Over dinner the other night, a friend asked what it is that made me decide to start writing about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and why it is that the blogs in general tend to be quite positive in their coverage of the team, in the context of the negative attitude of certain members of the professional media toward the team they are paid to cover.
It was a good question, one I had never really thought to ask.
I thought about it for a while, and came to a simple conclusion: it is because we are fans first, writers second.Â Because we have a passion for the game, for this team, and as fans that is something we love to share.
Ask any fan why they love their team, and you are almost guaranteed to hear stories of the team’s greatest moments, the fan’s favorite goals, stories of things that happened at a game the fan attended, stories of how the fan always dreamed of playing for the team as a youth, and so on.Â Have you ever listened to someone describe those things?Â How their voice shifts in tone, the excitement that lights up their eyes.Â Memories come flooding back as the discussion continues, and with those memories an element of joy, of longing, of dreams for the future.
As one follows a team through their lifetime, memories â€“ good and bad â€“ are made, and remain long after the game is over.Â These memories become a part of the very fabric of our lives, and in that sense, so does the team.Â The team doesn’t just represent one’s home, or even oneself by virtue of geography; rather, it is â€“ from the standpoint of memories that define pieces of our lives â€“ a part of us.Â Via those memories we retain and the feelings which accompany those moments, we feel a connection with our team, one which enables us to support our team and cheer them on in the good times and the bad.
That is what being a fan is all about.
And that is why we write.
Because we are fans. Because we feel that connection to our team, and to the brotherhood of fans across the globe.Â And we want to engage that connection, to share our love for this sport, and this team, with others who love it as well.Â It is truly a privilege to do what we do, to be in a position to spark â€“ and engage in â€“ discussions of all manner relating to the team with fans whose passion for the team rivals our own.
There is no editorial process at play within the blogs; the writers write for a passion, not for a paycheque.Â There are times where it would be easy to give into the frustration of losing and start lobbying personal insults at ownership, management, players, and the fans who support the team. You have to admit, when you are in the moment doing just that can feel pretty good at the time.Â But it wouldn’t be right; the fact remains, there is a vast difference between an observational critisicm and an outright personal attack.Â And perhaps more importantly, as fans ourselves, as people who love this game and this team, it simply wouldn’t be honest.
I can’t speak for everyone else on this, but I do know that what inspires me is the contributions made by those who visit the site.Â The varying viewpoints, the passionate (and sometimes heated!) discussions that ensue, the stories that are shared.Â One of the pioneers of online media once stated, â€œyou’d be amazed what the average person knows.â€Â I am constantly amazed (in a good way) at the level of intelligence, insight, wit, and enthusiasm generated throughout the comments section.Â Â I firmly believe that the true value of this medium is not defined by the writers, but rather the contributions of the readers.
It’s funny; if you ever meet me and sit down to discuss hockey, you will find that I don’t actually say a whole lot.Â I like to listen to other people’s stories, to catch a glimpse of the perspective of another.Â I don’t want to talk about my views â€“ they are here on the site for all to see â€“ I want to learn about you, and your views.Â I’m a sucker for a good story, and if you’ve got one to share I want to hear it.
Because that’s what being a fan, of anything really, encompasses.Â Having a passion, a love, for something that brings joy to your life, and sharing it with others.Â It’s the reason I got into writing in the first place. For that you may call me a homer, a sheep, a loser or a member of the mindless masses â€“ all common terms used by those who do not understand what being a fan is really all about -Â it doesn’t matter.Â None of that can ever outweigh the precious memories this team has given me: the first hockey game I ever went to, wins and losses witnessed from the standing room and the seats, listening to games past bedtime with the radio under the pillow so my parents would think I was asleep.Â Â The people I’ve met at the game, or at the pub.Â Pieces of a life, perhaps small in the grand scheme of things, but each undeniably meaningful in its own way.
The Maple Leafs have this slogan they like to use: â€œThe Passion That Unites Us All.â€Â That’s damn right.Â Take a tour through what we call ‘the Barilkosphere’ â€“ several excellent Leafs’ blogs are listed to the right â€“ and you will to see exactly what I am talking about.
This holiday season, I encourage you all to take some time to share your favorite memories of your favorite team, be it here, on another blog, or with your friends and family.Â Those moments that are burned permanently into your memory, and as such have made the team a part of your life â€“ and more importantly, a part of you.Â Why keep that which makes being a fan so wonderful hidden away from the world?
Everyone loves a good story.Â What’s yours?
Here’s wishing each of you and your loved ones all the best this holiday season.