Don Cherry proved one thing this weekend: he still has the ear of people in Canada and hockey fans across the United States and Newfoundland.
Upon Grapes' contention that female reporters shouldn't be allowed in NHL locker rooms, thousands of tweets and statuses and ragedumps erupted across both Canada and the U.S., all infuriated by what the long-time CBC commentator had said. It's pretty rare that you don't see more than a few trolls rallying against whatever the universe's outrage du jour, but 95 percent of the people I read had approximately the same reaction as Don's broadcast partner, Ron MacLean.
You've probably already seen the rant, but well, if you haven't here it is.
I'd like to directly address this before we talk about the larger point I'm getting at here. I'm not angry that Don Cherry said women don't belong in the locker room. This is mostly because any moron -- even the knuckle-draggers who most fervently listen to Cherry -- almost definitely know that saying someone shouldn't be allowed to do their job just because of their gender is wrong. I think even the dumbest of the people watching that video know Grapes is out of line and more than a little silly for saying this.
Don Cherry seems to think that an NHL locker room is a bastion of boys being boys and dongs flapping in the wind. Not true in today's league. As someone who has covered the New York Islanders and their opponents this season, I can say most players are already in workout clothes by the time the press arrives (since these athletes are nuts and they work out after games) or, at worst, in a towel. The only time I ever saw an uncovered NHLer was when I saw the rear end of a Florida Panther, so it doesn't even count.
Also, this isn't exactly the first time Cherry has singled out women at hockey games. Check out this bizarre rant from years ago.
Oh, and here's this gem from his tenure as the coach of the Ontario Hockey League's Mississauga Ice Dogs.
True story: Don Cherry once tried to have me banned from the Hershey Centre after I wrote his players thoughthe was a poor OHL coach.— Sunaya Sapurji (@sunayas) April 28, 2013
So most people know Don isn't exactly the most progressive fella. My biggest problem was when he went on about how women "aren't equal, they're better!" That, to me, is Cherry trying to cover his ass by paying cheap lip service to women and it's a bunch of total nonsense. In fact, it's probably even worse. When you suggest that women aren't equal -- that they're either less than or, perhaps worse, to be pandered to -- and you think they should be treated differently, you're sending a terrible message to the young boys who, sadly, are probably watching at home. It's less objectionable in "mainstream" society and therefor probably not being talked about.
We really need to start wondering why we still care at all about this man, though. Don Cherry has gone on for years and years, and he's gotten wronger and wronger about issue after issue after issue. I think I can count hybrid icing as the only thing most normal fans agree with him on anymore. As the years go on, he gets more and more xenophobic, more and more afraid of the ever-changing world around him. That said, week after week, you see his segment make news across social media and the blogosphere. Even if it's just as simple of "get a load of what Grapes wore this week!" we have a troublesome obsession with this strange, elderly, irrelevant former coach dressed up as a pimp every Saturday night.
A lot of people excuse it by saying "Hey, he's old school! He just says whatever he thinks! It's refreshing!" I read this just last night:
Love Don Cherry. Folks say they hate him and don't watch him but they DO watch him and they DO talk about him and they DO write about him— Ryan Fabro (@RYANFABRO590) April 28, 2013
He will be who he is til he's gone. Then you'll say you're happy bout it.Then you'll realize how much fun it was when he was there every sat— Ryan Fabro (@RYANFABRO590) April 28, 2013
And no, I didn't agree with him tonight.— Ryan Fabro (@RYANFABRO590) April 28, 2013
Ryan Fabro's an excellent fellow whom I've spoken to on a couple of occasions, but he's hit on something that kind of broke me on this one. Don Cherry just being Don Cherry isn't good enough for me anymore, you guys. I'm sick of the fact that he's "different" or "outspoken" being the reasoning behind his continued employment. That shouldn't be good enough when you say something that belittles the work of a lot of excellent journalists, and you routinely say things that are offensive to Europeans, people in the media with whom you have a personal beef, and good taste in general.
Nothing has been announced yet. No suspension or fine or even a PR-friendly apology. Grapes apparently won't be appearing on CBC's Playoff preview show Monday, even though he's on a promotional photo for it on their Facebook. That, to me, makes the message from the CBC loud and clear: it's Don Cherry, that's the way he is.
We need to learn to accept better from guys like Cherry and Skip Bayless and Rob Parker, who spout either outdated cliches or outdated world views. Somebody saying they're "just telling it like it is" can't be good enough anymore. We should be able to find sports commentary that's colorful and interesting without offending a large swath of people. This brand of bloviator needs to learn how to do it right or ship out.
Most of all, however, we need to just figure out how we can ignore Cherry, en masse, when he inevitably does this again. Don Cherry is the televised equivalent of that email you get from an uncle every now and then that just "puts it out there" that maybe there's proof the President isn't from America, or that "the government knew" about some awful tragedy. You've seen this sort of email. You mark it for spam and you get on with your day.
Hockey fans, and the sports culture as a whole, need to break their weird obsession with Don Cherry. It's the tree-falling-in-the-woods theory, but really, we're all so much better than hanging on his words to hear something that bothers us as much as a few words he said bothered me this week. The idea of there being a culture of outrage is one thing, but in Cherry's case, we need a culture where we all agree to go get a beer and keep the TV on mute while he's on until he is no longer around anymore.