Pictured: therapists.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I am a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s been mentioned on the podcast once or twice. In the weird, twisted, nonsensical world of sports fandom, I am dug deep in my love of this team. However, this year I’ve started to feel something more for my team. Something kindred, if you will. Perhaps it’s just where I am at in my life but I’m starting to feel a connection with this Leafs team I’ve not felt for a sports team, well, ever. As I said on today’s show, this is a team for people who are bad at life. And that’s a good thing. This Maple Leafs team is pretty much everything I dislike about hockey – they play way too many goons for way too many minutes and said goons drum up fights and trouble for no real reason outside of the fact it’s all they know how to do – but I can’t help but love them. They’re losers. I am a loser. We lose together and, to steal a phrase from my favorite TV show, we lose well.

But what does that say about me? And what does that say about fandom in general? How do we justify cheering for teams that we know are bad but are forced to live with because of geographic predisposition? Cheering for a bad team is tough. So is life. Let’s get through both together. I am a disaster of a human being and I cheer for a disaster of a hockey team and it’s pretty helpful. (yeah, that probably doesn’t say great things about my mental health but it’s true). So, here are some steps for cheering for a team that should make you feel crazy but, instead, makes you feel sane.

1. Know What You’re Getting Into

I make no qualms about the fact that the Maple Leafs are a pretty bad hockey team. Yeah, they’re sitting in 5th right now but, come on, we know how this is going to end. If you’re an Islanders fan or, God forbid, a Blue Jackets fan, you know how your season is going to go pretty much from day one. Being swept out of the first round seems like the best case. I get it, I’ve been there. I am there. To have expectations of home ice or a Cup run is just going to doom you before the season even begins. I suggest tempering expectations – accept the fact that thinking up a Stanley Cup parade route in your city is likely just poor planning. If something great were to happen, all the better, but it likely won’t and it’ll make loving your team much easier.

2. Get To Know Your Team

This seems like an obvious one but I’ll qualify it by saying you need to get to know everyone on your team. Yeah, even guys like Matt Calvert (who? I don’t know. Google). Having a faceless team is actually more beneficial to getting some therapeutic love out of your team and it makes you work a little harder to get to know your guys. Mikhail Grabovski is your best player? Learn about how Mikhail Grabovski is an insane person and then love him forever. Because he’s weird and you’re weird so let’s just embrace that fact. A team of loveable losers is fun to root for. If you made a list of sports movies made about a team of loveable losers, you’d have a list of every sports movie ever made. Colton Orr is not a good hockey player but, you know, I kind of like rooting for him. Yeah, be useless and everything that’s wrong with hockey and fight three guys at once. Why not? Yeah, it’s dumb but so was Jobu but he could make you hit a fastball very far. Everyone has their uses.

3. Don’t Take It Seriously

This is advice I extend to all sports fans. What we love is not a serious thing. It’s sports. Sports has maybe one or two transcendent, important moments a decade. Maybe. This is supposed to be fun so let’s make it that way. Throw your emotions into it, live and die with your team, let a bad loss ruin your day, sure. But, end of the day, don’t get into fights because someone says your team sucks. I get daily attacks in The Score offices about being a Leaf fan, it’s fun. Be self-depricating, make fun of your team, make fun of other teams. Just don’t make it your end-all, be-all. Accept your team’s limitations and then make fun of said limitations. But always love them.

4. Drink

Far be it from me to encourage alcoholism but, come on. Not a requirement by any means but, from personal experience, it’s not NOT a good idea.

5. Appreciate The Little Things

A nice goal from Matt Moulson can go a long way for an Islanders fan. An article about how your team could be a bit of a surprise this season can go a long way for a Blue Jackets fan. Mikhail Grabovski biting Max Pacioretty can go a long way for a Leafs fan. The big moments likely aren’t going to happen to a bad team. If they did, then they’d probably be a good team. Take what you can get and cherish it.

6. Find Yourself In The Team

Life is hard, guys, and silly, little things like sports can be a very, very good escape from that fact. But don’t limit that escape to just losing yourself watching a game. Find something to relate to in your team. Your team is primed to fail spectacularly? Awesome, you’re a human being so you’re probably going to fail spectacularly more than once in your life. Fail spectacularly together.  Your team is made up of a bunch of idiots that have randomly found success where they shouldn’t? Awesome, that’s the story of, like, 87% of successful people. No matter how irritating and frustrating things get, we’re all losing together. Our problems in both sports and life aren’t unique and that’s what makes them weirdly great. Flames, Islanders, and Jackets fans – I get you. We’re all in this together.

Except for all of you who cheer for good teams. You guys kinda suck.

Comments (18)

  1. is it wrong to not like a team as much because they do too well?

  2. As a Blue Jackets fan (I know, right?) this article is everything I try and tell people when they ask me why I root for the Blue Jackets. Yeah, the team sucks, but what can you do? Ditching them would be unfathomable, and besides–the fans are great. Fans of losing teams are generally the best, because you simply cannot be a casual fan of a shitty team.
    Anyway–go Leafs go, shitty team solidarity and all that.

  3. I’m both a Pens fan and a Blue Jackets fan. (Long story, don’t ask.) Watching the Pens makes me crazy with both fear and exhilaration. When things go wrong, I have to leave the room. The emotional roller coaster can be exhausting.

    The Jackets, otoh, are very calming to watch. I have no expectations, so when something good happens, it’s wonderful. And for someone who is jaded by the yearly Cup predictions for the Pens, any tiny little hint of positivity in the press for the Jackets makes me very, very happy.

    So, yeah.

  4. I’m mostly a Chicago fan. If that was the only team I cared about, I would be insufferably smug right now. Luckily, I also became an Oilers fan when those endearing little bastards wormed their way into my heart during the lockout. Their “success” keeps me humble.

  5. Avs fan here. I mostly agree with #6 and believe I am able to identify well with the Avs. For example, yesterday I locked smartest hardset working dog outside all day long as he would not agree to an owner friendly amount of food consumption per day.

  6. Jake, as a Leaf fan of over 25 years I certainly appreciate where you’re coming from, but I think this point of view is overly negative. All of a sudden we’re seeing some of that fabled truculence and a lot less of the complacency that has blown so many leads in the past, just to name a couple things. I think it’s tough to say the coaching change hasn’t had a positive effect on the club. I’m definitely not about to start planning a parade or even bet on a playoff spot, but I think it’s premature to say we’re terrible and headed off the cliff eventually.

  7. If you want, you can keep the Bills next time they’re up there.

  8. It seems like you know nothing about hockey…where do you get that the leafs put goons in to stir up trouble and they play too many minutes? By using the Montreal game as a sample size? I don’t usually see too many Leafs players get suspended during the season. You make all fans of the teams you mentioned look bad. Do good teams not have anyone that has certain job to do like Colton Orr? If you don’t like fighting fine, but I’m not sure how you can single out the leafs. This whole piece leaves me wondering how the hell you have a job in this business.

    • Another Leaf fan getting offended by something that doesn’t really matter.

    • Shhh, man, don’t ruin my scam. I don’t want my employers figuring that out. But also because we run out a line that has both Frazer McLaren AND Colton Orr playing at the same time. Also Mark Fraser has a job. Oh yeah, and Mike Kostka was playing about 27 minutes a game until Saturday. Not that Kostka’s a goon, in fact I quite like him, he just is (was?) getting too much ice-time. I’m also pretty sure I said I LIKED what they were doing despite being conflicted about it. Thanks for proving my point about taking things too seriously, though.

  9. As part of 3…maybe a 3A is to have a sense of humor. The kind of gallows humor that comes out of it is great. It might be beer bottle through the TV frustrating when DiPietro makes a perfect pass to an opposing forward for a one timer but it makes for great comedy the next day.

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