I freely admit that I, Bear, world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, bon vivant and raconteur extraordinaire, do not often go out and about, but on the rare occasion that I do, the question I am asked more often than any other is: "Would you please get out of my way?" to which I answer: "Yes," and then I move out of the way.
The question that I am asked next most often is this: "Why, O Bear, world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, bon vivant and raconteur extraordinaire, why do the Toronto Maple Leafs suck?"
Generally speaking, I do not much care, as the season is over, and as I do not follow the Leafs or any other team any more, but as a world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, bon vivant and raconteur extraordinaire, it is my duty to hold opinions, and if I do not have an opinion, it is my duty, nay, my pleasure, to invent an opinion on the spot. With that in mind, I reply thusly:
it is my long held opinion of the last two minutes that the reasons for the Leafs' descent into the realm of suckdom are threefold. First, the players suck. Secondly, the ownership sucks, and thirdly, the fans are a bunch of suckers, and therefore sucking is what they do and deserve.
That the players are not that good is self evident by the standings year in and year out. This fact brings us immediately to the second problem: ownership. If the players are so bad, why don't the owners replace them?
Fans often ask the question: "So and so is a bum. Why don't they trade him for someone good?' The question, while common, is also foolish, and very nearly answers itself. I, Bear, world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, bon vivant and raconteur extraordinaire am almost embarassed to answer it. Trades are just that: trades. Someone gives up something someone else wants in order to get what they want. You cannot trade a player no one wants to get a player everyone wants. Since the Leafs are full of players no one else wants, getting players with desirable skills cannot be accomplished through trades.
Whym then, are the Leafs so full of undesirable players? To understand that, we need to go back a little into time, to the reign of owner Harold Ballard, who died the most hated man in Toronto, simply because he took the once mighty Leafs, and turned them into a team that, well, sucked. Ballard did this through a mix of petty small mindedness and tight fisted cheapness. The examples of both are legion and legendary. He flew the players on cheap planes, would have the players leave at night for games the next day, thus avoiding paying the mandatory dinner allowance for his players, and so on. His only concern was profits, not victory.
Upon his death, Ballard's will directed his executors to sell his holdings in the Leafs, and donate the money to charity. One of the executors, Steve Stavro, owner of super market chain Knob Hill Farms, instead used his position to buy out the Leafs, in a move that should be called a conflict of interest, except that doesn't quite cover the situation. Stavro, a grocer by trade, knew nothing about hockey, but his main concern was the bottom line: profits, not victory.
Stavro eventually lost control of the Leafs, and the Leafs was taken over by a conglomerate, one of the principle shareholders of which was the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. The conglomerate ran the Leafs with an eye to- guess what?- profits, not victory.
Now, most teams with a losing record would not post a profit at all, which brings us to the third factor, the suckers, er, fans. For some reason they fill up the Air Canada Centre every game, or so it seems on paper. In fact, many of the tickets are actually sold in blocks to corporations who hand out the tickets as perks and rewards to clients. For the average fan, taking in a game with the kids is a hugely expensive venture, and is out of the reach of the average citizen. Thus, the main target of ticket sales remains increasingly corporations. The average fan has to watch the game at home.
Which brings us to television. The main revenues for the Leafs is "Hockey Night in Canada", a show which has, among other things, turned Toronto into the most hated city in Canada. Every other city with a team resents the centrality of the losing Leafs to Hockey in Canada. I, Bear, also suspect, as a world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, etc etc, that this show may have had a hand in bringing Canada to the brink of separation back in 1980. I doubt I can overstate the resentment caused in Quebec that their team, the Montreal Canadiens, was, somehow, not "in Canada".
Thus, to return to ownership and management, the owners have no reason or incentive to replace the inept players with good ones, because they cannot make any more money than they already do. replacing the team with better, more expensive players, would actually cut into the profit margin. Bad players are cheap and therefore more profitable, even if the Cup never again graces the streets of our fair city.
This, then, is the answer that I, Bear, world famous blogger, former academic, sometimes historian, bon vivant, and raconteur extraordinaire, do give in answer to that question. I will now step aside and get out of your way.