My son and I had a heated conversation on Saturday evening about the Toronto Maple Leafs. You see, Matthew is one of those super crazy Leaf fans, who lives in some kind of special dream world when it comes to this hockey team. Matthew and I love to talk about sports, probably what keeps me connected best with my teenage son. His knowledge about every sport, every player and every team is vast, and he is insightful and thoughtful. Well, except of course when it’s the Leafs.
Many (okay not all) Canadians can be divided into two kinds of people: sports fans and those who detest sports. There are levels and layers of fandom, but in the world I live in it’s often one or the other: the love of sport or the extreme dislike of it.
I fit into the former category, though I admit I don’t love all sports. I introduced Matthew to baseball (my favourite sport) when he was very young, and before he was ten he was hooked on sports. As he grew older, he added hockey, then basketball, then (to my horror) NFL football. Oh, football. I don’t like football. But I’ll get to that later.
When I launched this blog, about 5 ½ years ago, I wanted to create a space where I could write whatever is on my mind, or to share my thoughts on what I see, feel and experience. I have written extensively about sports, but as I look back over the last couple of years I have barely touched on the topic. But on Saturday evening I just had to write. I’m still laughing as I type right now, following the most entertaining conversation I had with Matthew about the prospect of the Leafs, 1) winning the Stanley Cup, or 2) just making it past the first round of the playoffs.
Our conversation was absurd. I sat there, trying not to crack a smile, as he tried so hard to explain to me that his beloved team would make a huge trade at the deadline, that they’d have all the pieces needed (in the GM’s final year of his contract) to go all the way, or at least make a strong run of it. Have Leaf fans been saying this every year since 1967?
Every time I shot back with a snide remark that not enough of the living population even remembers the world in 1967, when his team last won the Cup, he’d swing low and say, “Well, my team is better than yours,” or “Your team loses early too.” I then remind him that MY team (yes, the Carolina Hurricanes!) at least won a Stanley Cup in this century (woo hoo great day back in 2006!). We bickered like this all evening.
It was absurd.
It was wonderful.
Matthew loses all sense of logic when he debates the merits of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But give him any other sport, any other team, he can banter with the best of professionals or beat writers. His knowledge is almost encyclopedic, and his natural understanding of the business of sport is awe inspiring. He just gets it. Matthew understands why a team trades THE franchise player or signs the guy who had an off year. He reads the news articles, blogs and social media posts. I make fun of him sometimes that he takes sports so seriously that he sucks the fun out.
But when he talks about the Leafs, it’s all fun. No logic. No intelligence. Just nonsense. And I love these moments with him. Our Leafs talk transformed into Jays talk, then Raptors talk, then a conversation about our plans to eventually visit every Major League Baseball park together. While I’ve been to many parks, so far together we’ve only seen the Jays in Toronto, the Cubs in Chicago and the Mariners in Seattle. Where should we go in 2023?!
But our conversation didn’t end. As the evening wore on, we moved on to our hope to see the Raptors or Leafs on the road this winter, in cities like Los Angeles (Raptors) or Raleigh (the Leafs, who I’m sure will lose to my Hurricanes). We could have talked for hours, except I eventually sent him away so I could go to bed (and he went back to watching late-night sports).
Saturday night is indeed a great night to watch sports, and Matthew would sleep in late and laze around all day on a rainy Sunday in November – if it wasn’t for NFL football. Sunday football, the bane of my existence. I have tried to like football, okay, even tolerate it. But no, I sit in the detest camp when it comes to football. To Matthew’s credit, he hasn’t given up on me. He will talk to me about some random player who ran for a record number of yards or a quarterback who was sacked (I do know the lingo), and I will roll my eyes. When he’s desperate, he tries to get his 6-year-old sister interested. She just wants him to play Barbie with her.
Sports can push people apart, but it can also bring them together. And that’s the story of Matthew and me. We will disagree fiercely about the plight of the Maple Leafs, but we also held our rally towels proud at the Rogers Centre back in October during the Jays’ very pathetic game one of their failed playoff run. He will tease me incessantly that I may choose to watch a low-quality show like Love is Blind on Netflix on Sunday rather than some huge NFL game, but we’re sitting side by side, on the edge of our seats, when there’s 10 seconds left in the Raptors game and they’re up by one point.
Our Leafs, and general sports talk, will continue for days and years to come, I hope. Especially the teasing part, since, well, will they ever win the Cup?
**Quick note as I publish this blog post on a rainy Sunday afternoon: I want to send my personal congratulations to the Canadian National Soccer team at the World Cup. This team of hard-working athletes has made everyone proud, and they are to be commended for their strong play and great teamwork.