Monday, February 06, 2012

My Year in Sports

I turned 41 this week and it may have been my best year yet as a sports fan.

Stoke City made a surprising run to the FA Cup Final. I’m relatively new to supporting this club and they play some pretty ugly football, but I’ll be damned if their Cup run didn’t sweep me right off my feet. Sure, they lost the final, but how often do you even get the thrill of seeing the team you support in a big game? There’s also something pure about a team you’re new to going on a bit of a Cindarella run. No baggage, curses, past history or jinxes; there’s just the joy of the game.

The St. Louis Cardinals, a team I’ve cheered for since I was playing T-ball, somehow made the playoffs, somehow beat the Phillies and then somehow knocked off the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. I was delighted by this outcome, and I was even more delighted when Tony La Russa decided to go out on top.

The New York Giants, who I was pretty sure weren’t even going to make the post-season, knocked off the Falcons, Green Bay, the 49ers and the Patriots. It wasn’t until I saw Brady’s final pass rolling away through the end zone as the clock expired that I could exhale. Amazing to think that last season ended with a toxic meltdown against the dreaded Philadelphia Eagles and this year’s season ended with the presentation of the Vince Lombardi trophy.

And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. My beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

I suppose three out of four is nothing to complain about.

* * *

Someone asked me today if I’d trade either of the titles or the finals appearance for a Leafs Championship.

I wanted to say yes. I almost said yes. How could I not say yes!

And then I realized that the Leafs have been so awful for so long, they really haven’t deserved a shot at anything other than a draft lottery pick. It's hard to make a case for them earning or deserving anything more than sympathy or scorn since the lockout.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no sport I follow more closely than hockey and there’s no team nearer and dearer to my heart than the Maple Leafs. But I also think that teams need to earn their success.

And the Leafs, as constructed, have pretty much gotten what they’ve deserved. I also think it will be much more rewarding to see the franchise build something successful here and, hopefully, contend in the years to come.

(And if they do ever get into contention, I'd make that trade for a championship in a heartbeat)

* * *

I haven’t written much about the Leafs this season. They’re an interesting team with plenty of offence up front, in need of a bit of help on D and two giant question marks in net.

The Leafs seem to be on the right track. As another blogger (Lowetide?) pointed out, when your team is in the lower rungs of the NHL, you have to sift an awful lot of coal to find a diamond and the Leafs may have a few diamonds up front.

If they can get the goaltending straightened out – a big if given Burke’s awful history with keepers – and they can lock down Grabovski, I think this team will start to challenge next year.

For now, it’s all about putting points in the bank and coming ever closer to that magical 93 to 95 point plateau that it’s going to take to make the post-season in the East.

And an 8th seed (or better) for the Leafs would be a pretty fitting end to my year in sports.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Steckley1:46 p.m.

    For the record, if the Leafs don't win the Cup this year, or at least make it to the finals, I'll consider you to blame for spending all your sporting fortune on Stoke, the Cards, and the Giants. You should have saved some of that pixie dust for the Leafs.

    A belated happy birthday, BTW!