So my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs have missed the NHL playoffs for the seventh straight season. And guess what? I'm okay with that.
Being a Leafs fan – win or lose, playoffs or no playoffs – is a privilege, despite the fact that most of North America thinks that we honourable citizens of Leafs Nation are blind, ignorant and simply stupid because we support a losing regime. They believe that as long as we shell out large sums for games and merchandise, the Leafs organization has no motivation to change its money-making ways.
Sure, from a logical and pragmatic perspective, they may have a point about the apparent corporate focus on revenue maximization. Then again, the same type of folks would likely have invested in Bernie Madoff's funds and subprime mortgages when those were still being seen as logical strategies.
My advice to these cynics is to please go home and hug your mothers, because obviously you did not get enough love during childhood.
They are clearly jealous, probably because they lack a long-term passion. Leafs fans understand this and we empathize. Go ahead and get those feelings out. We can handle it. We are strong-willed, fervent and unconditionally devoted. Think of us as free therapy for you.
Still not sold? Are you still perplexed as to why anyone would support a disastrous team that has not won the Stanley Cup since the 1960s, hasn't reached the playoffs since the prelockout era, and went free-falling into the Eastern Conference basement this year?
My answer is simple – that's life.
Every human being, organization and corporation goes through highs and lows. They have supporters and detractors. They have prospects and missed opportunities. What if your child suddenly clams up during the spelling bee? Do you give up on them? No. What if your friend bombs at an open mic night? Do you give up on them? No.
What you would do as a virtuous person is be encouraging and supportive for however long it takes for them to reach their potential. And if that encouraging and supporting does not sound like you, then there is probably no hope left for you anyway.
The Leafs organization has not purposely butchered their chances. Sure, they've missed some opportunities, taken some gambles that didn't pan out and tried to make some quick short-term fixes that hampered the long-term. But be honest. Who at some point in their life hasn't tried to take the easy way out or tried to use a cookie-cutter approach to solve a complex problem?
Heck, the team even acknowledged their shortcomings with a recent public apology. Even though many aren't buying it, imagine if your parent, guardian or boss apologized for leading you astray. You would appreciate it. In actuality, this was a very noble act.
So why would people abandon the Leafs at a time when they need our support the most? Remember, they aren't the only North American sports franchise having troubles. The St Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings have had the same Stanley Cup drought as the Leafs. The Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Sacramento Kings are currently experiencing a much longer drought. Despite the fact that I have spent an enormous amount of time cheering for the Leafs and have frequently paid $10 for a hot dog at the Air Canada Centre, my relationship with the team is not a one-way proposition. It involves give and take. The Leafs have enriched my life in a number of ways.
Being a Leafs fan for over 18 years has helped me build a strong character. I am able to endure losses, injuries and unexpected regime changes. Dealing with adversity has translated to my real life. I am able to handle professional obstacles and personal heartbreak with dignity and resiliency. I am not afraid of brick walls.
I've also developed my social skills. My friends and I would spend whole evenings watching and discussing the Leafs. Through countless hours of heated arguments about the team's performance and decisions, I have learned to be a better communicator. Plus, whenever I had a bad day or did not feel like studying, they were there on the television to keep me entertained.
I have learned the true meaning of dedication – Leafs Nation is a loyal brotherhood. It is a robust bond. We feel the magnitude of each decision, each win and each goal. We bleed blue. Being a part of this special community demonstrates passion, perseverance and teamwork. I would write it on my résumé if I could. What employer wouldn't be impressed? (Okay, maybe a Sens fan.) So I want to thank the Leafs Nation for allowing me to be part of something greater than myself. You have shaped my life tremendously. You have been there through the highs and lows and it is only right that I afford you the same courtesy. And I be-Leaf that I speak for Leafs Nation when I say our courage, conviction and confidence in you will be rewarded in the near future.
Lastly, thank you, Mom, for hugging me enough when I was a kid. Enough so that I can actually be proud of being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
Sameer Bandeali lives in Markham, Ont.