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Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. battles for the loose ball against Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell in Toronto on Oct. 27.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

A little over eight years. That’s how long the New Golden Age of Toronto sports lasted.

This week it began returning to normal. The megacorp overseeing most of the operation has gone all War of the Roses. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of blowing the season in Month No. 1. The Raptors are mired in a rebuilding phase, a no-man’s land more than a few NBA teams never emerge from. Toronto FC has become a basket case no one cares about (again).

The Blue Jays don’t look totally pooched, but wait for it. Once this curse gets going, it has a way of turning the bluest skies grey. And then hailing rocks.

Eight years isn’t a bad run. It’s more than most cities get. It can only be fully appreciated in retrospect, a place we are rapidly approaching.

You can trace the beginning of it to the day – July 15, 2013.

That’s when newly hired Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke did his first interviews.

It’s important to remember how desolate the Toronto sports scene was as he arrived. No major-league team had won anything in 20 years. It had been a decade since any of those four teams had taken a single playoff round.

The Leafs were coming off that Game 7 against the Bruins. The star turn on the soccer club had announced that his side was not just awful by sad North American standards, but “the worst team in the world.”

There was a pervading sense that Toronto was not only a place where nothing went right, but that nothing ever could.

On that July afternoon, Leiweke made a series of wild proclamations about where he saw things going. He was going to take down most of the 1950s and 60s memorabilia that covered every vertical inch of the Leafs’ arena. He said a bunch of weird things about how many construction cranes he could see from his office window.

He told reporters he had the parade route planned. His only worry was finding a spot big enough to hold it.

“If Chicago had one million people, Toronto will have two,” Leiweke said.

The reaction to this sort of U.S.-style carnival barking was not mockery. It was something closer to rage. One paper called him “the ultimate Hog Town dim bulb.” It got so bad that Leiweke had to apologize for promising to be good at his job.

And, of course, because we can’t get anything right, we were wrong about that, too. Leiweke made a bunch of quick decisions that turned the ship. He invested heavily in the soccer team because it was the one outfit that could spend its way to competence. It won a championship four years later.

An intoxicating sense that winning was suddenly permissible convinced the Jays to stop thinking about risk like an insurance company. They made the first real breakthrough in 2015.

Leiweke hired Brendan Shanahan to run the Leafs. That unwound the team’s “born to lose” mission statement.

And he hired Masai Ujiri to reinvent the Raptors. When the parade happened, Leiweke was proved right again about spacing requirements. They weren’t enough.

But Toronto has a gravity that cannot be denied. All along, unseen forces were pulling it back toward its old combo – mediocrity and chaos.

The mediocrity had already begun to settle in, but it’s the chaos that really gets you. It showed up this week.

The key obstacle to building a sustained culture of winning in Toronto is inbreeding. Three clans control the whole fief – Rogers, Bell and Larry Tanenbaum. Among them, they own five teams, including the Argos (who don’t win anything either).

Were they all set against each other in a war of all against all, that might be one thing. Competition among bored, megalomaniacal billionaires has worked a charm in other cities. Boston’s a good example of this.

But in Toronto, the corporate and family interests are intertwined. They all sit on the board of MLSE together, bound by a common goal – increasing franchise value.

Each faction is run by grey men. All of them extremely Canadian types – quiet, unprepossessing, dull.

One is reminded of the 2019 ceremony at which the Raptors were presented with their championship rings. All the players had to run a gauntlet of plutocrats. You could see the thought bubbles over the players’ heads as they shook hands with the money: “Is this the guy I talk to about getting my parking pass renewed?”

Everyone’s in charge, so no one’s in charge. That worked with Leiweke as the charismatic head of the snake. But now that he’s gone – replaced (surprise! surprise!) by another grey man – there is no focus. Nobody’s pushing things along. But everyone was making money so everyone was happy.

Until one of the guys on top started getting ideas. He’s got some thoughts on payroll and personnel and, hey, why exactly do we need two guys running the basketball team? Only one guy cleans the boats at my 40-bedroom cottage and he’s doing an amazing job. Maybe he knows something about basketball, too. Carl. Or Cal. Or maybe it’s Kevin. I forget his name, but I’ll talk to him.

Then it goes public (baddest of the bad omens, right there) and now its PR fisticuffs. It’s an old-guy slap down. As one close observer of all things MLSE put it this week: “The board’s always been split. But now there’s a split in the split.”

Most sports clichés are nonsense, but this one at least is true – leadership is everything. Which is not to say that you need a genius running things, but that you require a clearly articulated plan guided by a single person. For a moment there, Toronto had that. Then it didn’t. And then it took a few more years for the plan to spin out.

If no one at the top is steering the ship, it goes off course. If the people at the top are fighting on the poop deck, it hits the rocks.

The only outcome that cannot happen is sinking the ship. That would require Torontonians to stop paying to watch bad teams, which they will never do.

This isn’t a Catch-22. It’s Toronto’s natural sports state. It’s not that we don’t enjoy winners. The past eight years were tons of fun.

It’s that we don’t want winners all the time. That would seem too much like attention seeking. Now that we’ve gorged on the spoils, it’s time to fast until the next golden dawn.

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