Toronto Maple Leafs Highlight the Absurdity of Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs - William Nylander (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - William Nylander (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not cursed, and what I write here, or what sweater you wear tonight doesn’t affect the game.

One way that sports are funny is the way in which otherwise intelligent people, people who would be lambasted by anyone within earshot on any other topic, can be as dumb as they want to be on this one topic.

If you told your wife that you were going to get a promotion based on the colour of shirt you wore on a random Wednesday in February, she’d probably leave.  Tell her it’s for the Big Game though and she might not even roll her eyes.

If you got caught writing anonymous hate to someone on almost any topic, your entire life would crumble.  It’s almost normal to do it about sports though.

These are just two examples, but the weirdest thing is our complete abandonment of logic when it comes to sports.

Toronto Maple Leafs Reveal Hilarious Gaps in Human Logic

If lightning hit your house and burned it down.  I’m guessing that you would consider that an Act of God and not beat yourself up too badly about using flammable materials to build your house.

As a normal human, you would understand that the odds of a lightning strike were so low as to be ignorable. You would consider the cost of lightning-proofing your abode vs the risk of it being lightnified and you’d (reasonably) conclude that it’s not worth it.

But if you did happen to have your home hit by lightning, you still wouldn’t beat yourself up too badly about the decision to forgo  lightning protection, knowing that you just got unlucky.

Most of us understand the basic concepts of risk vs reward, and of probability.

Just not in sports.

In sports, there are no accidents, there is no luck, you always get what you deserve and the best team always wins.  At least, that is what my comments section, facebook, twitter, email, text messages and street yellers all tell me.

And RESULTS> ohmygod, RESULTS…in real life the hardest workers have the lowest paying jobs.  People who make money have specialized knowledge or talent, but very few of them work as hard as your typical janitor, farm worker, factory laborer on a sweat and tears basis.

These people inherently understand that results do not equal success. They live a life that instills this into them on an hourly basis.  So it makes sense (in a weird sort of way) that when we are using sports as a getaway from the daily grind, that we want to analyze it like the fantasy it is, and not in a way that reminds of us of the drudgery and reality of going to work every day for a living.

This is my theory about why even the best among us, when it comes to sports, throw logic right out the window when it comes to analyzing our teams.  The Leafs didn’t blow a 3-1 lead to Montreal because there is anything wrong with their make-up, character, talent or roster construction.   It was just a mixture of bad-luck, injuries, goalies and bounces.

But try telling someone the Leafs, if they lose tonight, should change nothing and come back with the exact same team and try again.  See what people say if you say that.  I dare you.

The NHL Is A Results Based Business, Jim

My theory, and maybe it’s crazy, is that most of us have less control over our fates than we’d like, so we use the otherwise meaningless framework of professional sports to construct a false reality where cause and effect work like we once thought they did before the world disillusioned us.

But there really is nothing wrong with the Leafs.  None of their past collapses are related except in their fan’s heads.  No one on this roster played Boston in the most infamous game in franchise history.  Both recent Capitals and Bruins series were played by team’s whose best players were on ELCs and should be treated as such.  They were necessary failures to build experience.

The only really time this team let you down was last season vs Columbus, a series that  showed how myopic the average hockey fan and analyst really are.  The Leafs stared down every single criticism levied against them, and were let down by their biggest strength (scoring), while facing NHL Record Level goaltending.

But this is sports, baby, and excuses are for losers.

A normal response to putting yourself into a position to succeed and not succeeding is to determine if you are fundamentally flawed or if you just experienced an unlucky results. This is why the fundamental principle of science involves observation. It is why you any “proof” must be based on reproducible experiments that account for every variable over thousands of iterations.

But this goes counter to every thing our instant-access culture tells us.  I honestly don’t know how any person who has ever sat through even an intro-to-statistics course can stand even ten minutes of sports talk.  Regardless, in sports, if you fail, you’ve got to make changes just for the sake of making them, logical or not.

Today’s Toronto Maple Leafs are a team with strong offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, coaching, leadership, depth, and experience.  In many ways, they’re an ideal team.

They also played the whole series without their second highest paid player, and a guy who is their captain and a near-lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame.  In fact, they could have played no differently and still won this series in four, five or six. On top of that, their top players have  played well and failed to produce.

They have been a bit unlucky at the worst time, just don’t say that out loud.

Next. Leafs Are a Team Built for Victory. dark

Their best players have scored 1 goal on 49 shots.  The entire history of the NHL tells us this is almost impossible to continue.  It’s why I am picking the Leafs to win tonight, which they probably will.  It’s still possible that they don’t however, but if that happens, let’s all act like reasonable and calm people.  This is the team they built and a team that can succeed. No matter what happens tonight no single decision about a player, coach or manager should be based off it.  To think otherwise is absurd.