By Jason Menard
Does Don Cherry really have to be our standard-bearer for free speech in this country? And what does it say about us as a country when we fail to be outraged at borderline-racist comments, but a seven-second delay sends us into a tizzy?
As a result of his latest verbal assault against Europeans and French-Canadians, Cherry’s Coaches Corner segment is now subject to a seven-second delay, wherein some unfortunate soul has his or her finger on the trigger, waiting for the volatile Cherry to say something inappropriate. I’d hate to be the one doing that job.
So now Cherry, instead of being exposed as the ignorant buffoon that he is, now is at the centre of a cause célébre – pardon my French – and what he says is now obscured by the discussion of his right to say it.
Let’s put things into perspective here. Cherry has become nothing more than a shameful self-parody. Instead of using his high-profile, national forum to effect meaningful change to a game we all know and love, he has to continually one-up himself on a weekly basis. He absolutely has to be outrageous and controversial, but not for the sake of making a point, but rather to cover up his total lack of substance.
The plain fact of the matter is that very few Canadians take Cherry seriously. Some will watch and laugh at his bombastic antics, so may agree with certain aspects of his weekly diatribes, but few would consider him an authoritative voice on the game.
Much like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Elizabeth Taylor, he’s no longer famous for his contributions to society, but rather he’s famous for being famous. Honestly, how many people – especially the newer viewers to Hockey Night in Canada – actually recall his coaching career when compiling a list of his attributes? Outrageous jackets, yes. Starched collars, sure. Dog named Blue, OK. A stint behind the benches of the Bruins and Rockies? Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
The scary thing is that the majority of Canadians have become desensitized to his xenophobia. We laugh it off and say, “Oh, that’s just Don being Don.” And that’s easy to say when you’re on the English-Canadian side of the fence. But his shtick doesn’t carry the same weight elsewhere. Having lived in Quebec for a number of years, I have seen first-hand that Cherry’s anti-French and anti-European diatribes elicit anything from minor annoyance to – and this is worse – a confirmation that these are obviously the opinions of a majority of English Canadians because they don’t bat an eye when he says these things.
Just think of the emotions that get stirred up when someone from the U.S. slights our beloved nation. We become outraged and lament the opinions of these ignorant Americans – but by our support of Cherry, are we any worse?
But despite all of this, I don’t believe Cherry should be censored. In fact, I do believe we need people like this in our world so that we can point at them and mock them mercilessly. We can sift the sewage out of their bombast, hold it up for examination, and expose it for the ignorant drivel that it is. It’s more dangerous to allow these sentiments to fester in private, where they can grow to a disproportionate size. This is the beauty of free speech – we can all share our ideas and have them subjected to public scrutiny and analysis to highlight both the flaws and strengths of our ideas.
However, I don’t think our nation’s publicly funded broadcast network should necessarily be providing a five-minute stage dedicated to an individual who goes out of his way to alienate an important segment of our Canadian cultural mosaic. But, unlike Cherry, I refuse to pass judgement on the rights of others to watch what they choose. And I don’t think mass censorship is ever the right solution.
In any case, I have the greatest time-delay device at my disposal – my remote control. I watch hockey for the love of the game, not to see the pathetic attempt of an increasingly irrelevant talking head struggle to stay in the public consciousness.
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