The Mighty Ducks is kinda messed up
This is NOT the movie I remember watching
quack, Quack, QuAcK, QUACK, QUACK, QUACKQUACKQUACKQUACKQUACK
So went the chant of the Mighty Ducks. Remember that movie? I definitely didn’t until it randomly popped up on my streaming app the other day. It’s never been on my “must re-watch” list, but I figured what the hell, let’s lean into some nostalgia and give it a look-see.
This was a vastly different movie than I remembered.
Firstly, the kids on the team get very little screen time. I definitely remember them being much more important when I watched as a child. To be fair, I am probably mixing up memories from this movie with the remainder of the Mighty Ducks Trilogy. The first movie primarily focuses on the story of Gordon Bombay, a former peewee hockey player turned lawyer eventually turned coach.
And folks, Gordon Bombay is way more fucked up than I ever realized as a child.
It all stems back to this moment in his formative years:
The movie opens on this flashback sequence of him losing the Peewee Hockey League Championships. As you can see, he looks like he’s roughly 13 years old. Hey, kids lose games, right? Surely this won’t ruin his entire self-esteem for the rest of his life. I bet the adults in his Minneapolis suburb are totally well-adjusted and comforted him after the loss and don’t all still remember it and hold a grudge, right?
Wrong. They all remember and bring it up frequently throughout the movie. His mentor character hangs a picture of the loss on his wall, though they try to make it a teaching moment. The villain, his former coach, misses no opportunity to mock him for losing. The school itself, a perpetual winner, hangs their one singular second-place banner among all the others for no other reason than to make Gordon’s life a continual living hell.
Also, his dad died right after the championship too. Just another casual fact in the downward spiral of this guy’s life. What a tortured origin story. I can only assume his dog also went to live with the other team’s goalie, his mother tied her tubes to ensure she never made the mistake of having another worthless child, and his house burnt down but nobody in the town cared enough to even donate to the BBQ fundraiser. Disney probably just didn’t have time to show all of that.
The loss has clearly weighed heavily on Bombay’s life and is the driving force behind his career as a lawyer. It’s made very clear that he’s never lost a case because losing is for worthless losers whose dogs and towns hate them and he can’t face that scene. Of course, all of that stress and those expectations have added up. Within the first ten minutes he’s drinking and driving. In a kids movie. Very inclusive, since some kids definitely have alcoholic parents. It’s nice to see them represented on screen.
The movie continues on a familiar path. Bombay is ordered to perform community service and is told he will have to be a hockey coach. Naturally, he hates children and hockey and himself, so he doesn’t take to his new task with any joy. Instead, in some bizarre power trip, he has a limo take him to the frozen pond where the team plays and insists he drive it out onto the ice. The ultimate power move, available to both tormented lawyers and high school girls heading to prom.
Of course, he slowly comes around and starts actually coaching the kids and turning them into contenders. Throughout the movie everyone treats him like he was a gifted hockey god, destined for NHL greatness, who just hung it up. The dude was in PEEWEE hockey. Who knows if he ever gets better after continuing on. Most children don’t. Yet all the major figures in his life see no connection between him quitting and their incessant bullying.
Somewhere along the way, Coach Bombay also starts dating the single mother of one of his players, Charlie. The kid is desperate to have a father figure and, absent anyone else, Coach Bombay Sapphire while driving will have to do. It’s one of the blandest romances ever, the two of them begrudgingly going on a single date, and she has nothing to do with his actual redemption. It’s meaningless to the plot, possibly one of the emptiest kisses ever put on film.
The movie’s entire turning point centers on Bombay remembering that not everyone in his life was a complete dickhead. His dad told him everything was fine after the big loss and his teammates actually came and helped to cheer him up. Presumably his coach was at home beating up his wife or murdering goldfish because that guy was an asshole.
Eventually the team wins the championship, embarrassing Gordon’s former coach and cementing him as a redeemed human being, finally worthy of respect and adulation. It ends with him being invited to try out for a minor league hockey team, allowing him to pursue his dreams. Again, apparently he’s the secret hockey puck whisperer. Hasn’t played in years but now NHL feeder teams can’t get him on the ice fast enough. Given my skills as a tee ball player when younger, I soon expect to be fielding phone calls from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not because I was a great player, but because the Pirates are that bad and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this is their recruitment strategy.
Coach Bombay, happy for the first time in his life and on top of the world, quickly abandons the aforementioned love interest and her child to chase his dream. She truly meant nothing to him. I guess sticking around and being a good step-father wasn’t one of the messages in this particular film. I peeked ahead at the next part of the trilogy while writing this and Miss Bland is nowhere to be found. Her kid still plays on the team though. I guess she wasn’t amused by him choosing to abandon her like Charlie’s father did.
So yeah, you could say I had a different vision of this flick when I was younger. I misremembered the important plot of the movie; Gordon Bombay misremembered his whole life story. And it absolutely crippled him. The real lesson here (don’t focus on the abandonment one) is this: trauma can stick out way more than happy memories.
How often do we think about the past and all the ugly, unpleasant things that happened to us? I, for one, have an awful habit of focusing almost exclusively on these memories, to the detriment of my overall mental health. Sometimes, on particularly down days, the negative thoughts are the only ones I can recall.
I know I’m not the only one. We’re all guilty of this to some extent. Therapists have made an entire industry out of trying to help us deal with these things. It wouldn’t be that big if we weren't all doing it. Much like Coach Bombay, we all attempt to move on, pursuing careers or families or any other achievement to make us feel better. In the end, the answers were mostly inside of him, in unlocking the real memories of his past, rather than the stilted version his little electric meatball of a brain preferred to loop on repeat. All it took was some actual encouragement and support from the people around him.
The same is available to any of us, if we go looking for it. It’s hardest to go searching on those days when the peewee hockey championship is weighing on your brain but that’s probably the point when it’s most crucial to do so. In a way, Gordon Bombay’s story is a reminder of what can go RIGHT if we can just change what we’re focusing on.
Probably skip the drinking and driving part though. I doubt you need to do that to get the full effect of the lesson.
3 Funny Things
1 - Mid-Thirties
They say there’s a bit of truth in every piece of comedy. And it sure feels like that’s the case with this piece of crowd work. As a millennial fading fast into his mid-thirties, this one’s just accurate AF.
2 - If they poop…
As a law abiding citizen, I have so many questions. What’s the best way to sync my bowel movement schedule with my dog’s? Should I also try to bury my poop like some dogs do? What if I’m a dog walker with 5 different dogs - do I have to squeeze out at least that many little turds? What if my dog pretends to poop, then I get faked out and poop for real, but he doesn’t - does my dog have me get arrested?
3 - Nasty Bug
And just a silly little joke to round things out. I hope everyone has a great week! If you enjoyed this, please please please subscribe below or if you already are thank you thank you thank you and tell your friends!
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