Emilio Estevez. You either love him, hate him, are completely indifferent to him, are somewhat indifferent to him, have another unspecified opinion of varying nature about him, or have no idea who he is. He’s just one of those classic ’80s movies stars where there is no in-between.
You may know him from “The Breakfast Club,” or as Charlie Sheen’s less rehab-renown brother. But, if you’re like me, you know him mostly as “the Minnesota Miracle Man,” a.k.a. Coach Gordon Bombay from the best sports movie and worst Oscar snub of all time, “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”
There’s little doubt that Estevez inspired a whole generation of “Bad News Bears”-type hockey hopefuls and down-on-their-luck corporate collars fresh off DUI arrests through his genius portrayal of the great/fictional Coach Gordon Bombay in not just one, but three Mighty Ducks blockbusters nearing the blue line of the 21st Century.
He may have even influenced a whole generation of youth hockey coaches to allow their own ragtag bunch of latchkey kids to rollerblade through crowded malls without helmets or general adult supervision, and to just make quacking noises to solve heated arguments in tricky social situations.
But what you may not have realized is that Emilio and his feather-clad cohorts are also responsible for inspiring one of today’s emerging female hockey stars, in United Arab Emirates native Fatima Al Ali.
Rocking a hijab under her helmet, the 27-year-old Muslim puck prodigy may or may not have been exactly kosher enough for a Disney franchise back in the slightly-less-ethnicity-embracing ’90s (2017 being somewhat of an outlier here so far), but she still cites Estevez and the Ducks movies as one of her primary motivators in deciding to lace skate at the age of 7, back in the UAE.
Last month, Ali made the trip to the U.S. of A. to toss around those now-considerably-larger-sized skates with the Washington Capitals, where she spent the day with non-fictional bash brothers including Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, while at the same answering a slew of questions from a slew of alleged “fake news” outlets in flawless English, which she also attributed to her infatuation with hockey movies like “D2” during her youth.
Considering my own personal infatuation with the same movie franchise during my own personal youth, and my undeniable inclination for Flying-V references during my own personal non-youth, I, for one, would have personally enjoyed the chance at going Gonzo last month and sneaker-shuffling around the Verizon Center with the rest of the muckrakers in attendance.
That is, if only Ovie and Oshie would have actually bothered to send an E-vite my way and Point Tech Director Shaun M. Lambert would have actually let me check out the good camera for an impromptu trip over the bridge.
But even getting to experience the show second-hand through Tweets and timelines (2017 most certainly not being an outlier in this case) I still found the whole painfully-obvious publicity stunt cooler than the flipside of a Zamboni, for two reasons:
(1) I was previously unaware that there even was a country called United Arab Emirates, much less that they actually played hockey there.
(2) Being 2017 and given our current political climate and country’s apparent new outlook on immigration, painfully-obvious PR stunt or no, Fatima Al Ali isn’t just good for the sport of hockey, female athletes everywhere and the sales spike in vintage Disney VHS tapes — she’s good for the world.
If there was ever a time that the third rock on the Milky Way speed-dial needed a female Muslim hockey star to make her way to the limelight, that time is undoubtedly right now.
Whether we like it or not, and despite collectively trying to keep things as church-and-state as possible whenever possible, sports and politics have always and will always remain inseparable. The proof is in the pudding. Just look at what Jackie Robinson did for the color barrier, what Billie Jean King did for the glass ceiling, or what Colin Kaepernick did for me having to listen to Skip Bayless all the time last fall.
Like the “badly overrated” Meryl Streep at this year’s Golden Globes, or the badly overweight Marlon Brando not at the 1973 Academy Awards, celebrity status carries some serious clout when it comes to any issue, both political and non-political, so you can’t really blame them when they use that status to try to make the world, as they see it, a better place.
The way I see it, if America can hand over the nuke codes to a guy with a catchphrase, then we’d be coming across as pretty hypocritical, and quite possibly completely inept, if we refused to at least bend an ear when an NFL star wanted to weigh in on injustices concerning his own race, or when a WNBA star wanted to weigh in on misconceptions concerning her own gender.
Though she’s pretty fatefully primed for the political platform for obvious reasons, admittedly, Fatima Al Ali doesn’t really want to take the stage. She’s gone on record to say that, really — just like Emilio Estevez ditching his Brooks Brothers three-piece for a pair of rollerblades and gliding into D2’s Act III along a for-some-reason-desolate Malibu boardwalk (I’m paraphrasing here, of course) — all she wants to do is play hockey.
And I think that’s probably alright. Because even without having to shake things up on Facebook or kneel down during a national anthem, for all we know, right at this very moment, Ali could very well be inspiring some 7-year-old somewhere to shoot for something that the world told them could never be anything more than a Hollywood dream, simply by taking the ice.
Maybe that’s all the world needs from her right now anyway. Maybe we’ve got enough Skip Baylesses just talking and could stand to see more Fatima Al Alis just doing for a change. After all, the great Gordon Bombay himself’s best halftime speech of all time was simply: “Quack, Quack, Quack.” Then he just let them play. And in an ending so cathartic that it might have well have been scripted, who would have known that something so simple could end up being the thing that finally got the Ducks to fly together.
Cue the Cat Stevens. Cheese sandwiches all around. I’ve got a fresh pair of rollerblades to buy, a helmet to not wear and a crowded mall to find.