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The Curse of the Magic Donkey
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The Curse of the Magic Donkey
By Kelly Frank

I've come to the stunning conclusion that I'm cursed.

Its not a painful curse...just more of an annoying one. For several years, I've tried to ignore it, but time and time again it rears its ugly head and reeks havoc to its latest victim...a victim that I unwittingly introduced "it" to.

I am of course speaking of "El Curso del Burro Magical," loosely translated to "The curse of the magic donkey." The curse has been known to create turmoil, misfortunate, and ultimately cause the demise of any sports team that makes the mistake of hiring me.

Don't believe me? Well, let's look at the facts...

The first sports team I ever worked with was known as the Florida Thundercats. They were the newest member of the league that in 1998 was known as the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL for short). It was an indoor soccer team that played at the arena formerly known as The National Car Rental Center.

My tenure there was short...very short. I worked only three games as a water/towel/"assistant to the trainer" girl before the PR director that hired me quit, and I lost my only ride to the arena. After my brief encounter with the team, it promptly folded at the end of the season. The Thundercats were so broke they even sold off their faithful mascot "Kumba" to work in the auto factories of Detroit. A few years later, the league itself "restructured," eliminated all but six teams, and renamed itself the Major Indoor Soccer League.

After my time with the Thundercats, I was soon involved with two other local sports teams. The first was the Florida Bobcats, an Arena Football team that was playing in the same arena as the Thundercats. The first season I worked as a game day assistant, running contests, picking contestants, and doing whatever grunt work needed to be done. Surprisingly the team lasted two more seasons amid rumors of being sold and moved to Minnesota. Those years I was Blitz the Bobcat, a hydrocephalic gerbil looking mascot. The team was actually purchased by the same ownership that owned the Florida Panthers hockey team. It looked like things were going well for the ‘cats, and there was even talk of me getting a new, non-gerbil looking bobcat costume.

And then...it struck again. The Arena Football league decided to do what Major League baseball was threatening to do and "contract" four teams (isn't "contract" just a euphemism for "folding"?), and naturally the Bobcats were one of the four. But hey, at least I got to keep the costume. Maybe I'll be a freelance gerbil mascot someday.

The other team that I was simultaneously involved with was the Miami Fusion Major League Soccer team. With them I served as a a secondary mascot performer, doing numerous community appearances and occasionally games when the main guy couldn't. After 3 seasons they too were "contracted" by the MLS despite the fact that their final season brought them only one goal away from the MLS championship game.

Not able to sell soccer in South Florida?? Must be "El Burro" at its dubious best.

Undaunted, I looked for other sports teams that would take me on. In 2001, I started an internship with the Orlando Miracle WNBA team, which involved all the usual "pleasantries" of being an intern AND the added joy of making over 90 community appearances as their mascot, a blue donkey looking thing with wings. During this time I also worked a few games as a game night assistant to the Orlando Solar Bears and did a couple of appearances as their mascot. The Solar Bears, after winning the championship for the first time in their 6 year history, not only folded, but the whole LEAGUE folded as well.

The following season I returned to the Miracle, now no longer an intern/donkey, but as a full fledged donkey. I was Star, the Miracle's mascot. Now I did all of the games in addition to the numerous community appearances. And wouldn't you know it...after hiring a new coach, bringing in over 10k for their home opener, matching their best record for a season, and being eliminated from playoff contention only by the virtue of "the tie-breaker," it was announced that the team would cease operations, and move elsewhere. All staffed was released. I was even asked to turn in my very own donkey costume...then they said I could keep it...then, opps, no wait we need it back. I'm told they sold Star to the glue factory...<sniffle>

It might be worthwhile to note that the Miracle are the ONLY team in the WNBA's history to be relocated. Heck, the Charlotte Sting lost their NBA team and they're still around. The Detroit Shock who have the worst attendance in the league have signed on for another year. The WNBA is even dedicating itself to saving the Utah Starzz, a team few Utah-onians even know exists.

There was one "team" that I worked with that has not folded. It was the University of Central Florida. After my year of being a mascot for them, they are still in operation. And yet, I wonder if the curse didn't have some effect on them. The pride and joy of the UCF football team, former knight Daunte Culpepper, has gone from pro bowl appearances to being routinely booed by his own Minnesota fans. The creators of the Blair Witch project, UCF's other alumni claim to fame, are reportedly bankrupt after being unable to match their earlier success. And it might be noteworthy to point out that UCF's cross state rival, the University of South Florida, has a football program that is in only its 6th year and has already outdone UCF is almost every way.

Of course, all my evidence is purely circumstantial, anecdotal, and totally based on what I think.

But I'm with a new team now...I'm working in sports again...and the team has no idea what type of baggage they brought on when they hired me to wear their fuzzy mascot suit. We'll see. Perhaps "El Curso del Burro Magical" will strike again.

Thanks to Kelly Frank for her time and efforts. 

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