Judging a book by its cover

Down Goes Brown has written a scathing review of a book that he hasn’t read. In fact, the book won’t even be released for six months. But the cover tells you that the authors believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs suck, so how can it possibly be a good book? Now, I’m a Leafs fan, so what I’m going to say here might sound like heresy, but I’m gonna say it anyway. DGB, perhaps this is news to you, but here it is: The Leafs do suck, and have sucked for much of the past forty years. There. I said it.

Have they sucked every single year in that time? No, definitely not. They made the conference finals four times between 1993 and 2002. And are they the only team to not have won the Cup in that time? No, of course not. But every other original six team has at least made the Stanley Cup finals since 1967, and all but one have won the Cup in that time (in fact, Montreal has won it ten times (ouch, typing that was physically painful)). The Leafs have not made the finals since the Original Six were the only six. The Oilers and Islanders didn’t exist the last time the Leafs won it all, and they’ve won it nine times between them. Carolina, Anaheim, and Tampa freakin’ Bay have won Cups since then. The Leafs have had some good seasons, and even a few great ones, but they’ve also missed the playoffs fourteen times since 1967. Of the Original Six teams, only Detroit (17 times!) has missed the playoffs more, but they’ve also won four Stanley Cups in that time so they get a pass.

DGB’s article is a list of chapter titles for this book, many of which are unfair:

  • “An unshakable loyalty…”: the book isn’t about how Leafs fans suck
  • “The mysterious and spooky curse…”: for all we know, half the book is dedicated to the Harold Ballard years.
  • “Things we imagine Leafs fans would say…”: again, the book isn’t about the fans, it’s about the team. And what makes you think these guys aren’t Leafs fans? You can be a journalist and a Leafs fan. Just ask Damien Cox! OK, bad example.
  • “Why 1927 is more recent than 1967…”: DGB ignores the minor fact that the Senators didn’t exist for fifty-eight of those years. The current Senators have only existed for 15 years, and they’ve gotten closer to the Cup than the Leafs have in 40.
  • “Spilling into the streets…”: It is pathetic when Leafs fans do it because of a first round win. When Calgary and Edmonton did it, it was when they won the Cup or in the recent case of Edmonton, made the finals after barely making the playoffs at all.

DGB also makes a point about the fact that this is a hockey book written by two NBA reporters. But I listen to Prime Time Sports (via podcast) every day, and Grange has been a guest on that show many times. He may be paid to cover the NBA, but he seems knowledgeable enough about other sports. Similarly, Jim Kelley has covered hockey his whole career, and is even a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. But when the topic shifts to basketball, baseball, or football, Kelley can more than hold his own. I imagine sportswriters in general get into the business because they love sports, so the fact that they have been assigned a particular sport to write about doesn’t mean they know nothing about other sports.

But even given all that, here’s the main point: there’s no indication that this is a history book. The cover of the book simply says “…why the Leafs STINK and how they can rise again”. And the Leafs do stink. They’ve missed the playoffs three years running, and are very likely to miss them again this year. Barring some incredible moves by Burke in the off-season, they will not be much better next year.

Will I buy this book? Eh, probably not. But I’m not sufficiently homer enough to think that because it says negative things about my team, it must be a terrible book.


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