Thursday, August 11, 2005

Posted by Mark at 6:09 PM

What that Clown Owner in Anaheim Took Away

or...Why I can Never Root for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks Again...

I have held back for a few months to collect my thoughts on the relocation of the former Cincinnati Mighty Ducks to Portland, Maine to pick up the mantle of the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League. Granted, only the affiliation moved, and we here in Cincy are left with a dormant franchise waiting for rebirth. It is part of the business, they say. No hard feelings, right? Wrong. This clown in Anaheim took something away from me, something very special. First, a little background...

I have been attending hockey games at the Cincinnati Gardens consistently for 15 years, and for over 20 out of my almost 30 years. I have watched patrick Lalime, Paul Lawless, Sergei Samsonov, Marc Denis, and many others. I watched the evolution of the Cyclones, and the development of the Ducks. I befriended goalies and forwards, "can't miss prospects" and "bush league bums." I saw many stunning victories and quite a few devastating losses. I've laughted, I've cried. I've cheered, I've booed.

I was a Ducks fan from day One. I attended 98% of Duck home games over their 8 seasons. Jeremy Stevenson was the first player of the Ducks to sign my inaugural program. He became my favorite Duck and a treasured friend. I watched the Ducks go from loveable losers to sometimes confounding contenders.

The players came and went, as they often do in the minors. Some were favorites of mine, like Maxim Balmochnykh, Jeremy Stevenson, Frank Banham, Ilya Bryzgalov, Stan Chistov, Gregg Naumenko, and the original goalies Tom Askey and Chris Mason. Others had the personality of a pitbull, even if they had talent. It was great to see Cincy Ducks become Anaheim Ducks. I lived and died with those teams. But, NO LONGER.

Many of the players were generous with their time and tools. I have so many autographed cards, pucks, sticks, ticket stubs, jerseys; you would not believe. It was incredible to be rewarded as a fan by a favorite player. It wasn't even so much the item or gift as it was just mostly the interactions and relationships over the years. I will treasure them always.

So, you say, why won't you root for Anaheim? What is it they took away? It was something irreplaceable. They took away the last year of hockey for my sister and me before she left for college. You see, despite the 12 years in age difference, the culture gap, etc., Mary and I always had hockey, DUCKS hockey. I began taking my sister during the last 3 years of the Cyclones regime at the Gardens. However, her love of hockey really came around when the Ducks came to town.

Twelve years difference creates lots of tension and interesting dynamics in a relationship. Despite the years, the growing pains, we always had hockey. Even more than the wins and losses, the sticks and jerseys and stuff; I enjoyed the comraderie and fellowship with my sister. Wataching her grow up and getting the chance to relate to her better thru the prism of hockey has been tremendous. We have shared so much through Ducks hockey. Even as she grew older and Big Brother was no longer so cool, we could still be real and goof around at hockey games. Even as our interests diverged as she grew up and I grew old, we had Ducks hockey.

This year was going to be special. It would be the last full season of Ducks hockey for us as a team. She is a senior in High School and would be heading off to college. I had so much planned for this, what would have been our last season together. You see, with my work and her schooling and activities, we only really had hockey time together. We had hockey to unite our distant generations. And this year was going to be great. Watching the joy in her eyes as she rooted on a very talented Ducks team would have been great. It would have made the circle complete, as I would have seen that joy from childhood to blooming adulthood. Through hockey, we could have had a last great memory, something to further cement us toghter, to send her off to college with the secure knowledge that we could always meet up at the next Ducks weekend series. This would have been a last, great year together, and she would know that when she came home we could seamlessly reconnect through hockey. However, thanks to that CLOWN in Anaheim, this is not possible, as the Cincy franchise will remain dormant this year. Already, some of that joy for Mary is gone, and our relationship is less cohesive, because there is no Ducks hockey to get ready for.

This lost year is irreplaceable. I can always get pucks or jerseys or authographs. The lost joy with my sister is unique, and more valuable than any tax breaks or favorable business deals. I don't hate or blame the players, they had no choice. But, I will no longer be able to root for their team or organization. That clown in Anaheim took this special time away from me. He took more than a franchise, more than hockey prospects, more than a team. He took a connection to my sister, and smashed parts of our hearts to pieces.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Posted by Mark at 11:08 PM

Why He Will Always Be The Franchise To Me...

I was at this game. I saw Junior waving to someone while this was going on, then I saw him disappear into the bullpen. Only today did I find out why Junior disappeared and why that little boy was on the field when the Reds won. Ken Griffey, Jr. may never bring a pennant to Cincinnati, but he and FLo, Cowboy, and others showed tremendous class, something you don't see too often from these million dollar babies. Read the full story. Ironic, then, that the boy's name was Tony Perez and it was Tony Perez bobblehead night....

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Bill Summee has been a police officer since 1992, but nothing prepared him for the situation he encountered Wednesday night.

Summee, now a security officer for the Reds, responded to an emergency call to Section 143 at Great American Ball Park during the seventh inning. A man had collapsed, and paramedics were working on him.

As they tried to revive the man, who did not survive the apparent heart attack, an officer handed the man's 6-year-old grandson to Summee.

Little Antonio Perez had come to the game with his grandfather, whose name the Reds did not release, to celebrate Tony Perez Bobblehead Night.

Over the next 2½ hours, Summee and numerous Reds players and coaches stepped up to comfort and entertain the boy.

"It was a bad situation," Summee said. "But I'm proud of the way we handled it as an organization."

Once he had the boy, Summee's first order of business was to get Antonio out of the stands.

He wanted to get him away from where his grandfather was being treated.

"With all the commotion, I wanted to get him out of there," Summee said. "I took him down to the concourse. He laid his head on my shoulder and asked, 'Is my Pawpaw going to be all right?' "

Summee knew by then the boy's grandfather would not recover.

"We didn't think we should be the ones to tell him," Summee said. "We didn't lie to him, but we thought his parents should tell him."

At one point, the child asked: "How am I going to get home?"

"I told him I'd take him home," Summee said. "But he knew his grandmother's name and phone number."

A call was made, but the boy is from Hamilton, and it would take awhile for his parents and grandmother to get to the ballpark.

Summee still wanted to get Antonio away from the stands, so he took him into the Reds' bullpen, where bullpen coach Tom Hume let him sit on the bench for the last two innings of the game.

Then Ken Griffey Jr. became aware of what was going on and took charge.

"Win or lose, he was coming in the clubhouse," Griffey said.

As the Reds wrapped up their 8-5 victory over the Braves, Griffey went to the bullpen and got the boy.

The players included Antonio in their high-five celebration. Then they took him into the clubhouse.

"We play a game," Griffey said later. "What he was going through doesn't compare.

"It was important that the little guy not be by himself."

Clubhouse manager Rick Stowe said the other players followed Griffey's lead and rallied around the boy.

"Jacob Cruz, Jason LaRue, Junior, they were all great with him," Stowe said. "They gave him bats, balls, wrist bands. Felipe Lopez signed the helmet he wore in the All-Star Game and gave it to him."

"Ken Griffey Jr. was extraordinary," Summee said. "He went completely out of his way to do everything he could."

Said Griffey: "We just tried to make a bad situation a little better."

God bless you Junior, we will never know how much you truly care....