SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 26: Linesman Mark Wheler #56 tosses a dead Duck off the ice during the game between the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 26, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Ducks won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
[Ed. Pro Tem Note: Jen has asked me to prepare a eulogy for the duck that met its end at the hands of a Sharks fan recently]
"...He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good."-W.H. Auden
And so we lay to rest Howard, a true and faithful San Jose drake, survived by his three ducklings, Hugh, David and Louis, and his loving wi-duck, Webigail.
Born in Sunnyvale, Howard was a true South Bay sports fan, in that he preferred the nearby HP Pavilion to actually attending games in real Bay Area cities. He did, however, intend to become a real 49ers fan when the team relocated to Santa Clara and an Athletics fan when that team relocated to San Jose. But now, those hopes of uniting his armchair fandom with the financial struggles of teams that once made their homes in real Bay Area cities will never be.
Howard was murdered this past Christmas, Shanghai'd into sacrificing himself for some cryptic symbolic gesture by a morally bankrupt Sharks fan (Ed. pro tem note: pleonasm). Indeed, the stark tragedy here is that we have no idea what tossing a dead duck upon the playing surface signifies. In a sport where such acts are usually reserved for the postseason, specifically a team-unifying rally (toy rats in Florida) or the classic reference to the '8 wins to the Cup' (octopi in Detroit), the logical meaning of a dead duck eludes us.
Was the symbol a parallel to the Red Wings' octopus, each of Howard's two legs representing the two wins that San Jose notched over Anaheim in the playoffs? That trope seems oddly timed. I would say that it's a reference to how many Conference Finals wins the Sharks have amassed in their history, but they've actually managed a whopping three (averaging one per series!), not two. Did Howard's corpse signify the end of the Ducks' season? In a December game against the second-worst team in the NHL, that statement hardly justifies a demonstrative exclamation point.
I say, no. We should not try to understand it any more than we try to understand how thousands of adults could mime the jaws of sharks on every power play without the aid of hard liquor. This ritual, like that one, was likely dreamed up by a pair of undereducated and under-socialized San Jose State drop outs, who thought one day,
"Hey, you know what might really push Ducks fans' buttons?"
"Ha ha. You said, 'butt,'"
"Ha ha. Uh. Ohhh yeah. Heh. Heh. Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh."
"Huh. Huh. huh-huh-huh-huh."
This San Francisco native leaves you with the following sentiments: Poor Howard. And f*** San Jose, and everything that they have there.