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DANA PARSONS

It Was Fair Game Until the Love Affair Turned Fowl

October 30, 1994|DANA PARSONS

Say, we really had them going, didn't we? Those chumps. We really convinced them we cared about them. Did they really take all that lovey-dovey talk seriously? Talk about gullible, sheesh. It's not like we'd never heard a come-on before. What do they think we are, stupid?

(Pause for hysterical sobbing and pounding of fists on tabletop.)

Who are we kidding? We've been nailed again, played for suckers.

WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?

This was supposed to be hockey season, remember? This was supposed to be the second year of our love affair with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and who doubted that our relationship wouldn't grow stronger?

The Ducks waddled into our hearts and minds last year, and we couldn't resist them. They were virgins, they told us they were ours for the asking, and we fell like a ton of bricks. Part of their appeal was that all the smart-alecks figured they would be laughingstocks, that nobody could love anyone that dopey and inexperienced. Silly uniforms, silly logos, silly name--ragamuffins on skates. And what were they calling home? Some place called The Pond ? Hockey purists cringed. The Montreals and Torontos of the hockey world scoffed at our Ducks, which only made us love them more.

True, we were hungry for love. A lot of that had to do with our misbegotten affair with that other team, the Rams. Talk about faithless lovers. Once, we lavished money on them, too, thinking that would make them love us. How foolish.

Not only did they take our money and throw it away, they rubbed our noses in it by openly courting other suitors. We may be love-starved, but do they think we have no pride left? Do they think they can sleep in our bed by night while publicly cavorting by day with the Baltimores and St. Louises of the world? This is their idea of love?

We knew the Ducks were different. They were proud to call themselves Anaheim. And even though they raised ticket prices on us, they at least went out and got a potential superstar in that young Kariya fellow to show us they were serious.

We saw they were different from those Rams, and we spilled our hearts and then backed it up by spilling our wallets. We spared no expense, even though the Ducks were no cheap date. We went to their games, paid their parking fees, and bought their duck-billed hats. Before we knew it, we realized that, gulp, we loved them.

Skeptics said we wouldn't commit--that we couldn't commit--that we were too sophisticated for a serious relationship, but we proved them wrong. By the end of last season, in April, our affection was the talk of the league. It produced attendance that was 98.9% of season-long capacity. The last 25 games at The Pond were sellouts, and every night was a party. We cheered our fool heads off, and reveled as we called out our heroes' names: Yake, Semenov, Ladouceur, Fedotov, Shtalenkov. Oh, who cared if we couldn't pronounce them? With each rapturous cheer, our Ducks responded with verve and valor, even if sometimes forgetting that our joy would have been even greater had they remembered to occasionally slide that black thing into the other team's net.

So what if they weren't perfect? They were ours, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim! and everything clicked so beautifully between us that we happily overlooked their shortcomings. They were huggable, and we hugged them tight.

And now . . .

Something has gone horribly wrong. Was it something we said? We drive past The Pond and feel nothing but an aching heart and hear nothing from the freeway but echoes of our own distant laughter. Coming closer, we hear muted shouts from inside The Pond, but now they're coming from a Kenny G concert instead of from a Maple Leaf being pounded into the boards.

Nothing but memories. We're trying hard to avoid thinking we've been taken--again--but that's what it feels like, doesn't it? What does it mean now that the Ducks set a record for the most wins by a first-year team? What does it mean that they beat the Stanley Cup champs not once, but twice?

Do they think they did all that without us?

They say it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but whoever said that never cheered for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. They never saw the Decoys in action or blew their duck calls with all their might into the ear of an unsuspecting fan sitting next to them. They weren't there that night last March when the Ducks beat the Los Angeles Kings.

Oh, what's the use. We're all grown-ups here. We've been hurt before and probably will be again.

But, dammit, do we really deserve this?

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