Feschuk: Throw shade without throwing sweaters

Illustration by Christina Ung

Since tossing sweaters on the ice is a punishable offence, here are some other creative ways for fans to express disgust.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had enough. They’re tired of fans hurling sweaters onto the ice to protest moments of blue-and-white hockey futility. It’s “despicable,” said a former coach. It’s “disrespectful,” said Phil Kessel. “It’s a great idea and frankly we’re embarrassed we didn’t think of it first,” said fans of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Point is: Kessel doesn’t care for your laundry-based expressions of dissatisfaction, Leafs fans. And you don’t want to make Kessel angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. (Or, for that matter, when he’s “backchecking,” am I right?)

By and large, the whole sweater-chucking thing appears to be an infrequent and harmless phenomenon.
I think we’d all agree it’s worth it for the brief moment when home-team players cringe and think in unison: “God, I hope my name’s not on the back of that one.”

Alas, the Leafs don’t see the humour in humiliation and they’ve issued a stern warning: Anyone caught tossing a sweater will be banned from the Air Canada Centre for at least a year. (I know what you’re thinking, Leafs fans: How can Dion Phaneuf be persuaded to throw a sweater onto the ice? Let’s break into groups and brainstorm this thing.)

In the meantime, let’s explore other creative ways in which frustrated fans—in Toronto and elsewhere—can safely express their feelings of hate for the teams they love:

Twitter. Venting obsessively about your favourite sports team on social media allows your followers to ponder important questions such as “Why am I following this ass-hat?” But here’s the cold reality: Kessel is never going to read your tweet about how, based on appearance and expression, he is Human Grumpy Cat.

Heckling. It’s like a tweet but with yelling! So that’s fun. Then again, you want your opinions to be noticed by one and all. And what are the odds the players will actually be able to hear you over the evening’s sixth playing of “Cotton Eye Joe”?

Booing. There’s something very satisfying about delivering a hearty “booooo.” The only problem is that most pro athletes are so self-absorbed they just assume you’re hollering their name—even if it sounds nothing like, say, “Luuuuuuuu-ongo.” Indeed, all evidence suggests that to this day, a certain sniper is convinced that disgruntled Capitals fans are shouting, “Oooooo-vechkin.”

A well-crafted letter of dismay. The impact is limited—but literary! Dear Mr. Carlyle: With reference to the manner of your team’s defensive-zone play during Sunday night’s sporting contest, I should liken it to the feeble effort exerted by the Royal Navy in 1667 as Dutch invaders sailed up the River Medway without so much as a dollop of resistance…

Turning away. Has any fan base ever tried this? Imagine how it would feel to look up from the ice and see only the backs of thousands of your fans. What a powerful way to convey disgust at a team’s performance. The only downside? Kessel might just use the opportunity to sneak a bite of the ham sandwich he keeps in his glove during the game. Mmm… glove-wich.

Wearing a paper bag over your head. Here is a time-tested, old-school way of letting everyone know you’re ashamed of your team. I mean, sure, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. No one is forced to go to the game, so you can’t really be that ashamed if you’re there, bagged head or not. Plus, beer always moistens the mouth hole. And are you supposed to keep wearing the bag when you go to the washroom? Would a paper-bag hat be as effective as a statement of dismay?

Wearing a plastic bag over your head. Not advisable—though at this point understandable if you happen to be an Oilers fan.  

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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