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From the Branches: Storytelling, mythology, and the Maple Leafs

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Where are we on the hero's journey?

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Hi. Do you guys listen to the School of Movies podcast? I've been enthralled lately. Last night, sitting around the living room with my family, we put on the School of Movies episode about Joseph Campbell's seminal book on mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

School of Movies is interesting because it tends to break down narratives into digestible chunks that go plot-point by plot-point through a script. This discussion of a philosophical work at first seemed outside of their usual purview, but the more I listened, the more I realized that they were breaking down the basic reason why humans need movies in the first place.

The most interesting idea was essentially this: Humans most easily learn ideas in narrative form, and humans are generally happier when they feel as though they are successfully living inside of a story. The kind of story humans want to live in is one that they learn from the powerful figures of their society -- the storytellers. Directors, movie-makers, journalists, shapers of reality, these are the people who help break down the world and make it possible for people to believe in and adopt certain stories for their own.

I think this is why I was so intrigued last season by The Leaf: Blueprint. What is corporate propaganda, after all, but the story that a group of very fervid people want to tell the world about their company? It was a fine piece of carefully crafted documentary, and the purpose was to give the fans a blueprint too -- for expectations, for their own story about what the Leafs could be and where they were going.

Why are we such a happy fanbase at 30th? Because we're living within a story, finally. Someone, a master storyteller, is showing us where we are in the hero's arc. "You are here, at the beginning of the tale, and the journey will take you through many hardships -- but in this story, the hero ends up with all the tools he needs to win."

Such an enormous relief, right? I am happy to put my faith in these storytellers. (And by the way, The Leaf is looking for a video editor.) Who is the best Leafs storyteller right now? I posit that it's Steve Dangle.

On the other hand, I also think that sites like ours help pattern the reality of Leafs fans everywhere, which is why Reddit had such an enormous pushback when Fiddy published the first of his "Why your team sucks" articles. Even though it was clearly satirical, it pushed a narrative that Leafs fans didn't want to live in, picking away at flaws in the story, giving people who took it seriously a deep sense of unrest.

What is the responsibility of PPP for helping to add to the larger Leafs' fans stories? Are we too pessimistic, or perhaps too optimistic, or due to a change in the corporate storyteller in the sky, do we no longer have a role as the Loki who disrupts accepted narrative?

Anyway. Food for thought. If you figure it out, let me know.

Hockey News

Reflecting on the 1972 Summit Series | Bloggers Tribune
Tom Hunter asked me on twitter whether this series meant anything to me, an American. I said, "The what?" Also, I wasn't born until a year later.

Maple Leafs, Senators unveil rookie tournament rosters | Sportsnet
Autoplay video warning.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Marner Headlining Rookie Tournament | Editor in Leaf
"The expectations are there for Marner to make the Toronto Maple Leafs out of camp, which brings the expectations that he’s going to dominate this tournament – and that’s O.K."

Marner the lone Maple Leafs super prospect headed to rookie tournament in London | Toronto Sun
"Marner, who must make the Leafs or return to the London Knights, was named to the roster of 31 for the four-team face-off in London, Sept. 16-18." But no pressure.

Why NHL cap space can be its most vital asset | Yahoo
"The lesson here: Just because you can spend more money doesn’t mean you should take your eye off the ball when it comes to finding draft opportunities. Too often, teams will do what the Rangers did forever: Trade first-rounders in pursuit meaningfully competitiveness."

NHL referee Garrett Rank wins Canadian Men's Mid-Amateur | USA Today
"The 28-year-old Rank, from Elmira, Ontario, finished at 19-under 269 at Golf Chateau-Bromont. He earned a spot next year in the Canadian Open."

Arizona Coyotes hire Dawn Braid as NHL's first full-time female coach | AZ Central
Yay.

Five NHL story lines that need resolutions as offseason winds down | USA Today
Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) and Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) – are still unsigned.

And finally, here is a story about storytelling and the Olympics, one that attempts to address the fact that media people are the griots of our time:

We Must Learn to Tell Narratives That Make Us Better - Not Divide Us | Huffington Post

Mount Olympus was where the gods of the ancient Greeks lived. More importantly, it was the focal point for their myths. We think of myths as stories that aren’t true, but in fact, myths are stories that make sense of our world, that help us to give a narrative to our world.

They help to tell us who is friend and who is foe, what happens if we stray too far from the accepted practices of our people, and how the world is put into the order it has.

We might think that we now have science, and so we don’t need these myths. But in fact we now just tell myths about science, as well as about everything else. These myths we have are not just hard-wired into our culture. They are repeated over and over in different ways, and that makes them seem natural, but what they really are is familiar and comforting.

In a world of uncertainty, it is good to see Michael Phelps and Simone Biles do exactly what we expected they would do. But being open to new narratives, even ones that do not fit our comfortable patterns, are absolutely essential.

Happy Saturday, y'all.