Howard Berger is either a self-loathing Leaf fan (with a secret crush on Richard Peddie that he enthusiastically works to hide) or an Ottawa fan covering the Leafs to serve some twisted agenda. One certainly aimed at eroding support for the storied franchise.
So there we have it… after another season of poorly researched and ill-tempered rants these are the only two conclusions I could draw. But which is it?
Berger’s most recent tirade has once again underlined his potential duality as he repeatedly strikes at his favourite target, the Leaf fan. He compares the loyal fan base to sheep; a not so original assertion made in every second blog he pens, blaming Maple Leaf enthusiasts for the team’s lack of success over the last three years. Oddly enough, the focus then shifts to target someone actually partially responsible for the poor performance - a Berger rarity - as he makes a half-hearted attempt to show how MLSE has a diabolical plan to corrupt the league through a series of demonic acts.
FYI, these acts are somehow protected by an impunity granted by some unseen league overlord who must be collaborating with Leaf fans to destroy the NHL.
Ridiculous. The organization is subject to the exact same consequences as every other team. They are ultimately responsible to their fans, the league, the PA and, most importantly, the players. If MLSE takes a misstep they’re subject to fines, player (and free agent) disillusionment, and grievances.
Just because fans don’t walk out to graze on greener pastures doesn’t mean the organization is immune, it’s just a measure of loyalty bound to the team and not to management.
So what does this most recent article tell us about Berger “the person”?
It tells us that if Berger is a Leaf fan he must lead an overwhelmingly self-loathing existence. If you would indulge the assumption that he covers the Leafs by choice, this may be the only logical conclusion.
This supposition inevitably leads down a twisted path of hidden Berger desires. If he is in fact a Leaf fan, his insistent practice of fan degradation underscores a dark infatuation with sadomasochist practice (and Berger certainly isn’t the one holding the whip).
The flip side is just as disturbing an image as Howie covered in leather with a zipper over his mouth – although the zipper might not be such a terrible idea - it could instead be that Berger is an Ottawa fan gone incognito.
I bet you didn’t think Ottawa had fans did you?
It’s true, it’s true… they even make it out every now and then to watch as the Leafs knock them out of the playoffs (a favourite pastime when we actually do make an appearance, albeit an increasingly rare opportunity).
If Berger is an opposing fan, his agenda must be a diabolical one focused on disenfranchising the average Leaf-nut to the point at which we stop supporting the team.
Although, on the off chance that Berger is right, fan support decreases would lead to win total increases. His persistent cries to stifle support for the Leafs would thus be the symptoms of a fan suffering through his addiction by doing everything in his power to end the pain and misery triggered by his blinding loyalty… right?
Uh, oh… things are getting as confused as Berger at a literary research contest.
Don’t be too quick to judge… Ottawa is a land of politicians wherein deception has manifested itself as an art form. It may be that his goal is to lull us all into gradually eroding the essence of what makes Toronto the centre of the hockey universe (oh yes I did) – absolute loyalty.
That one thing Berger can’t stand.
Maybe it’s because he suffers through it himself, withering of his own plight as he waits for a championship run with the rest of us, unwilling to let his true love shine through. Or could it be that as an Ottawa fan he doesn’t quite understand the concept of loyalty - as all Ottawa fans were, by existence, inescapably poached from some other franchise.
The jury is in deliberation and the debate will rage on as I comically trudge through this series dedicated to examining Berger’s works for clues to his favourite team.
One thing is for certain, however, and that is fans are free to be loyal, to have faith, and to keep the hopes of a winning season alive. That’s what makes the game great, and those fans are what make Toronto a great place to play, and watch, NHL hockey.