After Chemmy's post for the Building The Narrative topic, it made me want to write something similar. I wrote this a couple days ago on my blog, and figured I should share it here. So here is my story for Building The Narrative, word for word from the original blog post.
As some of you may know, I wrote a post on Pension Plan Puppets about what it's like to be a gay Leaf fan (hockey fan in general). In that post I wrote a little about Brendan Burke, and how important he was. Well today over at PPP, Chemmy has written an article about a poignant moment in his life as a Leaf fan and started a section called "Building The Narrative". So I've decided to write my piece today with the same topic in mind. Building my own narrative. I wont start at the beginning of my Leaf fandom, but more so my validation of being one.
Being a Leaf fan isn't easy. Not only has the team been pretty bad for quite some time, everyone loves to hate them and their fans. So going through a school filled with bandwaggoners or football/basketball fans (the worst kind of human being) was pretty aggravating. Whenever I wanted to wear my Leaf jersey, or my Leaf hat, I was made fun of, or had people make smug remarks about how stupid I was. Never did my faith in the team waver, and I was always proud of being a Leaf fan. However, when I learned about Brendan Burke's story, his coming out to his hockey team, I was awestruck. A story like this rarely happens, and growing up in this kind of town, it gave me hope. So I watched the TSN interview with him and his father, Leafs GM Brian Burke. His father's vocal and staunch support of his son and the issue he was raising stuck me in a way I couldn't ever explain. It made me rethink why I was a Leaf fan. It wasn't them winning (they rarely did), or all their star players (they had one), or even the fact it was in Toronto. No, now it was for a legitimate reason. They were MY team. Their general manager and his son were fighting for me, and everyone like me. They were taking a stand against a serious issue in the world of sport.
The next game, I pulled my Sundin jersey over my head, and I was never prouder of anything I enjoyed or loved as much as when I put on that jersey. That maple leaf in the center didn't only stand for the city of Toronto's team, it stood for equality and pride. I couldn't care less what anyone said anymore, my team stood up for me, could they say the same about their team? No, they couldn't.
On February 5th, 2010, at the age of 21 (Only a year older than I am as of this writing), Brendan died in a tragic car accident. It was an unbelievable loss, not only for me, but for everyone who was discriminated against for being different. We lost a brother, a comrade. Brian Burke proceeded to march in the Pride Parade because in his words "I promised to march with Brendan". This is a man who just lost his son, and he still gets out there and shows his support. It was a display of courage and loyalty to Brendan and his cause. It was the validation I needed. Regardless of how the team performs, I will always be emotionally invested and loyal to them, just as they've shown they were loyal to me.