I can't decide whether to envy this kid's optimism or pity its eventual demise.
For the 10th straight year, ESPN The Magazine has released its Ultimate Standings, a list that ranks every professional sports team in the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL from 1st to 122nd.
And, for the first time since the inaugural list in 2003, when the Columbus Blue Jackets landed at the bottom, a hockey team is in the basement. That team: the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are worse than the Sacramento Kings, which is the worst kind of worst.
How did this unfortunate thing happen? By what criteria could the Maple Leafs be the worst franchise in the NHL, let alone all of North American sport?
Using a combination of fan voting, a poll conducted by consulting firm Maddock Douglas, and researchers at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, ESPN (which stands for Extremely Scientific Polls Network) ranked franchises over the following eight categories:
Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.
Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.
Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
Oh. OK, that sort of makes sense.
The Leafs finished at the bottom of the standings in both BNG and AFF, and they were second to last in PLA and TTR. And looking at where the Leafs finished in the eight categories compared to 121st Sacramento, it wasn't even close.
But don't feel too disheartened, Leaf fans. This is a breakthrough four years in the making.
The Leafs have finished no better than 120th since 2008, but they've never been last before. In 2008, they were edged out by the New York Knicks. In 2009, it was the Knicks and the L.A. Clippers. In 2010, only the Clippers remained, and in 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins beat them out.
But in 2012, the Leafs reign the polar opposite of supreme.
All told, the Coyotes were the top-ranked NHL franchise on the list, so take this with a grain of salt.
Check out the full list here. Friendly warning: The table is kind of glitchy. Occasionally the 2012 rankings disappear altogether. And sometimes the Phoenix Coyotes are in first.
Harrison can be maligned for sharing this info on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Maple Leafs
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Sacramento Kings