“Are you there, God? It’s me, a Leafs fan.” Such is the prayer that many TML devotees have uttered since 1967—the last time the team won a Stanley Cup.
I’m no longer much of a sports fan, though I had a stint as one in my younger and more vulnerable days. My mother even dyed my hair blue before I attended my first game. More accurately, though, the local Shopper’s Drug Mart did not actually have blue hair-dye and she brought home the next-best-thing: “blue-black,” a colour combination which had very little blue. I turned out looking like Elvis—and I swear my hair never fully went back to its pre-dyejob shade.
Besides this unfortunate and unintended new ’do, my most distinct memory of my days a hockey watcher comes from a 2002 playoff game against the Carolina Hurricanes. That year, the Leafs had a deep run, advancing to the third of four rounds—a feat they had only achieved a handful of other times in the decades since their last championship. Game six was a must-win for The Boys In Blue, as they attempted to stave off elimination on home ice. The game went to overtime, where a Hurricane-r scored to end the Leafs’ season. I remember the goal being greeted not with noise and cheers, but a spooky, surreal silence—they were playing in Toronto, remember, so the audience struggled to accept this disappointing, anticlimactic finish. My ten-year-old brain could not comprehend what had transpired. This was an outcome I had not even once considered.The Leafs couldn’t be out, could they? The game—the season—had not actually ended, had it?
I turned back to look at my father—a diehard supporter—for some clarity and comfort or some words of wisdom with which to understand this nightmare. But what could possibly be said? With a tear in his eye and a shrug, he offered all there was to offer: “Maybe next time.”
Maybe next time. It’s a mantra that Leafs fans in particular—but sports fans in general—know all too well. Each year, they pledge their allegiance to their club, invest so much time and energy and hope, with the statistical likelihood of crushing disappointment far outweighing the slight probability of a happy ending. And yet each year, people like my dad continue to cheer. They do not waver.
I’ve been thinking about this devotion now that the NHL season is once again in full-swing. I admire the loyalty sports fans display—the willingness to stand by something even when it is not doing well; it’s a type of blind faith I felt almost jealous to be missing out on—until I realized that such devotion exists not just from sports watchers, but in Arts Fandom, too.
See, my absolute, all-time favourite band is Weezer. They have been ever since Grade 7, when I found a cracked copy of their first CD at a nearby yard sale and bought it for a toonie because it had the song “Buddy Holly”—a tune I only knew because its music video features Fonzie.
For the next several years, I was obsessed with the band. I bought every album and eagerly anticipated each new release. I went to every concert whenever they passed through town, sometimes arriving hours early just to get a good spot on the General Admission floor. At one show, I was so close I was able to give frontman Rivers Cuomo a high-five, which I followed up by kissing my own palm.
For those of you unfamiliar with Weezer’s career arc, it basically goes something like this: Their first two albums are almost universally-regarded as brilliant—but each of their subsequent releases is terribly inconsistent and mostly just frustrating, including an ill-conceived collaboration with Lil Wayne, albums with titles like Raditude and one very questionable moustache. Yet each of these releases also contains sporadic moments of greatness, and these are the glimpses into genius that Weezerheads cling to. Most of the album might suck—but that one song, man. That song is a great one and that song makes it all worthwhile; that song makes you elbow your friend and say, “See? I told you they still had it in ’em.”
As I write this, I am three days away from the release of Weezer’s latest album, Pacific Daydream. From the singles I’ve heard, I don’t have very high hopes. (Autotune? Really, Rivers?) Yet thinking about Leafs devotion has gotten me thinking about my relationship to this band—and I have decided that when it comes out on Friday, I am going to go buy a copy. I have to. Not just because I have all the others, but because this is what you do when you’re a fan of something: you stand by whatever it is you love, even when it’s not doing well. My dad still cheers for the Leafs when they’re losing and in last place, so I’ll still listen to Weezer, even if they’re using Autotune.
Who knows? The album might be great and if it totally sucks, there’s always next time.