Hope is a cruel thing for a sports fan: no matter how bleak the situation, as long as there’s a straw in sight we’ll happily clutch at it. Case in point: Leafs Nation, of which we’re proud, occasionally defiant members. We’ve been flip-flopping over the Leafs all season long. A few weeks ago we’d written them off, then watched as the team put together an impressive run (which included comprehensive victories over the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins). Suddenly, they were back in the thick of things—and hope, suddenly, sprung eternal once more.
Last week’s pair of losses to the New Jersey Devils was a major setback, yet in spite of the mounting evidence against the team’s chances we’ve decided that we can’t write the Leafs off just yet. They’re our team, for better or for worse, and part of having a favourite team is sticking with them through thick and thin. Let the media deride us all they want: having a favourite team isn’t a rational thing to begin with, and we’ve decided to embrace that to its fullest. Today and tomorrow, the Leafs play back-to-back games against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers, incidentally, hold the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot which the Leafs are chasing. Toronto goes into tonight’s game eight points back of Philly; moreover, there are four other teams sitting between the Leafs and a playoff berth. The situation appears hopeless…and yet, if the Leafs sweep the home-and-home series they’ll be a mere four points back. Four points is nothing; four points is a good weekend. As long as there’s hope, we apparently haven’t conditioned ourselves to give up…even if the Leafs are almost as close to being last overall as they are to being in a playoff spot.
And if the two-game sweep doesn’t happen? Well, then we’ll simply move on with our lives—which, in our case, means moving on to baseball, which starts up again at the end of the month. (While it’s tough cheering for a losing team, the nice thing about being a sports fan is that there’s usually another season right around the corner.) We know professional sports doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s just that, once you’ve committed yourself to being a sports fan it starts to matter very deeply—and that’s why, all things being equal, we can’t give up on the Leafs until basic math forces us to do so.
Photo by frigante from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.