Friday, July 18, 2008

Why I'm a Leafs Fan

In response to MF37's excellent summer piece about why he's a Toronto Maple Leafs fan:

I cheer for five teams, in order of my love: The Toronto Maple Leafs, the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, Arsenal F.C., and the Boston Celtics.

I started rooting for the Celtics because I root for most of the other Boston teams, and got wrapped up in their playoff run this year. Sure I'm a bandwagon fan, but I don't really care about basketball so that's that. I root for Arsenal because my best friend is an Arsenal fan and I like to watch soccer and talk to him about it. Those two are easy.

I went off to college in Boston in 2002, having grown up near Hartford, and noticed how much the city loved the Red Sox. It's really a magical thing how anywhere you go you can talk to people about how Papi's hitting, or something wacky Manny did and you instantly have something in common. I wasn't a big baseball fan before moving to Boston so it took a while for me to get really wrapped up in the Sox. My first Sox memories are them beating Oakland in the ALDS in 2003, before the utter heartbreak of the 2003 ALCS. In 2004 I worked for one of the biggest ticket scalpers in Boston and got to use extra seats when they went unsold. 2004 was my first time in Fenway Park and I went to probably 20 games that season. Obviously you know what happened in 2004, so I'm not a long suffering Sox fan but it was a ton of fun to live in Boston in 2004, the entire city had this weight lifted off their shoulders that October.

I've been a Patriots fan since I was old enough to watch football. I grew up in Hartford and they were the only team on TV. I remember how awful they were when I was growing up, and I remember hating Drew Bledsoe and wishing the Patriots would get some competent players. I went to my first Patriots game when I was nine or ten, a game in Foxboro Stadium where it was around zero degrees fahrenheit with snow coming down, where the Jets came back in the fourth quarter to beat the lovable loser Patriots. Two weeks after the 9/11 attack, while watching the Patriots play the Jets I got my wish about Bledsoe. I had no idea who Tom Brady was, and he looked like he probably sucked, but at least it was someone who wasn't Bledsoe. 2001 would be the first time a team I cheered for won a championship, and it would be the start of Boston dominating professional sports. Right now you're probably wondering why I'm a Leafs fan.

I grew up in Hartford. My parents had season tickets to the Whalers, section 121 row N seats 1-3. I grew up hating the Bruins since their fans would always come to our arena, take the place over, be loud and obnoxious, and beat the crap out of the Whalers. I didn't like the Rangers because I've never liked New York City. In fact, I hated the Yankees before I ever watched a Sox game because they forced the Yankees channel onto my mom's cable which meant the cable company removed NESN, the New England Sports Network which frequently showed college hockey (Boston University and Boston College. Watching college hockey on NESN and dreaming of wearing the Terriers' red and white was a big influence of why I ended up attending Boston University).

The Whalers left. I said goodbye to our prospects Pronger and Giguere. Goodbye to Keith Primeau, Jeff O'Neill, and Paul Maurice. I didn't have anyone to root for. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to cheer for the Whalers in Carolina, because fuck Peter Karmanos. I didn't want to root for the Bruins or Rangers, the only two teams I could watch regularly on TV, because of their rivalries with the Whalers based on proximity. My dad grew up in Philly so I could have rooted for the Flyers, but the idea made me ponder suicide. I was saved though. The coach of my hockey team was a Leafs fan, and so I followed the Leafs because of him. In 1992 Felix Potvin joined the Leafs. I remember reading an article about him in Sports Illustrated, I remember watching him and the Leafs playing against the Whalers in the Hartford Civic Center, and I remember my coach calling me "The Cat", and later on "Felix" when Potvin rose to stardom.

So here I am. I've only been a Leafs fan for eleven years, and they may be terrible, but I suffered through 13 years of the Whalers.


Frost said...

Any post that mentions the Whalers is automatically awesome in my books. Nice post.

PPP said...

So you Patriots' experience shows that a team you cheer for might possibly turn it around while your Whalers' experience shows that crappy teams might just leave town.

Nice story though.

Chemmy said...

The Whalers won the cup sort of. :\

Jaredoflondon said...

oh the Whale
I have a wicked old Howe Jersey that I am afraid to wear because its so brittle and threadbare I fear it will disintegrate.

eyebleaf said...

excellent post, Chemmy. looks like you moved to boston at the right time. i have a buddy who moved from toronto to go to dental school at BU, and he was there for the World Series wins as well. he said much like you that the experience was absolutely incredible.