Monday, November 22, 2010

Cherry Bomb

It's time for Don Cherry to remove himself from national television. If he's ever to be off the air in this country, it'll be because he removed himself or died. Somehow, the CBC, the great bastion of inclusion and diversity, misses the fact that it's paying nearly a million dollars a year to have Cherry advocate violence and xenophobia before an impressionable audience for ten minutes a week.

Cherry and his former acolyte, Mike Milbury (another one whose place on prime time is mind-boggling, but for other reasons), are the last two talking heads doggedly repeating the importance of fighting in hockey. Most others, at this point, realize fighting is getting kind of silly. It doesn't really help turn the tide of a game and it's putting players at risk of pointless injury. Some good teams aren't even bothering to carry a "fighter" anymore. Yet, Cherry continues to insist fighting is important in the game, and that any decent fan loves it.

The xenophobia is a more serious matter. From "Chicken Swedes" to his disdain for Quebec-born players, whom he compares to the dreaded European interlopers who steal the jobs of "good Canadian boys," he condemns anyone who plays the game in an "un-Canadian" way.

The problem with the things he says isn't that he says them in the first place; this is a free country with the right to speak freely, after all. The problem is that we pay to keep him on the air and say these things to a national audience, largely made of young hockey players, and they listen. Some of the things Cherry says, "respect the troops," "behave like a gentleman off the ice," and "don't dive to draw a call," are all unobjectionable. However, when he starts ranting about the benefits of violence or his disdain for "foreigners," viewers wince in the knowledge that kids are absorbing what he says.

Just, for a moment, imagine Cherry's comments in any other context. Think about a teacher or coach standing before a group of children and exhorting them to violence, or to disparage another because he's "different." Schools and sports teams spend a lot of effort making sure that kind of bullying is kept to a minimum, not actively promoting it. One might argue the Cherry comments are for a more adult audience, but it's hard to back that up when his rants are peppered with "all you kids out there."

And make no mistake, they are listening. Ask any pee wee player what Don Cherry says about fighting and they'll tell you a player needs to be a "stand up guy," "have his teammates' backs" and never wear a visor if he intends to fight. Follow an NHL player on twitter, and you'll see references to what "Grapes" would say about a certain behaviour. Sadly, although the outrageous suits, blatant leaf and Bruin cheerleading and deliberate mispronunciations of "foreign" players' names are relatively harmless, if irritating schtick, Cherry's message of intolerance is...well...intolerable.

His rant on Saturday night about how Mike Richards was right, and that P.K. Subban is "disrespectful," was more than a little over the top. Cherry gleefully took the opportunity to point out that Richards was merely supporting a comment Cherry himself had made a couple of weeks earlier, that "whatever his name is" needs to "tone it down" and be more "respectful" or someone's going to "get him."

While assuring the audience that there's something so wrong with the way Subban is playing that he'll be punished for it in an application of Cherry Code violence, he neglected to say what, exactly, Subban is doing wrong. Is he taking cheap shots after the play? No. Making inappropriate comments about opponents? No. Daring to be a rookie Montreal Canadien with confidence and buckets of talent? Yup. Adding to that a motor mouth that drives opponents crazy? Yes again.

What's so wrong about any of that? Subban yaps, but he doesn't gab and run. He was willing to put his fists where his mouth is when Richards turned on him last week, but Richards was the one who walked away and complained later. That Subban wasn't afraid of Richards should have pleased a guy of Cherry's sensibilities.

Cherry doesn't like the Canadiens. They represent French Canada, they play a low-violence, skilled style and they beat him mercilessly when he coached. He also doesn't like "foreign" players. I don't want to believe any kind of racism is inherent in his comments, but when he rants irrationally about the play of a kid of colour, it raises the question. If he doesn't want people to ask it, he should be much more clear when vehemently condemning a player who appears to have done nothing egregious.

If he'd said, "this is what P.K. Subban is doing wrong, this is why he's not respecting his opponents," then we might have understood what he's talking about. As it stands, we were treated to a semi-coherent rave about Subban's "disrespect."

The fact that he seems incapable of explaining himself logically or reasonably is reason enough for Don Cherry to remove himself from broadcasting. And if he won't do it, the CBC should.


Anvilcloud said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't understand what the heck this respect thing is all about. If you ever figure it out, be sure to let us in on it.

Howard said...

It's not the first time Cherry has put his foot in his mouth. The thing I don't understand is why HNIC management continues to tolerate this nonsense. If he wants to rant let him produce his own show and go on cable if anyone would be desperate enough to broadcast it. The CBC continues to promote this garbage in the interest of ratings. It's hard to fathom the contrast between the intelligence of an Eliot Freedman and the insanity of Don Cherry. I watch a lot of sports and I've never seen anything like it. Hope I never do again. What can we do? Write to our MP? Is the CBC still the 'peoples' network? Who pays the bills over there? You'd think that that kind of xenophobic ranting would raise the ire of the CRTC. Time for people to take responsibility for facilitating the actions and words of Don Cherry!

Ayiio said...

Cherry is a racist Xenophob stuck in the 50's idiot who still let his grandma dress him .
He's clueless regarding hockey played after 1968 .
I personally hope Subban call him out and rip him a new a hole .

Anonymous said...

Cherry's an idiot. But if CBC is willing to keep him there for making bucks then we should be aiming our angst at the network instead. Let's go even further and say that if Canadians tolerate this and don't protesting then it's our own damn fault.

Canadians put up with a lot, they prefer to be in denial, bury their heads in the sand, in a way; they don't like to complain and this the result. Some idiot like Cherry blasting his version of reality in our living rooms while our kids pick up his opinions and views. It becomes a vicious cycle. I blame the Canadian population for being wussies.

Solution? Start a petition.

Anonymous said...

CBC want a guy like that for viewer statistic only not for intelligent comments.

The proof, for the first time this year I zap to see his comment and I was sure he will comment on P.K. and Richards struggle and he said exactly what I think we can wait from him, nonsense.

I agree he can say things like that on a blog but not on National TV or maybe CBC put the NHL and Wrestling show on the same level ???

Anonymous said...

Reason #1 why Cherry will not be removed, this blog post will probably be the most commented one for your site. All the intelligent and witty, great pieces you have written will not receive the same response as a single post about Don Cherry.

Statement 1 in my after game call to my dad: "Great game, I wouldn't mind watching a couple more like that". Second: "Don Cherry has to go".

3 topics from Saturday night that just leaves me shaking my head:

1) Subban...the whole thing, I'm not getting any deeper.

2) After Maclean announced the 3 stars and the screen was fading to commercial, Cherry pipes up "Halpern? What'd he do?". Dominant in the faceoffs, excellent on the penalty kill, never made a bad decision all game, and scored the game winner...short handed, off a faceoff he won.

3) He declared the game as the best game the leafs played all season and had it not been for Price they deserved AT LEAST a tie. Now I'm not paid millions by the canadian broadcasting corporation to be an astute hockey analysis but I did not see a team in blue and white that should have scored more than one goal. Yes Price robbed Bozak. And Spacek slid a loose puck under Price. But Gustavson played an unbelievable game. Yet no credit from Cherry. Turn the puck over 40 times, unable to make a tape to tape pass, not force any pressure on the PP, this is not the formula to win (or get AT LEAST a tie). The Habs had more shots, won more faceoffs, had more hits, played smarter while displaying greater speed. Their breakouts were talked about all night, even Gally had compliments. But Cherry thinks the leafs played their best!

Oh well, Go Habs Go! Same type of effort tonight against the Flyers. Speed and the simple, smart play.

Anonymous said...

Don Cherry?
Canadians love that guy. Every other Canadian I talked to over the years LOVES him. When you're French Canadian, you would just hope he did not exist. Chery, Royal Canadian on Air Farce, indeed. The CBC is also a fantastic website to get Leafs games broadcasted too. There are 6 teams in Canada but they relentlessly put the miserable Leafs , year-in, year-out, on the air. Gimme a break.
Great article JT as always.

Greetings from the other side of the pond


DB said...

Over the years I've enjoyed Don Cherry because he would speak his mind and he had some good insights into the game. I didn't agree with everything he said, but who ever agrees with everything someone else says.

However, over the last few years my views on Don Cherry have changed. He's become a caricature of himself and is now well past his best before date.

His suits now look like they were made out of curtains from the 50s or 60s that he found in his basement.

He spends too much time stroking his own ego by showing clips from old Coach's Corner that "prove" how smart he is or that he was right about a particular player.

He is hypocritical. He condemns players who publically complain about their ice time or the performance of teammates, but doesn't hestitate to complain about his lack of air time or what he has to put up with from his co-workers.

He is unprofessional. Cherry and the highlight clips never seem to be in synch. How hard can it be to know which clip is going to be played? Even Tie Domi could get the clips right in his merciful short stint on TSN.

He has turned Coach's Corner into his bully pulpit on non-hockey issues. I watch HNIC because I want to see a hockey game and listen to discussions about hockey. I'm really not interested in what Cherry has to say on other aspects of life.

He is leaf-centric. I really don't care that he's a leaf fan (I do get a certain amount of schadenfreude from seeing his reaction when the leafs lose), but he spends far too much time discussing the leafs. The national game can be from Montreal or Ottawa while the Leafs will be playing the Islanders and all Cherry will talk about is the leafs. It is HNI Canada and not HNI Toronto.

The CBC won't fire Cherry because Coach's Corner gets good ratings. That doesn't mean we're going to have to put up with Cherry for several more years. CBC's contract for HNIC is up next year, I believe, and there are rumours that TSN and/or Sportsnet are going to outbid CBC for the rights.

Anonymous said...

Haven't listened to a word that moron has said for a very long time. I suggest that those of you who dislike him as I do, just mute the TV or switch channels or go get a beer. Nobody makes you listen to him. But it seems alot look forward to the controversy and enjoy the resulting bashing back and forth which is precisely why CBC gives him a million and will keep doing so as long as he generates so much interest.

Anonymous said...

Don Cherry is an entertainer first and foremost. He says outrageous things that keep viewers coming back for more. He is very, very good at his job.

The fact that most habs fans dont understand what his job is, makes them hate him.

Cherry's job is to make sure people don't change the channel between periods. That is all. Keep the viewers on the station.

Say and do whatever it takes. If CBC were to fire Cherry he would immediately be hired by TSN. It wouldnt even take till the end of the day. TSN likely has talked to Don and has an agreement in place in case CBC decides to pull a repeat to the Hodge affair. Cherry is a very valuable commodity.

All this venom is severely misplaced.

moeman said...

I agree 100% with J.T. except I'd rename the thread title 'Sour Cherry'.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the entertainment value of a flaming xenophobic auntie is too high, so don't expect the CBC to get rid of him.

I still don't get it, though. Why do Canadians love him that much? He never won anything, his theories and views on hockey are proven wrong again and again, he's rude, inconsequential, incoherent and an obvious hypocrite of the worst kind.

You just need to go back to his reaction to Dale Hunter's assault on Pierre Turgeon in 93. If it had been the other way around, he would have screamed murder. But no, Dale Hunter was just a victim of Pierre Turgeon’s goal celebration, the poor lamb. He totally glossed over the fact that Hunter blindsided a player a good 3 seconds after a goal was scored.

He'll keep protecting HIS boys (creepy...), meaning any cheap shot artist and no-talent plugger from anywhere west of the Quebec-Ontario line will have his 15 seconds of fame on HNIC after NOT celebrating his only goal of the season.

Oh well, here’s to you, Greatest Canadian ever #7.

Anonymous said...

Don is getting on. This happens. I never remember him being shy about his opinions. I think it isn't necessary to infer what he meant. Phone and ask. He will tell you.

(Now there would be a blog. Just don't let him know you're a Canadiens fan;)

I find Bob Cole much more annoying. At least Don is generally talking about the game we watched.

Don though, like a lot of us, often forgets that ice time has a big part to play in stats. When a player's ice goes down so do the stats. PK is getting a lot of ice for a young fellow in his first NHL season. So PK is suddenly in your face, it is a surprise, and PK simply hasn't been "paying his dues". Neither did Stamkos. The league will catch up to PK or PK will catch up to the league. Either way this is a 20 game issue that won't exist when folks start talking Calder.

Anonymous said...

I think Don Cherry should be careful or someone's going to "get him".

I also think that CBC outta play fair. If it's so important to CBC to keep Cherry (for entertainment value and making money) then at least balance the act by having another guy or gal, sit there with him (and I'm not talking Milbury or that other guy that was his punching bag), but literally someone raunchy, dirty and in-your-face like Cherry but has the opposite views. Someone who loves the Habs, loves foreigners, hates fighting...get my point?

C'mon CBC, play fair.