genitals to help lessen the pain? Should we just accept short-term failure with a promise note scrawled on the back of a dirty napkin that says something about future glory?
Or should we throw paper bags over our heads and get ready to jump?
The plan was simple: We'd take the train to Brindisi and leave just enough time to board a ferry that would slice across the Adriatic and drop us in Corfu.
Alas, the captain refused to depart until his ship was full. Scheduled departure? Get real. Now run along. Go wander our desolate streets and come back later. How much later? Not sure. Just later. Come back later. We'll know when it's time. Later.
So we waited. And we wandered. And we waited and wandered some more.
By the time we left Brindisi, the mood on that ship was decidedly somber. Travelers from all over were exhausted from touring an unremarkable city they never planned to endure. Their giddy exuberance was crushed by the simple act of killing time.
What matters: Their learning curve feels like a noose around our necks. Their missed shots are hitting us in the heads. Their giveaways are taking away our resolve. Their confusion is forcing too many inside Leafs Nation to think decisively about leaving.
Maybe they'll return when the ship is ready to sail. Maybe they won't.
The Leafs may be learning to win by losing. But I fear we are learning not to care about either.
PHOTO: DARRYL DYCK/CANADIAN PRESS