In a college newspaper several years ago, a good friend of mine wrote an article which drew a parallel between Canucks fans and battered wives. While crude and wildly insensitive to the plight of battered women worldwide, the content of the article has always stuck with me, ringing in my ears at the end of each disappointing season.
I won’t plagarise my friend’s article too much here, but basically the article posited that the relationship between the abused woman and her abuser was in many ways identical to that of this team and its fans.
For example, after an incident of abuse, the abuser will show up with a fresh bouquet of flowers, apologize and make all the necessary promises to re-ingratiate himself to his partner. “It won’t happen again! I can change, I swear!” he cries. The abused party, despite years of evidence to the contrary, and defying all logic, decides to believe the pack of lies, and does all she can to forgive and forget. She even makes excuses for her spouse’s behavior. “He’s just stressed out from work”, “he just drank too much”, etc. Sometimes she even begins to blame herself; “I shouldn’t have nagged him so much”, “It’s my fault for burning his dinner”, etc.
For the Canuck fan, this comes in a different form, but the basic idea remains the same. We hear the same old speeches, see Kesler crying on the ice, and we forgive. “he was playing hurt!”, “those darn refs screwed us!”,” I should have NEVER shaved my playoff beard early”, “Traveling all the way to the east coast! Those poor boys, let’s fix them a nice supper.”
I, for one, always forgive. I always have. I enter the start of each new season awash in the heady glow of boundless optimism. Remember when Steve Bernier was going to be the next Bertuzzi?, When Bure came back with #96 on his jersey?, When we got BOTH Courtnall brothers?, When Mess came to town? When TL came home? When we had Mogilny to AND Bure, and the cover of The Hockey News preseason issue had the Canucks skate logo with the skate rocketing out of the picture, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake? I do, and I believed it all.
That incorrigible husband of mine had clearly learned his lesson, and wedded bliss was juuuuuuuuust a few weeks away.
Then he dragged me out into the backyard in my nightgown and beat me down with the garden hose for smiling at the waiter at Applebees.
But this time he went too far.
Presidents trophy, Blackhawks monkey off our backs, Kesler dismantling the Preds singlehanded, Sharks in 5, up 2 games to 0 marching toward the Garden, cocks swinging in triumph. IT. JUST. STUNG. SO. FUCKING. BAD.
Something is different.
That old familiar Offseason hangover hasn’t worn off. I don’t want to talk about the Canucks, I don’t even want to look at them. People bring it up, I change the subject. Highlights on TV, I change the channel.
Memories of the Cup run that wasn’t run through my head, and suddenly I feel tired. I have to lie down. The room seems darker, the sky greyer. My team stinks and they will never win the Cup. I will have no respite from the incessant braying of Flames and Habs fans. I know this. It is only going to get worse.
Such is the extent of my mental anguish that it has given me pause to reflect. Did my friend, tongue planted firmly in cheek, all those years ago, see all this coming? Am I a battered woman?
So I began digging. I wanted to glimpse into the mind of an abused woman, in the hopes that it would shed some light on my current mental and emotional predicament.
I scoured the worldwide interweb for answers, and what I found was not encouraging.
I read about the concept of “Learned helplessness”, a theory developed in the 1960s using electric shocks on dogs. The dogs, who are repeatedly subjected to intense physical pain, which they can do absolutely nothing to prevent or stop, eventually just become accustomed to the pain and plummet into a deep depression.
Tell me if this rings any bells, Canuck Nation: “For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously learned that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn’t try.”
The scientists conducting the study drew the following conclusion as to how this behaviour pattern translated to humans:
People with pessimistic explanatory style—which sees negative events as permanent (“it will never change”), personal (“it’s my fault”), and pervasive (“I can’t do anything correctly”)—are most likely to suffer from learned helplessness and depression
Helpful? No. But interesting nonetheless. Am I suffering from “Learned Helplessness”? Have my beloved Canucks beaten and humiliated me to the point where all I have the strength to do is “lay down and whine”?
It sure feels that way right now.
I love my husband, and I take my vows seriously, but it’s hard to forgive him this time. I know he’ll show up at my door one of these days telling me he’s sorry and he won’t ever hurt me again. I hope I can believe him again, I really do. I hope I can believe him again, because when I believe him my heart soars. No one else can make me feel like that. I know he’s a good man, but he has to convince me, and there’s a lot to apologize for this time.
I’ll tell you one thing. When he does show up, he’d better bring more than a bouquet of Marco Sturms and a box of old Owen Nolans, or I’m calling the fucking cops.