Leagues of Nations: Enough. No, Leafs, No!

No. Not "Leafs Nation"
No. Not "Leafs Nation"

I’m going to go ahead and say it – fuck “Leafs Nation”.  Strange words to hear from a lifelong Leafs fan and recent contributor to the Maple Leafs Annual?  Maybe.  Hear me out.

Kim Jorn, Godd Till and mf37, the Three Amigos of the Barilkosphere, have combined their considerable forces to launch a new blog called Zambonic Youth.  Armed with a somewhat confusing but nevetheless distinctly unsettling manifesto that takes time out from hockey issues to warn against the coming cyptozoological war, the electronic Zambonic goes sardonic on the Leafs Abomination lexiconic – yo they be riffin’ supersonic’ like the London Philharmonic¹ – on the recent Random House offering by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange, Leafs Abomination.

Mf37 concludes his review thusly:

One last message: whatever you do, don’t buy this book.


One of the authors’ central arguments about the Leafs is that fans have supported crap for far too long and that support is partially responsible for perpetuating a four-decade string of mediocrity.

If you shovel $20 at product like this, there’s a real danger that it’s only going to encourage more publishers to hire basketball writers to pen a half-baked book about your favourite hockey team. And no matter what franchise you’re a fan of (and there are plenty of them that have gone 30+ years without a Cup to chose from) no good can come from that.

I believe the appropriate phrase would be “hoist by their own petard.”  Nicely played.

I have to say that this book does seem to be the lexical equivalent of a Howard Berger blog post, squarely raising the issue of why it wasn’t released in November, when things matter.  Others have rightly pointed out the hackneyed resort to cheap tricks like the upside down Leaf on the cover, the supposed selling price of $19.67, the guy on the cover with the bag on his head and so on.  I don’t know whether Feschuk and/or Grange were involved in making those design choices, but it doesn’t sound as though these features of the book’s exterior are thematically inconsistent with the actual content of the tome.  At the very least, Feschuk and Grange would seem by inference to be implicated as being complicit in this lazy and blatantly obvious resort to familiar cliches.  The whole idea (of both cover and book), presumably, is  to attempt inflame those who retain the capacity to be astonished by such nakedly calculated shit-disturbing and thereby gain publicity for the publication (remember the Maclean’s issue purportedly dedicated to exploring “Why the Leafs Stink“?  Bet that issue, sporting the Leaf-bashing cover story sold a shitload of copies too.)   All in all, shame on Messrs. Feschuk and Grange for falling victim to the sporting world’s equivalent of populist demagoguery.

For my own part, I am going to take the opportunity presented by the release of this book and the consequent recent focus on these tired memes to make a declaration.  I am going to formally and officially express my discomfort with the term “Leafs Nation”, a (hilariously witty, no doubt) perversion of which phrase  serves as the title for the Feschuk/Grange offering.

The Cats and the Hats

I’m going to interrupt my own fishing story here to mention two unrelated things.

First, the Ticats lost to the Roughriders on Saturday afternoon, but miracle of miracles, the Tabbies were in the game right up until the end against the Grey Cup Champs. Games in which the hometown side meaningfully participates have been kind of rare around here for the last few years, and especially so in the early months of the season. As this highlight package shows, the ‘Cats battled back after being down by more than a touchdown on a couple of occasions, and they actually had the lead with a minute and a half to go. The visiting champs, though, had luck on their side – a first quarter field goal that followed a glide path designed by M.C. Escher, a critical second quarter fumble in the so-called “red zone” by the hometown monster-back Jesse Lumsden, a series of ill-timed penalties that got the visitors a major late in the first half, and finally, an incredibly obvious blown call by the officials that sealed the Ticats’ fate. Jykine Bradley‘s hustle and effort to chase down the ‘Rider player from behind (the guy who was seemingly on his way in to the end zone unchallenged for the winning score), punching the ball out to cause a fumble – that was an amazing feat of determination. It’s a shame that the official who was standing right there blew the call so badly. That guy’s buddies should get a refrigerator-sized enlargement of a picture showing him with his arms upraised and signalling “touchdown”, with the ball clearly being fumbled by the Saskatchewan ball carrier – and post it on a wall across from the guy’s house for the next six years, just to remind him what a colossal fuck-up he committed. Although there were reasons for concern – one might legitimately point out that the Ticats could have won the game if they were simply able to make another first down, and that it might have been possible to choose a more inventive play than “Lumsden up the middle” on second and four with the game on the line and everybody in the building expecting Jesse to get the ball. One might also point out that the ‘Riders might have had the winning touchdown if their slotback hadn’t tripped and fallen when he was wide open on the second-last set of downs run by the Green Riders’ offence, or that a six-yard completion on second down with a minute and a half left should NOT be permitted by the Ticats’ defence to turn in to a sixty yard pass and run touchdown play in that situation.

It says here though that – all things considered – these criticisms would be nothing more than nitpicking right now. Instead, there are a great many positives to be taken from Saturday’s game: the play of Lyle C. “Tre” Smith (his kick returns alone were a major factor in the game, consistently giving the Steeltowners excellent starting field position), the determination of a defence that rose to the occasion on several key series to derail the ‘Riders’ offence, create two-and-outs and give the offence a short field to work on, and little things like (in addition to Bradley’s play) the play of DB Chris Thompson, who in addition to hustling back to force a Saskatchewan receiver to drop a sure touchdown in the endzone, made a timely interception on the play immediately following a Ticats turnover. The bottom line is that the game was thoroughly entertaining, and Spouse and I haven’t felt so engaged by a Hamilton team in the three years we’ve been going to games together; these guys are hustling and playing like they believe they can win. Let’s hope they do win a few, but I will gladly go back to watch another game like the one Spouse and I saw on Saturday, win or lose.

A couple of quick photos – here’s one of Jesse taking the ball off tackle right.


Here’s my favourite picture of the day; a nice-enough looking lady, likely somebody’s grandma, decked out in her proper finery – including yellow hat with a giant “Argos Suck” button affixed to the brim:


Second, it was my birthday today and I have an update for you on this post. You may recall that I whined somewhat about the fact that I was destined to be operating the new tractor without a suitable chapeau. Well, Spouse is apparently many things, including an attentive reader: she came through in flying colours and when I awoke to her dulcet tones imploring me to have a Happy Birthday this morning, the accompanying bag o’ gifts included (amongst other tractor-related swag) one green ball cap emblazoned with the J.D. logo. I was almost sorry I had cut the lawn yesterday, denying me the chance to saddle up immediately with my new haberdashery.

Spouse headed off to the barn to ride Ralph, and Popeye and I headed down to the road to pick up the mail from the box. When I reached in and retrieved the day’s delivery, there was a letter from the tractor manufacturer.  It was a letter of thanks for purchasing a JD, and enclosing a little coupon redeemable for a fitting token expression of the gratitude of the John Deere company of Moline, Illinois.

The coupon may be exchanged for a free green and yellow “John Deere” ball cap.