Something about empathy, I think

So yeah, I watched that Boston-Toronto game last night. A lot of people did. Not just hockey fans, but people I know who never watch hockey. My mother called me during that third period, right after Bergeron’s tying goal, to ask why this was such a big deal. Apparently, even with her limited access to social media, her computer was blowing up. I had text messages from people I haven’t spoken to in months. I spent about three hours just reading Twitter. Last night was an event. It doesn’t matter where your allegiances lie. Sometimes you just have to recognize when something is important to a lot of people.

And this was an event not just because of the already much-bandied fact that no team had ever come back from a three goal deficit in the third period in the history of the playoffs. To me the takeaway is that I sometimes forget that that team is not a team like our team. Our team, like most teams, is tied to our city, is tied to local pride, is tied to community, and is tied to our desire to distinguish ourselves from that team. But that team…they’re about people’s fathers, you know? Other than maybe a few of the other original six teams, they’re different. Not special. Not better. But different.

As I read Twitter last night, I saw the sort of stunned reaction as events unfolded turn to something resembling empathy. Can you imagine if that happened to us? How would that feel? About twenty minutes later that empathy transformed, predictably, into gleeful schadenfreude, then, weirdly, into blame: Toronto fans deserve this, somehow. Because some dude made a shitty sign; because they’re mean to us at our home games; because they cheered for Anaheim in the Final; because they’re everywhere.

I don’t know–maybe they do deserve this. But I’m reading the various blogs and recaps this morning and I don’t feel like rubbing it in. This is a team that missed the playoffs for eight years, were killed over the Kessel trade, and now, when they finally make the playoffs, raise hopes to insane levels only to open the door to the most crushing, excruciating letdown any sports fan could ever feel. Maybe that’s just sports, and we should dog pile on because, yeah, they’d probably do the same to us.

But I have to admit: it might have been fun to see something resembling success in the biggest hockey market in the world.

Ottawa is my team, and Toronto is always going to be Enemy Number One, at least until we actually beat them in the playoffs and exorcise those demons a little bit. But this morning I’m feeling a bit of empathy here. They played a good series. A gutsy series. They won two games in a row to force a game seven against Boston, and then dominated in Boston for 45 minutes against a team that has owned the entire division’s ass all season long, including ours. There will be plenty of time to shove the meltdown in their fans’ faces later. But for now, at least, I want to say: good series, guys. You’ll bounce back.


5 thoughts on “Something about empathy, I think

  1. You probably shouldnt read our twitter feed. Classy post, I’m sure Toronto fans would have been super cool about it too if the shoe was on the other foot. JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ////////////////////////////KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK.
    Empathy for the people who chant “This is our house” at SBP and Boo Daniel Alfredsson? Not a chance.

  2. Dude, I live in DT Toronto but am a huge sens fan and you nailed it. I was listening with about 10 leafs fan during our baseball game and it was like one 20 minute drawn out flabbering of gasts. They finally started to believe after the JVR goal and just to watch them slowly assplode was painful. Walking home afterwards near the ACC was like the apocalypse, people were just stunned silent and stumbling around it was surreal.

    Simmons talks about the levels of losing all the time and that one feels like one of the worst. So yea i felt bad for the evening…..but this morning dawned bright and shiny and I’ve realized that the leafs fans have lost all chirping leverage for at least like 3 years right? Schaedenfruede has been engaged. Cue the crippling offseason Reimer self doubt!!

    Next up the poopsburgh liker of menguins!

  3. I’ve lived my whole life around leafs fans and frankly they can go fuck themselves, I’m not going to rub it in (although thats what they would do) but I’m definitely not going to feel any empathy or somehow wish this didnt happen.

  4. I can definitely feel empathy, but on separate levels. Imagining individual fans or individual players being heartbroken makes me feel weepy, for sure (uggghhh they kept replaying Reimer collapsing on the ice after seeing he’d let in the goal and it was just so SADDENING ugh), but on the more superficial level of being that team, I really couldn’t care less. They were an Original Six; they’re always going to have swings in success and corresponding rollercoasters in emotions. So as long as I view them as one entity, one fanbase, one team, I have no problem separating that level of emotional sympathy from them. Just don’t show me heartwrenching clips of goalies falling in wracking sobs to the ice.

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