TORONTO - The question is asked often: Why are you so damn negative?
I started to think about this after another angry e-mail, another pointed Tweet, another Leafs season without a post-season.
It isn’t so much that the Leafs haven’t won or played for the Stanley Cup in 44 years. It isn’t so much that the Raptors have never contended for anything in 16 NBA seasons and whose greatest moment is almost winning a playoff round in Philadelphia. It isn’t so much that the Blue Jays haven’t been to the playoffs in 18 years and you have to be almost 30 years old to remember it.
It’s the cumulative effect of all that and more. Too many years. Too many lousy teams. Too many seasons of inconsequence. Too many bad trades and bad contracts. And all, with some of the highest ticket prices paid for professional sport anywhere, and so little to show for it.
It’s not easy being a Toronto sports fan, let alone trying to find “positive” items to write about in a sea of annual defeat.
When asked about my negativity — because it is remarkable how optimistic and myopic some fans remain — I decided to try and quantify what it is about Toronto sports that is so frustrating. (In fairness, I don’t consider myself negative, I consider myself analytical.)
Here are the numbers, though: There are 14 cities in North America with teams in the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball. I stretched that number to 16 adding New Jersey and Anaheim to the mix, assigning New Jersey the Mets and Anaheim and Clippers.
And when it comes to sporting results, hate to be Mr. Negative, but we’re No. 16. Which would lead the optimist to say: Next year is bound to be better.
There is always that.
Since Jeremy Roenick scored in overtime to eliminate the Leafs way back in 2004, before the lockout year, the three major sporting franchises of this city have played in two playoff series, winning none of them. No rounds for the Leafs. None for the Blue Jays. Two for the Raptors, neither of them successful or meaningful.
On the scale of losing, these numbers border on the astounding.
Brian Burke seethed just a little when asked if he felt empathy for the supportive Toronto sports fan and altered the question in his own special way.
“This group of athletes doesn’t have to defend seven years (out of the playoffs),” said Burke. “I’m holding them responsible from the day they got here.”
He is absolutely correct about that. The players aren’t responsible for the horrible history of Toronto teams. The owners are. The managers are. The management teams are.
Two playoff series in Toronto in seven years. No playoff rounds won. It’s enough to drive Mr. Rogers (not the late, great man) to doldrum.
Over that same period of time, Detroit, a city of economic woe and sporting magnificence, has experienced 35 playoff series, 18 by the Pistons (which have been great and terrible in that period), 14 by the perennially strong Red Wings, three by the Tigers — with all three Detroit franchises having either won a championship or played for a championship while Toronto has sat idle, building and rebuilding and rebuilding.
Thirty-five to two. That’s not an Argos score with Cleo Lemon quarterbacking.
Think, for a moment, how deprived Toronto is as a sports town and what is must be like to be a Boston fan, or a Philadelphia fan.
In Boston, you have the Celtics and the Bruins, both serious contenders to make it the championship rounds in their sport. You have the Red Sox in the summer, and never mind their current plight — they’ve been in 10 playoff series the past seven years. And then there’s the Patriots, who may not be the best team in the NFL every season, but they are certainly in the conversation.
It’s not bad in Philadelphia either, the city that apparently invented booing and doesn’t need too much anymore.
The Flyers went to Game 6 of the final last June, could well be back there again this year. The Sixers haven’t contended for anything since Allen Iverson stopped practising but the Phillies are everyone’s choice to win the National League again and year in, year out, Andy Reid has the Eagles in some kind of contention.
It doesn’t matter what month it is: Meaningful games are always being played in Philly.
You name the city — Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, New York, Atlanta — and you realize how undernourished this market is when it comes to sporting success.
Even in Minnesota, where there have been no playoff wins since 2004, and the NHL and NBA teams have actually been worse than the Leafs and Raptors, the Twins have been to the playoffs on four different occasions.
Who knows when the next Toronto playoff series will be played in the NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball?
Won’t be this year.
May not be next year.
Trying not to be negative today.