Is Toronto really North America's worst pro sports city?
Most local sports fans have read the article by now. You know, the one in which Stephen Marche sets out to explain why it is that ESPN is right when it pegs Toronto as the bottom of the barrel when it comes to pro sports cities in North America. Published in Grantland, an ESPN media property, the article settles upon a theory that I've heard offered many times over the years. Responsibility for Toronto's sporting impotence falls squarely on the shoulders of its fans.
"Everybody knows that Toronto loses not despite our love for the game, but because of our love for the game," writes Marche. How does that work exactly? Using the Maple Leafs as his example par excellence (which is completely appropriate given team allegiances in this town), he outlines his argument as follows: "The problem with hockey in Toronto is the nostalgia that dominates how the game is played and consumed here. More than winning, Torontonians love the style of old-time hockey, a spirit of straightforwardness, brotherly violence, and what for lack of a better word I will call 'not-fancyness.'"
The result of this desire for the grinder type player — for whom spirit is everything — is that the Leafs don't "purchase" the most "brilliant" players. Rob Duffy over at the Grid has already pointed out why this line of reasoning leaves something to be desired, but even the casual fan knows that in the salary cap era, buying superstars isn't the way that GMs build teams. But, beyond that, Marche's argument rests on a presupposition that most managers would laugh at — that being the idea that they build teams according to the desires of fans. They don't. Unless the desire in question is to see a winning product on the ice or field. Do you really think Brian Burke listens to the radio call in shows when making decisions about which free agents to acquire?
That's my two cents, but given the contentious nature of the argument, we thought we'd let our Twitter followers weigh in on whether or not Toronto really is the worst sports town and, if so, why that might be. A number of the responses support Marche's case, but many others don't. Have your say in the comments.
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