The Love Song of J. Alfred Fan

(With sincere apologies to T. S. Eliot.)

Così tornavan per lo cerchio tetro
do ogne mano a l'opposito punto,
gridandosi anche loro ontoso metro;
poi si volgea ciascun, quand' era guinto,
per lo suo mezzo cerchio al'altra giostra.

So, still repeating their despiteful song,
They to the opposite point, on either hand,
Traversed the horrid circle; then arrived,
Both turn'd them round, and through the middle space,
Conflicting met again. (Dante)

Time to go, then, don't you think,
While the Zamboni smooths the ice upon the rink,
Like a patient waitress, polishing her table;
Let us go, through crowd-congested streets,
The deep bass thumping beats
Of restless SUV's in left turn-only lines
And sawhorse barriers with detour signs.
Signs we follow like merging congregants
Towards the south side entrance
To lead us to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask me, ``Who will win?''
Let us buy our tickets and go in.

In the Garden patrons come and go
Talking of Tuukka and Zdeno.

The yellow-and-black-garbed home team fans
The yellow-jerseyed folk in the upper stands
Lick the mustard from the corners of their mouths
Linger on the foaming heads of beers in cups
Let fall upon their feet some popcorn from a carton
Slip past their seated neighbors, checking ticket stubs,
And seeing that the game is soon to start
Settle deep into their seats, and look around.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow-clothed fans to slip back out,
Rubbing their hands on little napkins;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a second round of beer and cheesy fries;
There will be time to moan and chant and sway,
And time for all the calls and plays to come,
That lift and drop the crowd along it's way;
Time for you and time for me.
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred woulda, shoulda's,
Before the end of period three.

In the vault the patrons come and go
Talking of Milan and Zdeno.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ``Will they go?'' and, ``Should I go?''
Time to watch the gloves fall in the air,
To see the swinging partners, always pairs --
[They will say: ``He brings an emotional game!'']
The jersey up above the head, the head, down low,
The arms windmill around, but not too many blows--
[They will say: ``Bad call -- he's not to blame!'']
Do I dare
Disturb my friends?
In a minute there is time,
I'd better go before the period ends.

For I have known them all already, known the calls:
Seen them go into the box with no repentance,
I have measured out my life in PK minutes,
I know the divers dying with a diving fall
Instigators facing even stronger sentence.
            But will they show some sense?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are striped and raised up high, unfair
[And icing calls are not so very rare!]
(Is it that fragrant biggie nacho
That makes my stomach rumble so?)
Arms that hold a fighting skater, or clarify a call:
      So do I go and stand in line?
      Or stay and watch the game?

Shall I stay, and yell and shout and sing
And watch the goalie come out from the pipes
And holler ``oh!'' when the biscuit dings, and ricochets away?...

Maybe I'll buy a big foam claw
And wave it in the air to cheer the B's.
            . . . . . .

But the playoffs! The season sailed so well!
Better, faster than before,
Well coached ... and skilled ... and no malingerers.
A goodly run, cheered on by you and me.
Then came injuries, stretched too thin upon the ice,
Not enough to force the moment to its crisis.
But though I have wept and chanted, wept and prayed,
Though I have called for heads brought in upon a platter,
I'm no Edwards -- and my emails won't be answered.
I have seen the moment of their greatness flicker,
I have seen the Hockey Gods withhold their gift, and snicker,
Seen Bruins Nation (curse the Habs) betrayed.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After a season lost, a summer's rest, no games,
Among the present fans, among some talk of who's to blame.
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off discussion with a smile,
To have squeezed my body past the others' knees
To stumble toward the aisle, apologize,
To say: ``I am sorry, but I really gotta go,
Can I get you something more? You want a super-size?'' --
If one, dropping empty wrappers on the floor,
      Should say: ``No, not for me, thanks,
      Don't need anything at all.''
            . . . .

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
To miss the draw, and the monster save, and the boarding call,
Miss the fight, and the whistle, see the goalie stand and take a drink --
And this, and so much more? --
It is impossible to know when I should go!

But if the jumbotron threw the highlights on the screen:
Would it have been worth while,
If one, raising arms high, or throwing down a hat,
And turning toward me glowing, should say:
      ``You missed the whole thing,
      you missed the greatest goal of all.''

            . . . .

No! I am no super-fan, nor was meant to be;
Am just an average patron, one that will do
To swell a wave, start a chant or two,
Advise the coach; or call the ref a fool,
Obstreperous, glad to make some noise,
Impetuous, I sing a jeering song;
Full of loud language, pumping up the boys;
But at times, please don't get me wrong --
I need to go and get me some more fuel.

If I go ... If I go ...
But will the line that I join move too slow?

Should I have made a funny sign? Painted my face in team design?
I will sit and watch, and wait for NESN's break
and duck out when the ice-girls start to skate.

I do not think that they will skate for me.

I have seen them moving smoothly on the ice
Ponytailed, pulling cans of shaved-up snow
By the door where players come and go.

While I linger in the chambers of the rink
The ice-girls leave, the clock begins to roll--
A rising siren sounds: I missed the goal!