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This sign points to oblivion

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 7, 2013 10:04 AM

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Back in January, fresh off Kevin Garnett’s bizarrely hysterical taunting of Carmelo Anthony, allegedly telling the Knicks forward that his wife “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios,” fans at the TD Garden reacted to the scenario, toting boxes of the cereal along the next time the Celtics and Knicks met in Boston. Most were promptly halted by security and had their General Mills paraphernalia confiscated in the name of bad taste.

Maybe it was all in good fun, but allowing the cereal box brigade to have their way might have even been a tad hypocritical, seeing as the Celtics were once the target of some of the most despicable fan taunting in 2002, when a New Jersey Nets fan brought a sign to a Game 5 playoff game against the Celtics, asking someone to “please stab Paul Pierce,” of course referencing the 2000 nightclub incident in which Pierce was stabbed a dozen times. Classy.

Which brings us to last night in Toronto, where the Bruins and Maple Leafs played Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, won convincingly by the Bruins, 5-2, when a Maple Leafs fan, presumably possessing as much intelligence as a Marmaduke strip pressed into reverse on Silly Putty, took the act of taunting to a new level by making light of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Toronto Stronger.”

Idiot.

Look, we can debate the intent of malice on this piece of Samsonite, but I’m of the thought that the kid is just in need of some maturity and sensibility. Unfortunately, we don’t know the name of the young chap, and can’t really tell by the images whether or not he was at the game as part of a party, so let’s theoretically question them too: Nobody told this jamoke this might be a bad idea?

Nobody in the surrounding area outside Air Canada Centre (which, we must say, was quite the scene) might have suggested to this slug that making fun of “Boston Strong,” the mantra that has inspired thousands to donate and support the victims of April 15, was about a good an idea as the Blue Jays signing B.J. Ryan?

To be fair, a good number of the fans surrounding poster boy appear somewhat disinterested, but we can’t be sure whether that’s out of embarrassment for their fellow fan or Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer’s rebound dance. But according to CBC’s Carly Argo, “there are unconfirmed reports that some fans inside the Air Canada Centre were chanting "Toronto stronger" during Monday’s game.” The sign in question even made its way onto the ACC jumbotron at one point before the camera quickly panned away.

Montreal, Vancouver, sure. We expect this sort of thing.

Et tu, Toronto?

As one Canucks fan asked on a team message board, “Is it really much different than Boston using it with their team's logo in the background?”

In other words, is destroying the downtown area of your city really much different than kicking the couch after losing Game 7?

Every city has its share of morons. Newsflash: We have them here too. So to classify an entire fan base over one ill-advised sign is a knee-jerk reaction that has little place in reality. But the anger over this loser’s decision is very much justified, coming only three weeks after attacks that shook Boston and affected and ended lives forever. Seems prime for some good ol’ fashioned hockey ribbing, no?

Most Toronto fans derided the sign and its message, which is, of course, as heartening a reaction as one would hope for. But the nameless fan still got his attention, even if we don’t know who he is. Call it an error in judgment by someone too young and dumb to understand the overwhelming significance of what he was taunting. Haven’t we all been there?

But the Toronto idiocy came only two days after the Bruins had Jeff Bauman, the Marathon bystander who lost both his legs in the attack, wave the banner in an emotionally moving pregame moment at the Garden prior to Game 2. It was, in one moment, a symbol of resiliency of the city and all those affected by what transpired, the very meaning of what Boston Strong is supposed to convey.

Or, as one commenter put it on CBSBostonSports.com, “Ok SO the Bruins have been exploiting this for a week, bringing in people that were affected by the bomb to the games and everything. So why can the Bruins build excitement over their team using this event but other teams can't? #BOSTONCRYBABIES”

Oh.

When it comes down to it, some fans are simply like Rice Krispies. No taste at all.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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