Could Raptors End Leafs' Drug-Like Hold On Toronto Fans?

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIDecember 4, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05:  Amir Johnson #15 and Sonny Weems #24 of  the Toronto Raptors go up for a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on November 5, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 108-102.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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This is the story of two teams going in opposite directions.

Last night, the Toronto Raptors clobbered a team they were not supposed to beat, the Oklahoma Thunder, 111-99.

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs played, they were shamefully shut out on home ice by a near-the-bottom team, the Edmonton Oilers, 5-0.

Since the loss of Chris Bosh to free agency, the Raptors have no stars, yet they are winning games, and are now in possession of the last playoff spot.

The Leafs are at least supposed to have a good defense, but are near the bottom of the standings in almost every category.

Now, when the media reports on the Raptors, the viewer is given a sense of hope.  Even when they have a bad game, fans get the sense it is the problem of a young team learning how to win consistently.

With the Leafs, the fans get a sense of despair, with no way out, certainly in the immediate future.  The Leafs gave that away when they signed Phil Kessel.  They will not have a first-round draft pick again, this year.

Last week, it was reported that there were lots of empty seats, even at ice level, when the Leafs played New Jersey.  If the Leafs continue to be this bad, will that trend increase?

Certainly it's more than deserved, in fact long overdue.

Since the glory days of 1967 and earlier, the Leafs have had an unbreakable monopoly on the minds of Toronto sports fans.

All the other local franchises,  Blue Jays, Raptors, Argonauts, and whatever soccer team exists, all pay the penalty when the team is bad.  Fans don't show up and invest their money in tickets.

Not the Leafs.  Except when seats become unaffordable, no one gives up a season ticket, and when they are forced to do so, it is immediately snapped up.

No matter how bad the team has been for nearly half a century, fans cling to their tickets like a drug.

Hockey is king in Toronto.

So reporting vacancies to a Leaf game might be welcoming news to everyone in Toronto, except Maple Leaf owners and management.

It's about time the Leafs got hit where it really hurts, in the pocket book.  They have long merited it.

Steve Stavros was an okay owner.  At least under him, the team was consistently respectable.

But for long stretches during the Harold Ballard years and now for half a decade under Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, the Leafs have been horrible.

Could that finally be registering in the minds of Toronto sports fans?  That a bad team doesn't deserve to have mindless support?

And would such thinking increase, if the Raptors become successful while the Leafs continue to sink into the mire with no immediate help on the way?

When the Blue Jays won the World Series, fans turned on the CFL Argonauts (undeservedly) and dismissed them as minor league.  The Argonauts are still trying to recover from it.

The Leafs have been mostly minor league for nearly half a century.  They certainly are this year.

Would a direct contrast between the Raptors and Leafs finally turn fans against bad ownership and management?

The Raptors, the Blue Jays and the Argonauts all seem pointed in a upward direction.

They would eagerly welcome deserters from the Leafs' sinking ship.

Will Toronto fans finally buy a product because it deserves to be bought and not because of some mindless drug addiction?

Reviewing how little the Leafs have rewarded their fans since 1967, breaking a bad drug addiction would be welcoming news and long overdue.

Make the Leafs earn their money instead of just counting it.