Saturday, February 23, 2008

The myth of the fickle Leafs fan

I wound up having an interesting discussion with Steve over at this afternoon. Among the topics we covered was how Leaf fans would react to a rebuilding effort. You can find the full discussion here.

(By the way, if you're a Leaf fan and you don't have on your list of sites to check regularly, add it now. There's a lot of great stuff there.)

Anyways, I made a point that I've made elsewhere before, but not on this blog. Here's the gist of it.

There are two common criticisms that are levelled at Leaf fans. These come up fairly often in general, and have been almost constant this year.

  • Criticism #1: Leaf fans share much of the blame for the team's lack of success. If they rose up and demanded excellence then ownership would have to respond, but because they keep filling the building every night, there's no motivation for the team to improve and nothing will ever change.

    Damien Cox is the undisputed champion of this argument, but he's far from alone. Many have also compared Leaf fans unfavorably to Habs fans, who would never show up in droves to support a loser. Pension Plan Puppets looked at the numbers and found that there's actually no truth at all to that theory, but don't expect it to go away any time soon.

    Bottom line: Leaf fans end up being perhaps the only fanbase in sports history to be criticized for selling out the building and supporting the team through good times and bad.

  • Criticism #2: Leaf fans wouldn't accept an honest-to-goodness rebuilding effort. They're all about the quick fix and won't stand for a short-term stay at the bottom of the standings even if it meant long-term gain.

    Sometimes this argument is made as a straightforward observation (as was the case in Steve's posts in the discussion linked above). More often, it's accompanied by an unstated but obvious implication: Leaf fans don't have the sophistication to understand how the league works. They're too dumb and impatient to let the team do what it needs to do.

Let's put aside the question of whether either of those arguments are valid, or even fair. We know they're out there, we hear and read them all the time.

Now I don't want to go all Lt. Kaffee on you, but here's my question:If Leaf fans are gullible sheep who won't hesitate to embrace a loser, and they'll pack the building every night regardless of whether the team is good or even competitive... why wouldn't they accept a rebuilding effort?

It doesn't make sense. We've heard for years about how Leaf fans are too dumb to demand a winner. But now, on the verge of a long-needed rebuilding effort, we're supposed to believe that the fans will rise up and demand a contender?

Sorry, folks. I know there's lots of fun to be had and money to be made by bashing Leafs fans. Some of it is no doubt deserved. But on this issue, at least, you need to pick a lane.

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