There are five discrete stages through which people deal with tragedy. To fans of this year's Maple Leafs, the stages will be familiar:
- Denial: You know, if a few of the kids player well, and Wilson gets them playing defence, and Toskala stands on his head, and the Rangers and Penguins team planes collide in mid-air at some point... this team could make a run at a playoff spot.
- Anger: ARGH, DAMN YOU MATS THIS IS SOMEHOW ALL YOUR FAULT!
- Bargaining: Can we at least beat the Senators and Habs? No? OK, can we beat the Senators and beat up the Habs?
- Depression: Toskala sucks, the young guys aren't developing, we get pushed around every night, we have no draft picks, Jason Blake just did a fist pump even though we're behind by five goals, and I'm debating whether the pipes in my basement ceiling will hold my weight.
I accept that this season is a writeoff. I accept that the Leafs are a bad team. I accept that there's no point getting attached to anyone because at least three-quarters of these players will be gone in two years. I accept that there is no miracle coming. I accept that it's going to take years to fix all of this. I accept that now, it's all about the draft pick.
I accept that from now on, losses are good and wins are bad.
If I'm being honest, I've been at stage five for weeks, maybe months. Maybe even since the beginning. But I've lied to myself.
The signs were there. All year long, I've never been especially bothered by a loss. When the Leafs won, great. When they lost, oh well. I've lived my Leaf fan life in a sort of strange purgatory, going through the motions but feeling numb about it all. In hindsight, I'm surprised I didn't paint my finger nails black and start writing poetry in my algebra notebook.
You have to understand, I used to be the guy you had to avoid at work the day after a Leafs loss because he might fly off the handle and start knocking coffee mugs off of random desks. And that was in the pre-season.
Not this year. In fact, oddly enough the only games that have bothered me this year have been the OT losses. We lost the game, and we moved up in the standings? Screw you, Gary.
So it's time to stop living a lie. It's time to come clean. It's time to live in the real world. It's time to start losing.
Well, OK, it's time to continue losing. But you get the point.
Just to be clear, I will not root against the Leafs. I can't do it. I can not sit down to watch a game and cheer for the other side. I can't high-five over another team's goal. I just can't. Being a Leaf fan is in my DNA. The instincts are too strong.
But I'm also not going to pretend to be mad about losing, or excited about a win. The lie is over. I can see the big picture. We need to finish last, or as close to it as possible.
... hold on, I can do this...
I want the Leafs to lose. A lot. As often as possible. As in, every night.
I feel so dirty. Hold me.