The ‘C of Red’ invades the Centre of the Universe
Revealing that one is a fan of the Calgary Flames in Toronto generally inspires one of three responses: indifference, scorn, or empathy. Indifference is most common, as the majority of Torontonians do not care what happens outside of their own city.
In addition to their Toronto-centric scope of interest, the supposed love affair between the Maple Leafs and the people of this city has been exaggerated. There are a lot of Leafs fans, certainly, but there are also an extraordinary number of people in this city. Walking around the downtown core, one is as likely to spot Blue Jays paraphernalia as Leafs gear.
Years and years of losing has taken a toll on the fan base and the Maple Leafs are discussed with about the same level of excitement as last week’s episode of CBC’s Mr. D. Most people didn’t watch and the rest wish they hadn’t.
If you do happen to run into a Leafs fan and they are not under some separate obligation to treat you with civility, then you can expect a few cat calls or a full-blown argument if there is enough time and alcohol.
Oddly enough, the scorned response from Leaf fans correlates strongly to how well the team is doing.
I attended a Leafs vs. Flames game at the Air Canada Centre early in the season decked out in a brand-new, retro-syle Flames jersey. Early on, the Flames were ahead and people either said nothing or were willing to trade a friendly jab or two.
However, the Flames suffered an embarrassing collapse and by the third period they were losing and the friendly nature of any barbs disappeared. Not only were the Leafs ‘good’ (4-0-0 at that point), but the Calgary Flames and the city of Calgary were BAD. To be fair, the Calgary Flames are sort of bad. Over half the teams in the league make the playoffs and they have been on the outside the last two seasons, with this year looking like a long shot to sneak in as well. For Leafs fans or other Torontonians who still have a little spirit left, this fact has not been forgotten and they have made sure to remind me whenever I wear the flaming C in public.
Now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have regressed to the mean and sit roughly where they belong in the standings after one of the most magnificent choke-jobs in recent sporting history, Leafs fans no longer have much to cheer about and even less to mock.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I enjoyed libations and conversation with a local beer league team at the Pour House pub. Among them were several Leafs fans who, after learning that I am a Calgarian and a Flames fan, would look upon me with kind eyes and ask, “Do you think they’ll make it?” There was no hatred, only a certain tone in their voice that let me know that they were all-too-aware of what it is like to cheer for a team that is neither terrible enough to be rewarded with a high draft pick, nor good enough to warrant the jealousy of anyone.
So together we ordered another round, started speculating on next season and cheered every time the Canucks gave up a goal.
Living in Toronto, or any other huge city, one soon grasps that they are unimportant and anonymous. That is what happens when somebody tries to inform you about the Qur’an, convince you to buy their friend’s new rap album or give you a free pass to try out their fitness club every time you make eye contact with a stranger on the street.
You begin to save your energy to interact with only the people who have some semblence of importance in your life. However, if the mood is right and it is just late enough for strangers to be on their third or fourth drink, you might just make that human connection when someone will spot your jersey and ask, “You like Calgary? They suck!”
Jim Molloy is a born-and-raised Calgarian who is currently finishing up a degree in Politics and Governance at Ryerson University in Toronto.