Consider the bandwagon jumping Leafs fan. They come out en masse every spring for playoff time or can be spied in lesser numbers after a 4 game win streak. With their "suits," "ties" and "actual girlfriends," they strut into the bar and spew what ever regurgitated stats they can remember and claim to have spotted the raw talent of “Blankity Blank” since ‘Blank’ first laced up their "ice blade thingies."
Every post season these types fill the bars, buy brand spankin’ new jerseys with whatever players name that happens to be the one leading the team in scoring or is nailing the hottest celebrity at the time. They flaunt their "real live girlfriends" in front of the rest of us and deck them out in pink hockey related paraphernalia to publicly reaffirm their female status.
These types cheer loudly until the Hockey Gods see it fit to eliminate our team from contention – or in years past the playoffs. Then they go on to make wise proclamations like “Oh, I knew this was going to happen” or the equally helpful “this team sucks”.
You may have wondered where all the Jerseys that end up at Garage sales and on the backs of the homeless come from. To a single man, each of these forlorn bits of Leafdom come these wretched soulless bastards.
These are the bandwagon jumpers.
As an actual Leafs fan, it is fingernails on the proverbial chalk board when these bandwagon jumpers come out of the wood work. “How dare they!” us actual fans say, “Where were you when the team was mired in a 8 game losing streak, 6 years removed from the post season?”
Us die hards, we live Leafs Hockey, we sleep Leafs Hockey and when modern medicine gets around to it – we will eventually bleed Leafs Hockey. We can tell you who’s on a hot streak, who’s even strength points per game is up over last month and who snores the loudest when the team is on the road.
There is nothing we Die Hards wouldn’t do for the team. Our very lives are affected by the wins and loses of our home team, our brothers in arms. Our marriages, our relationships, hell our peer reviews at work, these all lay in the balance of the wins and loses for our hockey Jesusi. Watching every game – win or lose – in for the long haul, the hiring’s the firings and seasons upon seasons of disappointment.
“This year is different,” we tell ourselves on an annual basis. “This year is the one."
And of course it never is.
Apart from the occasional Philadelphia story – qualify for the playoffs with a shoot-out win in the last game of the season and skate all the way to game 7. For most teams, this year ain’t gonna be the year. Missing the playoffs or first round disappointments doesn’t satiate the desires of the Die Hards. Nothing but a deep run into the post season can quell the desire for glory in the die hard ravenous fans.
CONVERSATIONS IN MASOCHISM
In a recent conversation about the woes of the blue and white with a die hard, life long, Leafs fan; he told me he was prepared to jump. Yes you read that right – J-U-M-P. The team had failed him repeatedly in his lifetime.
From huddling in front of the ol’ 26” TV in Blue and White PJ’s as wide eyed child rooting for Wendel and Dougie praying for victory to watching the team flail all the way to wretched 29th place last season.
This stalwart gentleman had been there through the thick and thin, the highs and a lifetime of lows, cheering loud and proud. Pushed to the edge by his most beloved, he was ready to shuffle off his moral coil. He was going to jump on the Band Wagon.
SAY IT AIN’T SO
Me: “The Band Wagon? Surely can’t be serious?”
Disenfranchised Leaf Fan: “You’re darn tootin’ I’m serious and don’t call me Shirley”
He went on to explain, how easy the Bandwagon fanss had it. Only coming out to cheer when there was something to cheer for. The benefits included, improved mood and social life, an overall feeling of self worth and value to society and most of all not having to have his junk kicked in repeatedly over an 82 game schedule.
The logic of this argument began to dawn on me. It’s true. The bandwagon way is the easy way. Losses don’t matter, only wins. Ignorance is bliss. But is it even possible to go back and wipe the slate clean and forget the pain and suffering of decades of die-hard fandom? If you could do it all over again, would you?
Would you take the blue pill or the red pill?
28 MINUTES LATER
Only a short time later we were back on the topic of hockey and I could see the passion in the Leaf lovers eyes. Despite the years of heartbreak, the repeated rounds of emotional rochambo, the blood, sweat and beers. It’s impossible to go back and revert into a bandwagon fan wannabe. Once a die-hard, always a die-hard.
We will fight through these losing seasons like Braveheart on Barry Bonds “Nutritional Suppliments”. We will watch every game win or lose. We will cheer loudly for even the smallest of victories. We hold out hope. We keep the flame alive.
When the day comes and our ice gods deliver us into the Promised Land, we’ll know deep down in the very hockey cockles of our heart, that our faith was forever vigilant, that our heart was pure, that we were never a fair-weather fan. That taste of ultimate victory will all the more sweeter.
So next time the Buds go on a winning streak and the local watering hole starts to fill up with “Them”, have pity and know that while they may get some amusement out of victory, or temporary enjoyment out of the playoffs, they will never know the true elation of watching your Band of Brothers hoist the mighty Stanley Cup.
Their fragile and fickle hearts will not have the same capacity for joy because they, they have never known the true pain of defeat. They have not crossed the desert, they have not had their very hockey spirit pushed to the brink of existence. So know that in these here dark days for the Leafs, when your faith is tested, remember; each loss, sweetens each victory.
Or if that’s too hard on you, there is lots of room on the band-wagon.