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Professional Sports & Patriotism

Does which team you root for in pro sports equate to your patriotism (or lack thereof?) I don’t think so bit someone who used to follow me on Twitter did. The post that follows was inspired by events that occurred on April 23, 2011. It is when I write posts like this that I truly wish I had the option to jump to a specific date in my Twitter stream as I dreamed of having in this post but I digress.

Go Leafs Go!

As someone who was born and raised in Toronto I am, like most Torontonians, a Leafs fan. As a Leafs fan it is my time honored duty to hate the Montreal Canadiens aka “the Habs”. It doesn’t matter who the Habs are playing, I will cheer against the hockey team from Montreal every single time with one exception – if the Habs winning will mathematically help my Leafs in the standings. Even then, I won’t cheer for the Habs, I will cheer against the team that is playing the Habs.

Long story short, Leafs fans do not cheer for the Montreal Canadiens, ever. This has nothing to do with the fact that both teams play in Canada  – although until the most recent Federal elections it looked as if the people of Quebec would have liked to change that too and remember, the events that inspired this post occurred BEFORE the 2011 Canadian Federal Election when the Bloc Québécois lost official party status. This is just about people from Toronto being Leafs fans and cheering against their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The rivalry is so well known and acknowledged it has its own Wikipedia article: “Maple Leafs – Canadiens rivalry“. The Toronto subway station College, which is the closest station to the former home of the Maple Leafs, Maple Leafs Gardens, has a mural on both the southbound and northbound sides’ walls called “Hockey Knights In Canada” the southbound side has a bunch of Maple Leafs players…do you know who is on the northbound side? The Montreal Canadiens.

The events that inspired this post were on the evening of April 23, 2011 the Montreal Canadiens were playing the Boston Bruins in Game 5 (Recap Linked) of the Northeast Division Eastern Conference Quarter Finals. The series was tied at 2 and the Canadiens lost the game, played in Montreal, in double overtime. I tweeted my excitement something to the effect of “Hooray! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose! Habs Lose!” That tweet was something which someone until then followed me on Twitter did not appreciate. The aforementioned gentleman called me a douche and unfollowed me.

I didn’t even really notice the unfollowing until a little bit later but was more surprised by the calling me a douche. When I asked him about it he asked how I could cheer for an American team and accused me of being anti-Canadian. I explained to him that that made no logical sense because this is professional sports we are talking about, not the Federal Government. I am actually one of the only people I know who will not talk when either the American or the Canadian anthems are being played out of my respect for both countries. Oh, did I ever mention I am a dual citizen holding American and Canadian citizenship?

Cheering for the Boston Bruins when they are playing against the Habs does not, in my mind, make me anti-Canadian and I felt very offended that this guy called my patriotism into question based on it. At the end of the day it is a sport being played for entertainment. While I am well aware that there are enough people out there who make pro sports into a religion at the end of the day, which team you root for does not equate to your patriotism.

Another heated pro sports rivalry is the New York Yankees – Boston Red Sox (they also have their own, much longer, Wikipedia article Yankees – Red Sox rivalry). This rivalry is so intense that New Era filmed a series of commercials (below is the first one) about Trash Talking between John Krasinski who’s a Red Sox fan and Alec Baldwin who’s a Yankees fan.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video and then read on.

[– Link for mobile friendly video viewing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e57dlq7ZA4 –]

When at the end of the commercial John Krasinski says to Alec Baldwin “You’ll be DEAD in October!“, there is a good few second pause of absolute silence where John realizes he has taken the conversation beyond trash talk and he has begun to take the whole thing way, way too seriously.

John then breaks the awkward silence and says “Was that a little too much?

Alec calmly replies, “I think you know it was.

Sorry, I just got really worked up.

We all do.

Bam, end of commercial. Beautifully done!

I think that commercial is amazing for so many reasons but it is perfect for the point I am trying to make with this blog post. Sports rivalries are just sports rivalries. There is no reason that they should come between a friendship or even a “Twitter relationship”. Also, it is important for us all to realize when we have gotten a little too worked up over sports rivalries and take a step back. I hope one day the person who inspired me to write this post will apologize or at least start talking to me again. I found it interesting that he didn’t have any problem with a friend of mine, who ReTweeted my tweet and had tweeted many other disparaging remarks about the Habs. Maybe she got a pass because she is easy on the eyes and lacks a Y chromosome? I don’t know.

I am not a douche because I do not support the same team as you do. I am certainly not anti-Canada because I am cheering for an American team over my favorite team’s rival. If the Red Sox are playing the Toronto Blue Jays I promise you that Yankees fans are cheering for the Jays. It has nothing to do with people in New York City (or Yankees fans anywhere) being unpatriotic Americans. It is simply that they do not want to see their team’s rival succeed in any way shape or form. But, after all is said and done I think it would be great if we all sat down and grabbed a beer together.

Every Sunday during football season I go to my friend’s apartment and watch football. He is a huge Buffalo Bills fan and I love my Miami Dolphins (and this is another sports rivalry which has its own Wikipedia article by the way “Bills–Dolphins rivalry“). However, every Sunday we sit and watch football together, eat wings, drink beer, and make fun of each other’s team. It has not affected our friendship that we are fans of rival teams. We are both well aware that  there are much more important things in our lives other than how a team of professional athletes play against another team of professional athletes both teams filled with people who couldn’t give a damn whether we lived or died so long as the team’s ticket sales are unaffected and they continue to get their multi-million dollar salaries.


  1. May 16, 2011 at 1:18 am


    As you know, I’m a huge Habs fan. However, most of my closest friends are Leafs fans. Die hard Leaf fans. Thing is, we all love the rivalry between my beloved Habs and The Laffs. For us, it’s part of the fun. We take it in that spirit. With one friend I actually look forward to his Facebook Statuses because they’re so over the top partisan towards the Leafs, they’re entertaining.

    I had no problems with Canadians cheering Boston against my Habs, nor do I have any problem with Canadians cheering against the Canucks now. It’s not unpatriotic.

    If anything, I get a little annoyed with people jumping on the bandwagon because a team happens to be Canadian. (Although I have to say: Go Canucks against the Sharks! Although I’m really rooting for Tampa Bay to win the Cup.)

    Raymond AKA The Funky Barrister

    • May 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Thanks Raymnond. Always good to hear a supporting voice and know that not all you Habs fans are totally crazy – although you’re obviously at least a little crazy if you’re a Habs fan vs being a LEAFS FAN 😉

      Like Sean says below, the majority of players on the teams are Canadian anyway so we should be really rooting for the team with the highest percentage of Canadian players if we wanted to show patriotism.

  2. May 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I agree on all fronts!

    Like I said on Twitter, I’ve gotten into disagreements about not cheering for the Habs in previous years, but I just couldn’t back them, Canadian or not. This year I picked them to beat Boston, simply based on stats, not on any love for the team. I was happy they lost and I didn’t have to make any more hard decisions haha.

    Another argument I’ve heard is from people not cheering for some Canadian teams because the American team actually has more Canadians on it, therefore making them the true Canadian team. Huh??? If the Leafs aren’t playing then I go for whichever one I think will win/I feel some kind of connection to (like the Canucks & Bolts, which were my predictions for this round).

    PS I found the guy you were talking about.. I don’t follow him so I have no opinion!

    • May 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Also, remember that if they win – again – before the Leafs can hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup we really won’t hear the end of it from those smug Canadiens fans.

      The only real argument in my mind would be IF you were originally from a city and IF the city’s pro sports team was made up entirely of people from that city or the surrounding area and you cheered against them. Then, we’d be able to call your municipalism (new word!) into question. Until that happens (probably never will) like I said above, those players are in it for the multi-million dollar salary and to win the championship. The vast majority of them don’t really care in which city they win.

  3. meg button
    May 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I will cheer for Leafs but I will NEVER cheer for the Habs. Similar to how I’d go to a Tragically Hip concert but would NEVER go see Nickelback. I love Canada (and Canadians) but hey, we’re not perfect.

    I thought this whole ordeal was interesting to watch (in a Meatloaf yelling at Gary Bussey for stealing his paint on Celebrity Apprentice kind of way…) but for the record, @THEDANLEVY IS NOT A DOUCHE, just a leafs fan. Flyer fans are the real douches.

    KIDDING, kidding!

    • May 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks so much Meg! Much appreciated. As I am sure you saw, I tried to be as reasonable and logical as possible with him but what can you do. Also, I just watched that Celebrity Apprentice freakout you mentioned and that was pretty funny. The only thing is I think this may have been the first time I have ever been compared to Gary Busey and I am unsure how to take that, haha.

  4. Jeff
    May 17, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Agreed. I am a Leafs fan who hates the Habs and their fans. I was so happy when the Habs were eliminated last year, and this year. They don’t deserve another Stanley cup until the Leafs catch up to them in terms of Stanley cups.

    I would also like to say that the picture of the Habs players desperately needs to be removed from College Station. It is offensive to the City of Toronto.

    Plus, Southern Ontario already has an NHL Team. The Leafs. Why would we want another when people in Winnipeg desperately want an NHL team?

    • May 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for the agreement and support, Jeff.

      I think the idea behind the mural on the walls of College Station is that it is an intense rivalry and when the mural was made in the 1980s people still thought of going to see a Leafs game back in the 50’s and 60’s against the Habs when the rivalry was at its height. I assume that is why they chose the Habs to be on the mural.

      Maybe I will write a post addressing the rationale behind why Southern Ontario should get another NHL team sometime in the future but for this article it was somewhat outside the scope.

      • May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

        Jeff, as noted above, I am a die hard Habs fan (born & raised in Toronto, BTW). The rivalry between the Leafs & The Habs is STILL one of the most intense in professional sports. Assuming that we still want to honour Hockey at College Station, it’s only right that the rivalry between the Leafs and Les Glorieux remain as well.

        That said, I will admit to cheering for the Leafs in the 1993 Western Final against LA. I was just as pissed off with Wayne Gretzky as you were, and have still never forgiven him. Why, you ask? Because I really wanted my beloved Habs to kick Leaf A** that year to win the Cup. Unfortunately we had to settle for beating the Kings. 😉

  1. October 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm

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