[As a side note, this is my first FanPost. I don't expect to write many more, if any at all. I prefer to read critiques and criticism, rather than write them]
To Whom it may Concern,
I've been a Toronto Maple Leaf fan all my life. I'm 24 years old, currently living in the United Kingdom, attending law school abroad for the year. I stay up until well past midnight in order to watch the games on NHL Gamecenter. I lose sleep but I've always found it worth it to support the team. I pay a small fortune to see around 3 games a year with family or my girlfriend; tickets are obviously hard to come by. Sometimes I ask for a pair as a Christmas gift or birthday present. I own three official Leafs jerseys: Sundin, Phaneuf, and one with my nickname. I own four official caps, one signed by Colby Armstrong; I also own flags, blankets, a toque, bottle openers, pint glasses, beer mugs, you name it. I should note that I've been attending games since they played in the Gardens. What's even more delightful is that I haven't been to a single losing game since the Buds lost to Boston in the last year at Maple Leaf Gardens (and considering I attend anywhere from 2-4 games a year that's a phenomenal winning streak).
I'm not writing this to express frustration or demand accountability or anything else that may be within some radical or hostile fanmail. I read editorials and comments, online newspaper columns, and I read the barilkosphere blogs. I don't bother calling in with the opinionated fans on AM640 or tweet colour commentary. I don't expect my opinion to matter on those things, nor do I expect this letter to reach beyond the places I write it.
I'm really tired of being a Leaf fan. Don't get me wrong, it is the only fan I'll ever be; I could never swear allegiance to any other team. I have even tried cheering for the Leafs AND another team, but alas that proved futile all the same. That being said, it truly hurts to watch my fellow fans boo when my team steps on the ice at home. It hurts to watch the team during such horrid slumps. There was talk about emptying "blue and white" disease players, replacing them with passionate fiery young and ambitious players. There still is talk about 'truculence', that 'every game is a tryout' for the Marlies, and that this team would be different. Most importantly, there was talk about how this is a new Leafs generation.
I'm not here to complain with the results or coaching or even management. I'll leave my armchair general managing to my discussions amongst friends. Who am I to judge those running the most ludicrous (and lucrative) sports markets in the world? But I think I speak for most (if not all) true fans that this slump feels different. I don't even think it has anything to do with performance at all, actually. Rather, I'm afraid there may be a developing disconnect between the organisation and its fanbase. We don't know where the direction of the franchise is going. We were told truculence, but we have a group of young skilled rather 'anti-truculent' players. We were told every game is a tryout, but the only players going back and forward were (are) Frattin, Kadri, and Holzer (who sits the press box).
Perhaps an open letter to the fan base on the website would help after the season is done? Perhaps even a response to this message, or an open one I can post on a blog or share online with friends. Anything at all that can provide some sense of direction we, as a global fan base, can begin to relate to.
Did you know that "Fire Wilson!" was trending world wide last night? WORLD WIDE. Rather than take this literally (as I've said, this letter isn't written to demand or discuss current management), I take it to mean something more. What I see is something far deeper; I see this team's fan base is global, massive and feeling the same hopelessness and helplessness I do. Those chants and boos last night seemed more incensed than I think I've ever heard them at the ACC. And I was watching them on TV. I recall attending a Raptors game where a nearby fan who was holding a sign saying "Fire Babcock" was ejected in the late first quarter by security. he had not used offensive language, he was not too inebriated, and he certainly wasn't out of line. He simply once chanted the "Fire Babcock" chant. The fan base there booed with rage; absolute rage. I felt the same type of disconnect last night as the fans did at that game.
I don't want that to happen to my team. It's okay to lose; "We didn't play hard enough" is more than a legitimate reason, as long as it is true. But the fans want to know WHY they didn't play hard enough so often, so frequently, and so consistently. We're confused; we don't understand what's going on with our team and we feel defeated. If a fan asks me, "What did you expect?", I'm running out of legitimate things to say. We just want to know where we're going and why. Everyone knows with a franchise as big and powerful as this, us fans are sheep and we'll follow our shepherd wherever they may herd us; but if we don't know what direction we're moving, we panic and go into a frenzy; though I'm not sure we'll ever flee.
To be honest, I don't know why I'm sending this commentary; I have never sent an open letter like this in my entire life. Perhaps this letter is simply to express my gratitude to the franchise that I love and adore, as well as my frustration. Perhaps it's because I dream by the off-chance, this will reach some upper-level P.R. rep's hands, giving them the sobering insight of a fan who has watched nearly every single televised game for the past 4 or 5 years and many more before then as well. Maybe, just maybe, this may reach management hands. Besides, this letter was never written to criticize this team, it was simply meant to provide a sobering, humanizing, and relatable perspective of a diehard fan. I just want to know that, as a fan who bleeds blue and white (so profusely I'm surprised I don't need a transfusion), that I am appreciated. Because right now, I don't know if I feel that way.
If even one person bothers to read this, I will feel that it was more than worthwhile to write. I don't care if someone reposts this on a blog, editorial, webpage, or shares it, comments on it, uses it for a PR stunt, slams it, or applauds it. I don't care if anyone likes it or hates it, though I'd much prefer it if they agree. I just want someone to read it. Thank you very much.
This concludes my letter.