About a week ago, we wrote a post about Josh Anderson and if the Maple Leafs should go after him in a trade. We made the case that Anderson would be a good addition to the roster because he would provide solid physicality for the team over the next couple of years. We also made the case that he’d fit well into the window the Maple Leafs might have with Auston Matthews’ contract.
However, we also noted that to obtain Anderson in a trade, the Maple Leafs might have to mortgage the team’s future for the next few seasons. Anderson would answer an immediate problem but he also had a shelf life that would make his contract an issue sooner rather than later. His style of play, which is exactly what the Maple Leafs might need immediately, might render his contract an albatross in the near future.
What’s It Worth for Maple Leafs’ Fans to Win Just One Stanley Cup?
The stars might be aligning to create a two-year path for the Maple Leafs to have a solid chance to really push for the Stanley Cup. In a post yesterday, I noted that Hall of Famer Denis Savard said as much in a recent interview. Not too many weeks ago, Hall of Famer Mark Messier – who also should know a thing or two about Stanley Cup wins – said as much just after the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs. Both hockey men thought the Maple Leafs were on the right trajectory.
However, being on the right trajectory doesn’t seem to be enough for Maple Leafs’ fans. I get it! They (we) want to win the Cup and have been dreaming about that possibility for many years – since 1967 to be exact. What would these loyal (and sometimes fanatically loyal) fans give up to win Lord Stanley’s Cup?
The Plight of Maple Leafs Fans Reminds Me of a Book I Read as a Kid
Since we wrote that piece, I’ve been thinking about the deep longing Maple Leafs’ fans have for a Stanley Cup win. Specifically, I wondered how overwhelming that desire might be and wondered if Maple Leafs’ fans would make a deal with the Devil to allow their team to win one Stanley Cup only to fall back into frustration for another 50 years.
Specifically, the idea reminded me of a book I read when I was a youngster written by Douglass Wallop III (in 1954) titled The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. The book captured my attention as a 10-year-old baseball fanatic. It also was a best-seller and made into a popular Broadway musical and later a movie titled “Damn Yankees.”
Wallop, the author of the book, was a frustrated Washington Senators fan, much like frustrated Maple Leafs fans. The hero of his novel was a middle-aged, out-of-shape Washington real estate salesman named Joe Boyd who, like so many other pennant-starved Washington Senators fans, desperately dreamed that his beloved Senators would win just one pennant and would beat the hated New York Yankees in the process.
In the book, Joe made a deal with the Devil (Mr. Applegate) and was transformed into a young Joe Hardy, a baseball superstar who would lead his Senators to the American League pennant.
Now Almost 70 Years Later, the Book Makes Sense to Me More
In those early years of my life, I loved baseball. By 1954, I was devouring books from our tiny town library about baseball. I loved John R. Tunis’ books about how the fictional Roy Tucker helped the Brooklyn Dodgers struggle to escape mediocrity. But Wallop’s book really was a favorite.
The novel was based upon an age-old human legend about the dangers of getting what you want in life, especially if you ignore the huge cost you’ll have to pay for it later. The legend details Faust’s deal with the Devil about being granted one’s greatest wishes – in this case about the pain of being loyal (like Maple Leafs’ fans) for a team that hasn’t been successful, but for one “shinning” moment becomes great.
To get back to the book, which I read almost 70 years ago, Joe is a great Washington Senators fan. But the Senators are a bad team. Mr. Applegate, the “Big Man from Downstairs,” offers Joe a chance to be young again, to be fit again, and to actually play (as Joe Hardy) for his Senators as they attempt to move up the standings to overtake the hated Yankees at the top of the American League standings.
However, if Joe accepts the deal, he knows he’ll be traded to the Yankees in the offseason and he’d be theirs for the rest of his career. Joe makes the deal and the book stories his coming to learn whether the deal he made was worth it. In its way, it chronicles the ongoing desires of so many Maple Leafs’ hockey fans who dream of a Stanley Cup. In this desire, season after season, we are all dreamers.
The Genesis of the Faustian Legend
This age-old legend has been around with humans for seemingly ever. The story was best represented in the legend of Doctor Faustus, who sells his soul to the demon Mephistopheles in return for worldly knowledge and pleasure. It inspired Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, which was performed in London around 1592. That play is still being produced all over the world.
It was then written into the legend of Faust (a poem) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). It was even remade into an amazingly intelligent episode of The Simpsons (“Bart Sells His Soul”). In short, this same deep desire that Maple Leafs’ fans live with their team is embodied in a myth that has permeated human culture for centuries.
What Would It Be, Maple Leafs’ Fans?
So what will it be, Maple Leafs’ fans? If we had a choice, would we make that same deal with the Devil? Would we choose to have a strong, competitive team season after season with a chance to win each year; or, would we sell that all for one chance to win a single Stanley Cup next season only to become mediocre for the next ten seasons?
If that were our choice, what would we choose?
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf