Guest Post: The case against patience
Rebuilding In The Peaks And Valleys Of Leaf Passion
BY MOE GREEN
Sometimes we Leaf fans get a little unhinged. After all, it's a lot to ask of us: To be patient. To wait. Just a bit more. Next fall. Next spring. Soon. Soon, it will be different. Promise. It will be so much better. Maybe. Hopefully.
"The Passion That Unites Us All" is the corporate motto of the Toronto Maple Leafs as conceived by the board of MLSE. I do think it's accurate, though I would drop the "All."
We Leaf fans are a passionate bunch. Sometimes, passionate at the expense of patient. But that's just it, isn't it? Passion and patience do not mix well together. They are like oil and water, positive and negative, matter and anti-matter. They are diametrically opposed concepts. They cannot exist within the same time and space.
You can't have your cake and eat it too. "Hockey is a religion here," we're told, Toronto is the "Vatican of Hockey." The Leafs are "different than other franchises." We are "special and special rules apply."
Translation: An ordinary rebuild is okay for ordinary teams. But we want something – deserve something – more. MLSE and its chief representative here on earth, Brian Burke, sell this exalted ideal to us on a daily basis.
And we buy it.
Are they right? Are we different? We literally weep when our favourite players are traded. For us, a trade is like a death in the family. We feel the pain of every hit and share in the jubilation of every goal. We have supported this team through a success-drought that makes the dust bowl seem like a day at the beach. We post long, impassioned and erudite soliloquies on blogs at 3 in the morning... on school nights.
And all of this for a team now sitting in 22nd place.
So please don't tell us "patience for the rebuild" is somehow a gift bestowed from high above by our betters. That is simply not the stuff real Leaf fans are made of. Real Leaf fans are made of blood and guts and screams and tears and hair ripped out from the roots and, yes, passion.
We overrate our players' performances like doting parents overrate their kids' performances at their first school play. We see our players through the blinded eyes of love struck high-schoolers. We meticulously analyze every fragment of our season with calculators, spreadsheets and Ouija boards.
Then we follow every single move in the off-season. We read every article from every source no matter how obscure. We agonize over every trade rumour, every whisper no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. We record games and do frame-by-frame analysis of facial expressions on the bench to gain insight into moods and confidence levels. We follow the players on our team like John Hinckley Jr. followed Jodie Foster.
We are obsessed. And obsession, by its very nature, is impatient.
When we go to bed after a win, it's the goals we replay over and over in our heads like silent movies. After a loss, it's the forward lines we juggle, the defensive pairings we adjust. While the non-believers, those not burdened with this passion, drift into peaceful sleep, our minds never stop churning in blue-and-white.
So as the Leafs embark upon a road trip this week, as the games remaining dwindle down to single digits, let's make one thing clear: When you ask a Leaf fan to be patient, you are asking a lot. When you ask us to wait until next season or beyond for consistency and success, you really do not understand us.
If you are content to patiently watch this team develop under the thoughtful tutelage of Brian Burke and Ron Wilson, I cautiously and wearily submit that you may be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs but you are not a real Leaf fan.
If you are not as deeply saddened at the sight of Tomas Kaberle donning the putrid brown and yellow of our hated division rivals as you would be watching your own son or daughter go off to war – on the side of the enemy – you are not a real Leaf fan.
If you have the patience to happily wait until next season to taste the playoffs, if you can talk about trading Clarke MacArthur or Mikhail Grabovski without having a little sick well up in your throat, if you can enjoy the NHL postseason after the Leafs have been eliminated from contention yet again, then you may be a hockey fan, possibly even a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but you are simply not a real Leaf fan.
After all is said and done, it is the passion that unites us.
The pseudonymous Moe Green is a former-Torontonian and Leaf-lifer grinding it out passionately deep in the heart of Texas.