Amalie Arena – Hillsborough County – Monday, 4.29.2019
During the NHL post-season, Anheuser-Busch released a promotion targeting the Tampa Lightning, teasing that, “If they win the Stanley Cup, a beer will be released titled ‘Bud Lightning.’”
Well the greatest team in the history of hockey was swept in the first round of the playoffs shortly after that. Fans still reeling from the loss want revenge, and are taking out their aggression on this Bud Light promotion, claiming it “cursed,” the players.
“It was too much pressure!” Screamed Frank Delgatto. He kicked a trashcan and hurt his foot. “They were the best! We were supposed to win the cup! But Bud Light had to go and jinx us by saying we’d get a beer named after us if they won!” He gave the middle finger to a Budweiser billboard. “F**k you Budweiser! I loved you!” He threw a half-full can of Bud Light to the pavement.
“We need justice,” said long-time Lightning fan, Leslie Wilmington. “It’s not fair! We deserve to win! We’re real fans with real feelings,” her fake nails fell off while talking to me in a very animated way, “And we deserve the attention! I want attention and validation for not doing anything!” She threw a molotov-cocktail through a S.W.A.T. vehicle window. Her heels got dirty. “F**k, my heels!” She shouted. “These are expensive!” She punched a car window and it shattered everywhere.
As I made my way through the burning city streets, Downtown Tampa in ruins, I saw what looked to be a tent-city under a highway pass. A man motioned me to come into the tent. Quickly. I try to hurry and run into the tent as fast as I can.
“Shhhh.” He whispered as he put his finger over my mouth. “Don’t talk too loud, they’ll know we’re in here.” The man pulled back his hobo hood to reveal he is one of the star players for the Lightning.
“Wow! You’re one of the star players for the Lightning!” I said. He then opened his stance to reveal behind him the entire team sitting in a circle around a garbage-can fire. “Oh my Gosh!” I gasped, “The whole team!”
They all give me a sad head-nod acknowledgment, and continued to stare at the fire. “We don’t know what to do,” The star said. “All of our friends are like, ‘oh it’s fine, things happen, it’s ok,’ but I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice that they’re disappointed in us, and there’s nothing we can do to make it better.”
I continued to listen. “Everyone can act like it’s fine, and that there’s always next season, but we’re professional athletes,” he banged on his chest, he was still wearing pads under his hobo robes. “We love to win! We want to win! We just… we just… I don’t know, it wasn’t our time I guess… All we can do is go out and give 110% for next game.” He caught himself slipping into post-game interview mode, and turned his face away.
“It’s not Bud Light’s fault. Sure, we all dreamed of chugging Bud Lightnings at MacDinton’s as everyone cheered and we’d hook up with young college girls and models because we’re famous for winning our sports games, but that’s not why we lost. We just…” Suddenly a hole was torn through the giant tent-camp, and a gang of rioters busted through with torches shouting profanities.
“Mother F- wait a minute…” The head rioter stopped. “You’re the team…”
Everyone fell silent, the fire continued to burn in the garbage-can and the torches, the slow, loud, crackling being the only thing heard by all in the vicinity.
The silence lasted for at least 15 seconds. Then a small boy rioter, with a broken beer bottle came forward. “It’s not your fault.” He said through his dusty paper-boy cap. Tears began rolling down the stars’ face. He hugged the little boy. Everyone in the riot, gathered around their hug to form a giant group hug.
During the group hug, one of the rioters torches tipped the end of a low-hanging Budweiser banner, and it immediately went up in flames in a theatrical fashion.
A light laughter began amongst the crowd before erupting into a full on hysterical caucus. Players, fans, adults, children, laughing and hugging and crying, all staring at a giant flammable Budweiser banner wildly dancing through the night sky, quickly crisping up into thin black filaments which disappear into the clear night sky.
As the banner incineration completed, the crowd laughter died down and the masses were silent once again. The boy looked at the team. Then turned to the star. “Will you guys still play again next year?”
The star took a long pause and put his hand on the boys shoulder. “Yes… Yes we will.”