Two-for-one Eulogies: A Lengthy Essay on Failure

R.I.P. Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2007/08 NHL hockey season.

R.I.P. Hillary Clinton’s decisive mandate as the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Yes, you both still have a chance. Technically. By the numbers. In a perfect world. If the dice comes up seven. Then eleven. If the 8-ball breaks the right way. If you catch a card on the river. If you get a favourable lie in the heavy rough, if the puck takes a bad bounce off the boards, if the refs blow some calls, the game gets called after five innings on account of rain or the Hand of God knocks the soccer ball mysteriously into the goal.

In other words, you have a chance, but not the solid puncher’s chance or the outside shot both you and your supporters believe you do. The false hope and desperate optimism has gone past endearing and veered into the realm of harmful delusion.

Hillary Clinton — with wins in both the Texas and Ohio primaries — has the justification she needs to continue her campaign for the nomination. She still trails Barack Obama by more than 100 delegates amid whispered rumours abound that Obama has a few dozen superdelegates waiting for the opportune moment to jump from the Clinton ship.

Obama still has the lead and the clock is winding down. It’s not garbage time yet, by any means, but it’s time to play fast-and-loose with your possessions. If you’re Clinton and you want to have any real shot at a comeback, now would be the time to start launching three-pointers with 20 seconds left on the shot clock and throwing out the full court press on the defensive side.

But she’s already done that. The last two weeks have seen Sen. Clinton running across the map, on very little sleep, looking increasingly haggard as she calls in favour after favour, rallies troop after troop and (if you’ll pardon a very male expression) blows her wad in an attempt to prove that the race isn’t over.

So congratulations, Senator. You’ve proven the race isn’t over. But at what cost? Your party is fractured, the opposition is rallying behind their candidate, the Republican fundraising machine will now have extra months to scare up cash and Democrats can cement their reputation as the party you can count on to Find A Way To Fuck Things Up.

If this race comes down the Democratic Convention this summer, how much of a head start does that give John McCain on fundraising, organization and dirt-digging?

I understand not wanting to give up the fight, and obviously a couple of wins are encouraging. But a simple breakdown of numbers will show you that it will take some convincing wins of the sort that Texas and Ohio were not, the continued support of superdelegates who are prepared to cast their ballot against the will of voters in their districts and a heavy dose of backroom dealing.

Who is served if Clinton comes by the nomination in this manner? What would such a prolonged fight do to the core of the Democrats? Why on Earth does anyone think that stretching it out like this is a good idea?

It’s not. It’s going to cost them the election. And maybe then they will learn.

Meanwhile … In Canada …

Speaking of Finding A Way To Fuck Things Up, I present the 07/08 Maple Leafs: A team with no future, 40 years of a wasted past and a present that they just can’t leave alone in the woods to die.

The parallels to the Clinton campaign are startling. The situation, however, is even more ridiculous.

The fans, even moreso than Clinton’s supporters, are desperate for excuses to keep believing. After a 4-1 loss last night to the New Jersey Devils, I received the following excerpts in an email from arguably (because most of them are pretty crazy) the most diehard Leafs fan I know:

The refs blew two calls which led to 2 goals (the most obvious being when Moore was *filled* with a hit from behind, no call, leading to a New Jersey odd man rush – goal – 3 to 1 Devils, basically game over) …
they could have *easily* won that game. But some good goaltending and bad breaks … hey, that’s hockey … the refs (and Marty, obviously) made it look much more lopsided than it was. If the Leafs play like that for their final 14 games, they’re into the playoffs. Easy.
… Hitting someone from behind is a penalty, is it not? … what’s it called again … oh yeah … hitting from behind. Maybe you should look it up … ditto for Koharski…

Look, I am not one to kick diehard fans when they are down. But when they should be down, and refuse to be, you have to do the humane thing and kick them until they go down. So watch me work:

In the NBA, the New York Knicks (the most valuable and popular franchise) are hit with conspiracy theories about how the refs and the league are trying to give them a hand up because it’s in everyone’s best interest to see them succeed. If you google ‘NBA conspiracy Knicks Ewing’, you’ll get a whack of responses, many from fairly respected sports websites. If you ask any non-Knicks fan about the team with John Starks that lost to the Rockets in the 1993 finals, they’ll tell you the Knicks got all the calls. Lots of fans complained this season about the Patriots getting calls, because the Perfect Season would be good for the NFL…

… But yet for some reason the NHL has knives out for the franchise that makes them more cash and has arguably the a more widespread following than any other team in the league? Nope. Not buying it.

Add poor Don Koharksi to the list of longtime, well-respected NHL officials (trusted enough by the league to officiate some of the most important games) who have allegedly conspired against this poor franchise.

“Entering the 2005-2006 NHL season, Koharski had officiated over 1,400 regular season games, 235 playoff games, 11 Stanley Cup Finals, two All-Star Games, two Canada Cups, and the 2004 World Cup. He is currently the league’s second most senior official behind referee Kerry Fraser. On April 8, 2006, Koharski reached the 1,500th regular season milestone when he officiated a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.”

from Wikipedia

Kerry Fraser, of course, is the man that Leafs fans still blame for “costing them the Cup” in 1993. Never mind that the call wasn’t even made in the Stanley Cup finals … Surely, the two longest-tenured officials currently reffing hockey games are out to get the league’s most valuable franchise. Uh-huh.

(As a brief aside here, Barack Obama points out another similarity between Hillary and the Leafs: complaining about the refs:

“There’s no doubt that Senator Clinton went very negative over the last week,” Obama said. He said the Clinton campaign’s multiple attacks “had some impact” on the election results “particularly in the context where many of you in the press corps had been persuaded that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me.”

“Complaining about the refs apparently worked a little bit this week,” he said, equating members of the news media with referees in a sporting event.)

You can’t blame the referees. It’s cheap and stupid and it makes you a sore loser. You can’t blame Toskala or Sundin at all for this mess. Nor can you really blame Antropov and Kaberle. I feel bad for Ian White, Carlo Coliacovo, Alex Steen and Matt Stajan, who are all good kids who would give everything they possibly can to be the kind of heroes Leafs Nation wants so desperately. I feel bad for Chad Kilger and Wade Belak, who had finally found places where they could settle down and do their thing, and were most definitely not part of the problem.

Other than that, though, you get what you foolishy pay for. This applies to the Maple Leafs front office, and to 9/10ths of Leafs Nation.

I have never, ever liked the Leafs. I never will. But the agony of fandom and circle-jerk of the media is approaching Red Sox proportions. Which means that, if the Leafs can ever conspire to scratch out a Stanley Cup, it will be More Than Sports — in the same way a Black American President would be More Than Politics.

And that would present a real conflict for me. Because I am all about things that are More Than Sports. If there were two teams I hated growing up as a Blue Jays fan, it was the Tigers and the Red Sox. But I made up with baseball because of the ’04 Sox, and I was rooting for the Tigers when they went to Series two years ago.

The Maple Leafs are, for a team that is quite possibly the most integral to the economics of its sport, pathetic right now. The franchise and the fan base are beaten down. Sneaking close to the playoffs again and falling short would be, in a way, the ultimate low-point.

So here is where we draw the parallels: The Leafs, much like Clinton, will in all probability fail. By failing NOW, or by failing months ago, they have (or had) a chance to build a future that is good for their respective parent organizations (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Inc. and the Democratic Party, respectively).

A concession by Clinton, instead of a long, drawn-out fight that she will likely lose, would give the Democratic Party new unity and direction heading towards an election in which the Republicans have already chosen their candidate and begun rallying behind him.

A concession by Paul Maurice and his gritty, never-say-die bunch (and a concession would be embodied by consecutive starts for Andrew Raycroft and more playing time for some of the Marlies) would allow long-suffering fans to abandon a futile belief that a simple playoff berth means the season is a success, and provide an increased chance of a top draft pick that could actually be a positive step in turning the franchise around.

But neither will concede. The pride of the Clintons and Maurice and his troops, coupled with the unfailing backing of Leafs Nation and the Clinton supporters, will not allow them to give in so long as the candle of hope burns with even the dimmest of flames.

Hillary declares, ‘This isn’t over yet,’ saying “millions of Americans haven’t spoken yet. In states like Pennsylvania and so many others, people are watching this historic campaign”.

Maurice talks about ‘only six points’, and Alex Steen says the math doesn’t matter and all they need is, “one more point than the ninth-place team.”

But Clinton won’t mention the fairly large margins of victory she needs going forward to have a shot at catching Obama. Her wins in Texas and Ohio have garnered her, as I type this, a 12-delegate swing in total.

Maurice doesn’t speak of the teams in between that six-point spread that have an even greater chance of catching the eighth-place team should the Philadelphia Flyers falter. Even last night while the Flyers lost, the Panthers pulled even with the Leafs and the Sabres and Islanders both moved further ahead.

Nothing changes. The failures happen in slow motion like a cinematic car wreck in a Will Smith movie. And both normal Democrats and sane people who root for the Maple Leafs suffer through the damage that sheer stubborn perseverance is doing to their beloved organizations.

Give it up, both of you, for the good of things which are larger than one season, or a battle for a nomination. Think of The Big Picture, for once.

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Filed under About, Life Lessons, Media, Obamamania, Politics, Rants, Sports

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