As I step out of my car and look up at the old brick building one thought runs continuously through my mind what am I doing here? In my heart I know exactly what I'm doing here, but actually admitting it, to myself and to others like me seems a rather daunting task. Do I go inside to release my long-festering anguish and receive the support and understanding of my peers or get back into my car and drive off into the cool night with the belief that next year things will change? There really is only one choice and that is to climb the three cold cement steps into the building.
As I leave the elevator and enter the hallway of the third floor I see a sign with the acronym F.F.A. and a bold red arrow pointing left to a small dimly lit room. As I approach the doorway I can hear the din of voices discussing and comparing and dissecting their own tales of despair. I enter and am barely noticed until the group leader, Harvey, steps up to the front of the room behind a small microphone and waves for me to join him.
I approach the mic and Harvey, rather hairy for a full-grown man, puts his paw, er
arm around my shoulder and motions for the small crowd to silence.
"Uh, Hi," I manage in a somewhat cracked nervous tone. "My name is Geoff, and like the rest of you I'm a lifelong Flames fan."
As I manage a weak smile and a shallow tear the room erupts and the men & women of Flames Fans Anonymous welcome me into their world.
Now perhaps this scene never happened, maybe there was no old brick building, no small dimly lit room with men and women wearing jerseys with Plett and Reinhart embroidered on the back but what I can assure you is being a Flames fan has been anything but easy.
It is in essence an addiction.
Each of the past 13 seasons has started with it's share of new faces, new hopes and for that matter new jerseys (Note to Management: please stick with the current duds as they are by far the best in franchise history, and if you have a spare moment please burn all remaining jerseys with the inane angled line up the front). But when all is said and done the result has been the same out of the playoffs or better but only slightly, eliminated in the first round.
Now don't get me wrong here I love the Flames. I hopped on the bandwagon on October 9th, 1980 when the Calgary version of the Flames first hit the ice at the Stampede Corral with a 5 5 tie against the since past Quebec Nordiques. I caught the fever during the 1982-83 season following Lanny McDonald's amazing 66-goal performance. I've enjoyed every Battle of Alberta win, lose or tie, I admired the grit and all out determination of Gary Roberts' inspired comeback in 1995, and of late, Jarome Iginla's magical run to the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies last year.
On the other hand, I was also there when former Flames GM Cliff Fletcher fleeced his so-called prodigy Doug Risebrough in the infamous Gilmour trade, had my heart broken when the Canucks buried the Flames playoff hopes in double overtime in 1994, I was in the stands in 1995 in San Jose when the Flames choked on what should have been an easy win in game six and the first playoff series victory since winning the Cup, and I sat in my nosebleed seat well after the game in sad disbelief as the Blackhawks swept the Flames with a triple-overtime win ending the their last brief playoff run in 1996.
Who knows, maybe Cliff Fletcher sold his soul on that wonderful cup-clinching night in Montreal or perhaps a curse has been placed on the club by some ex-player who had his head checked into the mile-high boards at the old Corral one too many times whatever it is, the Flames and the playoffs have mixed like Eminem and Hilary Clinton for more than a decade.
So we're in this together then - you, the reader and I, the journalist. Here's to the next 13 years, may they be filled with goals, assists, shutouts, wins and hopefully cups, of the Stanley variety that is.
Now quiet down and pass the crullers, the annual Flames Fan Anonymous 50/50 draw is about to begin.