The Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and the Chicago Cubs all have one thing in common; they are all lovable losers. For the fans, the start of a new season is like sticking a cherry on top of your almost complete sundae. All the fans have been itching to get the hockey season started for months, and they could not possibly be more excited. In a place where we’re all too familiar with repeated sub-par performances, we get excited for a few weeks, then the reality sets in, and we are extremely disappointed once again. But, for some reason, we keep coming back. Why improve something if it already works? Some brands are so strong it seems that the quality of the product does not matter because people continue to buy it.
It’s forty-four years now without a Stanley Cup in Toronto. It seems as if the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs do not care about winning. Only the money! They get more excited about every bag of popcorn, slice of pizza, ice cream sandwich, or team paraphernalia that is sold than about making the playoffs. Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment would not be the first Leafs owner to dismiss the thought of winning; it’s been a regular trait amongst the previous owners.
Harold Ballard, the Leafs sole proprietorship owner from 1972-1990, was one of them. He was charged on forty-eight counts of fraud and theft. The judge who was hearing the case said there was “a clear pattern of fraud” including the misuse of $205,000 from the Leafs with $82,000 of that from Maple Leaf Gardens. Soon after it was discovered that Ballard had his house and cottage renovated for $82,000, all of which was nicely picked up by The Gardens, Ballard took another $123,000 between 1964 and 1970, which he held for himself in a private bank account. While Ballard was the owner, the Leafs became the laughingstock of the league. Ballard let big names like Dave Keon, Lanny MacDonald and Darryl Sittler just leave while compiling a nice record of 596 wins, 736 losses, and 207 ties. And no Stanley Cups.
Is it the game, camaraderie, or waiting for the four games a year to see Crosby and Ovechkin in town that keep bring us back? It seems that the only thing that has got us truly excited over the past 6 years are new jerseys. Wow, there are patches on the shoulders and new alternates, let’s go and spend $144.99 on them. I wonder, who will be really happy about that?
Fans watch sports for all sorts of reasons, one of the main ones being as an escape, especially from school or work. Even if you failed a math test or lost a school basketball game, hey, at least your team won 6-2 tonight and are closing in on 100 points in the season!
Sports teams represent their city and fans. When teams from Toronto show poorly on the national stage, it puts a big damper on the city. Sports have the potential to ignite a town and owners should step up to the plate to make this happen.