I've always thought that Toronto Maple Leafs fans were, put nicely, a little bit nuts. Growing up in a split household, Bruins and Leafs, I can't honestly tell you the amount of heated debates I've witnessed over the exact ways in which the Leafs, as some family members would posit, were 'bums!' Be it the (nearly) five decade Stanley Cup drought, the sometimes questionable trade decisions, the price of tickets (it can be cheaper to travel across the border to Buffalo for an away game) - it matters not - I've heard many people in my life swear up and down for decades that they would never root for the Leafs. After only two games, this years' playoff run seems to be changing that due in no small part to one particular individual.
The Dart Man!
Now, the Leafs vs. Capitals series is tied up and heading into game three shortly, and in the interim period intrepid sports reporters have discovered the identity of The Dart Man. I'm not going to go into his true identity here, because it's less important than what it is he represents. I'm certainly not going to give you a link to his Twitter page, is what I'm saying.
Disclaimer: this entire piece is opinion, and it all stems back to what I said at the beginning. Leafs fans are kind of nuts.
That's not meant to be derogatory or inflammatory. It is simply, in my experience, a fact. Any person who can get out of bed, year after year, loss after loss, watching their team defy all odds in the regular season to climb high enough for a playoffs spot only to miss it at the last second, or capture it and quickly spiral into crushing defeat has to be kind of unhinged. Anyone who can witness every new team "savior" wilt under the pressure of that moniker, be traded away and then, oftentimes, win the damned Cup with a different team (*cough* Kessel *cough*) has to have something different going on upstairs, if you catch my meaning.
Far from being a detractor, however, I have always seen this as more of a commentary on the people of Toronto and their commitment to their team rather than something to be ashamed of. During the season this city lives and breathes Leafs hockey despite the oft felt front office mentality of "this isn't the decision you want, but it's the decision you're getting!"
Nothing brings a community together quite like a sports team. That is, unless it's a figurehead. A figurehead that so embodies the collective energy of a group that they inspire nearly as much fervour as the home team themselves.
That is The Dart Man.
The Dart Man is every fan that has ever screamed at a television in defeat, ever groaned at a press conference trade announcement or defended an indefensible team, all the while being slightly unsure of their own rationale for such fervent loyalty. Dart Man isn't just a man. He is every person that has ever said "this year;" "this team;" "this coach;" "this administration;" "this savior!"
The Dart Man is all of their joy, love, exhilaration, adrenaline and passion. All their grief, anger, sorrow, misery, defeat and denial. He is the last fifty years of Maple Leafs fans' emotional highs and lows - personified and embodied - in one blue-bearded, Stanley Cup mohawked, face-painted, dart-hacking legend! A legend that says 'to hell with family-friendly,' let's get real. A legend, supported unflinchingly by the fans, that says quite plainly, "this might not be the hero you want, but it's the hero you're getting!"
So to the powers that be I say, please - PLEASE - have this man at every game.
He has already proven that he can focus and channel the energy of Maple Leafs fans into a white-hot nucleus of positivity. Let him do this, and let him pass this onto the team, making them fight harder than ever before to finally end the drought and bring the Cup back to a city it has not graced since the final season of the Original Six.
And to The Dart Man, I simply say, shine on.
Shine on you greasy diamond!