BLOGGERNAUT: ’71 Argos Get The Doc Treatment From TSN

 Toronto Filmmaker To Chronicle Their Exploits As Part Of TSN Grey Cup Documentary Series

Joe Theismann and Leo Cahill

Those fabled and fabulous swashbucklers known as the 1971 Toronto Argonauts are getting together for more than just old times’ sake, this summer. An upcoming reunion of coach Leo Cahill’s stylish and swaggering crew will form the backbone of a movie that will be part of an extensive stroll down the CFL’s memory lane.

As part of its celebrations to commemorate the 100th Grey Cup, TSN has commissioned 8 documentaries, by 8 esteemed Canadian filmmakers, including Christie Callan-Jones, the Toronto director at the helm of a film whose working title is: “Mavericks: The Story Of The 1971 Argos.”

“I have a huge passion for football movies and stories,” Callan-Jones told me as we chatted after TSN’s announcement reception. “It’s a dream for me to do a football film. Especially the ’71 Argos. I mean, they lost (the Grey Cup Game) and people still remember them. That’s crazy. So, that’s a testament to the coach and to this crazy bunch and to Toronto. For me, it’s been so much fun.”

Still early in the process of shooting and putting the actual film together, Callan-Jones has already come to gain a certain affinity for the team, after doing an extensive amount of research and a number of interviews with the 1971 alumni. The energy she has for the project is clearly tangible, as she talks excitedly about moving forward.

“I’m actually bringing back a lot of the players for a reunion that we’re going to capture,” she said. “It’s sort of the ‘over-arc’ of the film. That’s going to be pretty amazing, to capture that energy. I can’t wait.”

July 7th is the date of the get together and Callan-Jones is counting on a big turn out with some of the mainstays and main characters of the team attending.

Joe Theismann’s coming back and Jim Stillwagon and Jim Corrigall, and Leo Cahill will be there. He was really the ‘Krazy Glue’ that held them together. It’s going to be awesome. And Tricky Dick’s coming from Manila,” she added, with enthusiasm, at the thought of Dick Thornton making the 13,000 kilometre trip.

Undoubtedly, Callan-Jones will get some colourful and contemplative comments during the reunion, to go along with interviews she’s already completed.

“I’ve done a ton of research. I’m still very early on in the interview stage. I’ve interviewed Bill Symons, Dave Raimey, Mike Eben, Gene Mack….”

Next on her movie to-do list was to head for Tampa Bay, to talk with friends and relatives of the late Leon McQuay, who was at the centre of the Argos’ story in so many ways. A rookie sensation in 1971, it was McQuay’s fumble late in the Grey Cup Game that helped the Calgary Stampeders salt away the victory.

The Documentarians: Callan-Jones is front row, right. -TSN Photo

Callan-Jones, who’s built a reputation as a socially conscious documentarian while tackling topics such as anorexia, stereotypes and homelessness, has always wanted to do a sports movie. With TSN executives deciding to have football-related stories told by filmmakers who don’t necessarily have any strong attachments to the sport, her chance came.

“Ever since I saw ‘The Natural’ as a kid, sports stories have spoken to me,” she said. “Triumph, redemption, I think, really, that even if you don’t understand sports, everyone gets that.”

“This is a story of stories,” she said about the ’71 Argos. “Football is the subtext. Football is sort of the canvas upon which you can tell these very human stories.”

While the on-field exploits of the 1971 Argos are well-documented, Callan-Jones’ film is likely to centre more on the men who wore the uniforms, as opposed to what they accomplished during the regular season and the playoffs. That’s because of the  mesmerizing hold the personalities of the players had on the city of Toronto and the role they played in the shifting attitudes of a changing city.

“Really, it’s a story about the times; the crazy 70’s, the city coming into its own,” Callan-Jones began. “But, also, it’s about a unique bunch of characters who were really, really close, beyond just being teammates. They spent their time together off the field. There’s something that bonded them that, even 40 years later, many of them are still really good friends.”

The ringleader of the Argos of the day was, of course, head coach Leo Cahill. Callan-Jones doesn’t underestimate the role he played in the formation and fostering of those special personalities and relationships.

“A lot of credit has to go to Leo. In many ways he built a team that reflected Toronto. Toronto was no longer ‘Toronto the good,’ it was becoming a world class city. It was really changing. Then you have this team that had been so terrible for so long. Starting in 1967 he, whether it was a conscious decision or not, built a team that reflected not only his personality but also that of a city. They both had swagger.”

“They were the team everyone loved to hate, the city everyone loved to hate and  it was this perfect marriage that, I think, could only have happened in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was a magical time. I don’t think you could ever have that again.”

It’s an essence that Callan-Jones will be trying to capture in the film.

And one that might just be relived a little, when the 1971 Argos ride back into town this July.

 

[button link=”http://www.argonauts.ca/writer/landry” window=”yes”]TO READ DON’S COLUMNS AT ARGONAUTS.CA, CLICK HERE[/button]

[button link=”http://www.cfl.ca/writer/landry” window=”yes”]TO READ DON’S COLUMNS AT CFL.CA, CLICK HERE[/button]

 [button link=”http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/eh-game/tsn-producing-eight-documentaries-commemorate-100th-grey-cup-220403682.html” window=”yes”]TO READ DON’S COLUMN ON TSN’S DOCUMENTARIES AT YAHOO! SPORTS, CLICK HERE[/button]

 

 

 

ESPN Runs For Cover Over Lin, Bretos

The sports anchor made a mistake. But not one that deserves punishment.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I’ll just bet that phrase has been uttered by every right-minded broadcaster in the history of the media that have carried every unscripted utterance, every slip of the tongue, every idiotic statement and every unforseen double entendre ever propelled into a microphone.

ESPN Anchor Max Bretos: Have some sympathy.

Say it again, brothers and sisters of the congregation, because another has fallen.

In the case of ESPN vs Linsanity vs bad puns gone wild vs Max Bretos, Bretos is the one getting shafted.

Shafted by his own bosses, and shafted by a large public element that fails or refuses to see alternative theories to, or plausible explanations for, Bretos’ now infamous and unfortunate choice of words in questioning an analyst about a drop off in the play of New York Knicks’ rookie sensation, Jeremy Lin.

ESPN’s suspension of Bretos is the source of my objection and concern here. The firing of an on line editor is another story and I’ll get to that later.

But first, Bretos.

You’d be correct in feeling that asking about a “chink in the armor” in Lin’s play is not at all an appropriate choice of phrase when speaking about a man of Asian descent. At least I hope you would.

Unless I miss my bet, I’ll wager a few bucks that Bretos would agree.

I don’t know Max Bretos. Not at all. So maybe it’s my folly to conclude that he’s as horrified by his choice of words as anybody else, perhaps even more so. If not, however, you can be assured that ESPN would have gone beyond suspending their man for 30 days. They’d have fired him outright. Instead, they opted to slide their dutiful employee under the proverbial bus, for what might very likely be nothing more than an unfortunate confluence of using a perfectly acceptable and often used phrase within a context that immediately made it mean so much more than it usually does.

Have you never used the phrase? I have, often in my career as a broadcaster and writer. As I mentioned, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice of words to be used when questioning the suitability of one’s continued battle readiness.

For those who don’t know, and I can’t believe there are really that many, a chink in the armor means a crack or fissure, a weakness on an opponent. Suffer a chink in the armor in the “olden days” and you were likely to have enemies aiming their lances directly at it. Fast forward to modern sport and it’s a turn of phrase you’d have heard over and over and over again. After the Green Bay Packers stormed out to a 13 and oh start, did their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs suggest they had a chink in their armor?

Pretty pedestrian, in that context. A cliché, really. Clichés get to be clichés by being spoken again and again and again. That means they can fly out of one’s mouth at any given moment without dutiful thought. As well as automatic, time-worn intention.

New York Knicks’ star Jeremy Lin has been slighted. Just not by Max Bretos.

Entertain, if you will, the notion that not everything that passes a broadcaster’s lips is perfectly crafted, planned and executed. That’s hardly a stretch, right? Ever say something in the spur of the moment that was, in almost immediate hindsight, idiotic, just plain stupid or could easily be construed as rude, obnoxious or even racist? Me, too.

Once, while manning the microphone for a Toronto radio station’s morning show, I was talking about the power of a rather large African-American athlete. I blurted out, “Yup, he’s a big boy…” with absolutely no racial overtone implied. I knew what I really meant (I’d used the term “boy” or “young man,” or “kid” dozens and dozens of times before when talking about white athletes) but was petrified by what the perception could be in this case. I’d barely gotten the words out before I started to realize how they might incorrectly be taken. 

Quite frankly, I rather doubt that Bretos purposely chose to use that phrase in a way that would be insulting to Lin, or anyone of Asian descent. If he did, I’d wholeheartedly agree with the idea that he be taken to the town square and pelted with rotten tomatoes. Or at least the modern age equivalent, be roasted on Twitter.

No, I’ll bet that Bretos just trotted out a familiar phrase, with the usual sporting context as backdrop and before he could possibly connect the dots on the racial implications, the damage was done. This was not a scripted portion of the show, remember. This was a live Q and A session where the broadcaster is usually left to ad lib the questions and conversation.

For ESPN, this is all about saving face and ensuring they can properly manage the amount of damage that their vaunted brand will suffer in the wake of this scandal. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.

If Bretos is a good man and a valuable employee, his network should have rescued him from this embarrassment, not added to it. If, in their investigation into the faux pas, they discovered that this was just a slip of the tongue as I’ve described it, they ought to have issued a statement of support for Bretos, with an explanation. If their interrogation of Bretos led them to believe that he did it on purpose, they should have fired him. They didn’t, so what are we to conclude?

As for the on line editor, as I hinted, that’s a different story. The headline was concocted, the column designed, the picture of Lin added and then it was published. Time there for thought and filtering. The employee who let it happen either thought it was funny or lacks the editorial judgment that I’d insist upon when keeping someone at the helm of my global news service for any amount of time.

As for Bretos, I can sympathize. But luckily, at least so far, only to a point.

[box border=”full”]To read: “140 Character Assassinaton,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Don Cherry: You Should Be Thankful For Him,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Secrets Of The Media Lockdown Room,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “The London Rippers and Political Correctness,” click here.[/box]

Transit City: The Musical!

I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines while everybody else gets into the fun of musical theatre.

They’re making millions and those of us who don’t dip into the ever-growing and lucrative world of the old soft shoe and warble are suckers.

There’s a “Shrek: The Musical,” for God’s sake. Only a matter of time – mark me – before we’re enjoying the elevated buzz around opening night of  “Flashpoint: The Musical.” Hell, Hugh Dillon will probably write the music himself.

Stintz and Ford: Another title could be “A Streetcar Named You’re Fired.”

 

However, long before we get to that, we shouldn’t look past the incredible drama and intrigue that is Toronto’s own city council. Lots of meat on that bone, even if the gravy’s gotten scarce.

Divine inspiration struck me as I watched the unfolding events down at the ol’ clam shell on Wednesday. As wave after wave of venom-filled tweets from both sides of the debate electrified my brain, I had an epiphany.

“Transit City: The Musical.”

Oh, baby. Ka – friggin’ – ching!

‘This idea’s too good not to have an exclamation point in the title,’ I thought. And so was born:

“Transit City: The Musical!”

Political intrigue. Backstabbing. Quickly unfolding drama. This can easily be translated to the stage. And will be, once Garth Drabinsky gets out of jail and is looking for the next great thing.

What follows is a general overview of my vision for Toronto’s greatest homegrown musical.

As far as casting, I’ve already nailed down my principal players. I need the mayor and his brother, as well as a TTC Chair.

Brent Butt will play Rob Ford. Gerry Dee will play his brother Doug. That’s perfect casting. Use your imagination. And we’ll use hair and make-up. As well as prosthetics, if need be.

Their signature number will come in a scene where, just after coming to power, they hatch their plan to ditch former mayor David Miller’s Transit City initiative. The scene is punctuated with their duet treatment of an old Spoons’ chestnut, with a slight twist:

Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo…. Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo… broooooomaaaaantic traffic….

Butt’s big dramatic solo moment will come later in the show, when Transit City is revived by council vote. It’s at that point that I see him making his way to downstage right, and sitting with his legs dangling over the edge. A single spotlight trained on him, he forlornly sings The Doors’ “The End.”

Sheila McCarthy: A better Karen Stintz than Karen Stintz.

Playing TTC Chair (for now) Karen Stintz, I’d like Sheila McCarthy. Only she could bring the complex mixture of strength and weariness so crucial to the multi-layered role of a woman who is conflicted by past alliances with a man she’d previously been devoted to, and her burgeoning ambition. She’s basically the Brutus to Rob Ford’s Caesar. (Mental note: Should we re-imagine this play as being set in Roman times? Brent Butt and Gerry Dee would be hysterical in togas.)

It HAS to be Sheila McCarthy. Realistically, Reese Witherspoon could carry it off, too, but, c’mon, we need to keep spending under control. If we can’t get McCarthy, I’d be happy with BT’s Jennifer Valentyne. She’s delightful.

I haven’t quite worked in a David Miller part just yet, but I know it’s essential. When I get a handle on that, I’ll approach veteran actor Michael Murphy to do it. Great actor. And look at him! That’s David Miller!

Let’s see, what else have I got?

There will definitely be a “West Side Story” type of number in there, probably to close the first act. A Sharks versus Jets thingy. Subway advocates against LRT lobbyists. It’s here that I envision a bit of a Ford-Stintz romantic tension undercurrent.

I hope to build in a gaggle of journalists, who can push the narrative with the odd question for each of the main characters. That’s where I’ll be able to invite crowd-pleasing Toronto news celebrities to do quick cameos, like in The Nutcracker. Peter Mansbridge. Lisa LaFlamme. Gord Martineau. Somebody From The Weather Network.

It’s a work in progress, so be gentle with critiques of this treatment. We need to workshop this puppy a bit, preferably at a place that’s not easy to get to by public transit. Soulpepper would suffice. Are you interested, Albert Schultz? I’d even let you play Giorgio Mammoliti, if you’re willing to go there as an actor.

I envision casting changes, rewrite after rewrite after rewrite, and impatient third party investors wondering when the hell this thing is going to actually hit the stage. If ever.

That only seems appropriate.

[box border=”full”]To read “The Mammoliti Gambit,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Rob Ford and Mary Walsh: Do Two Wrongs Make a Funny?” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Jim Flaherty’s Budget Speech Translated,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Unveiled: Top Secret Rookie MP Guidebook,” click here.[/box]

The Gist Of It – December 7, 2011

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Don’t be fooled by Don’s friendly demeanor. If you make fun of Andy Williams there will be hell to pay.

This week on THE GIST OF IT, Bill Hayes and Don Landry get all Christmassy and stuff. Don smokes a pipe through the whole thing, to feel more like Bing Crosby. Bill wears a dickie under a thin synthetic sweater, because he loves Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation. Among this week’s topics: Christmas music and the money it makes, the scourge of the phrase “Happy Holidays,” Alec Baldwin’s reported airline meltdown, those Commies also known as The Muppets, and blocking idiots on Twitter.

Segment 1 – Bill trots out his exceptional skills of poetry to salute Herman Cain’s departure from the American political landscape. He IS gone, right?

Segment 2 – The guys explore the possibility that the Muppets are dirty Commies. Plush puppets of the proletarian struggle. Beware of soft, cuddly Bolsheviks, people.

Segment 3 – Oh, Alec. Alec Baldwin is kicked off an American Airlines flight. Embarrassing for him and embarrassing for the other Baldwin brothers, who we assume were right there in their jobs as baggage handlers.

Segment 4 –  Why is blocking a jerk from your Twitter account seen as some kind of unfair censorship? Shouldn’t you have the right to revoke a person’s right to send you insulting messages? #whateverdude

Segment 5 – Okay. Here’s where we start to get Christmassy. Complaining about too much Christmas music too early? Liar! You love it. Bill has data to prove it. This is also where Bill almost meets his maker because he shoots Don a look of scorn when the name Andy Williams comes up.

Segment 6 – Don and Bill argue over the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Bill thinks it ruins Christmas. Don thinks it’s much ado about next to nothing.

Segment 7 – A teacher in Michigan got into trouble when she changed the lyrics of “Deck The Hall,” when having trouble keeping students from giggling when they got to “gay apparel,” in choir rehearsals. Went with “bright apparel.” Uh-oh. It’s still okay to go “dashing through the snow,” isn’t it?

The Gist Of It – November 30, 2011

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Don Landry (L) and Bill Hayes discuss the top rock guitarists of all-time during a paid appearance at a Toronto high school sports banquet

 

This week on The Gist Of It, Don Landry and Bill Hayes marvel over the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens. Actually, they marvel at the fact that people would line up to be the first in. As well, they discuss the Leafs’ continuing good play, the Grey Cup Game (including Nickelback), Bill’s new favourite website and, once again, the never ending delight that is the Republican Party of the United States Of America. And they argue over Rolling Stone’s list of top 100 guitarists of all time.

 

Segment 1 – Hey, a new grocery store has opened at Maple Leaf Gardens! Don’t you wanna line up in the freezing rain, overnight, so you can be first in?! Us either.

Segment 2 – The Toronto Maple Leafs. If you’re waiting for them to slip back into the pack, mightn’t you be waiting in vain?

Segment 3 – The Grey Cup Game. Don spent a week in Vancouver and gives you his impressions of the game, the festivities and a theory as to why Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca got into that dust up.

Segment 4 – Want substance? Depth? Then, why are you listening to this podcast? Actually, Bill has a good website for you to check out.

Segment 5 – Rolling Stone’s list of 100 greatest guitarists. They got number one right, but after that? Not so much.

Segment 6 – Try as they might, Bill and Don just can’t take their eyes of the Republican Party. Bill worries about America’s future. Don doesn’t think any of these candidates are worth worrying about.

The Gist Of It – November 16, 2011

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This week, Bill Hayes and Don Landry take a serious run at NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. No worries, they know the guy handing out suspensions would allow them to, without penalty. Bill wonders if people may be treating Penn State’s Mike McQueary a little too harshly.  As well, there are light hearted discussions about Rob Ford’s ballet career, Herman Cain’s, well, “Herman Cain – ness,” and whether we’re seeing the first few crumbles at the beginning of the fall of the Facebook empire.

Let’s just put NHL goaltenders on the “Endangered Species” list and have done with it.

Segment 1 – The guys ask the question: Are you sure you know exactly how you’d react if you walked into that infamous shower at Penn State?  [button link=”http://www.donlandry.com/2011/11/former-argo-givens-in-a-penn-state-of-shock/” window=”yes”]To read Don Landry’s column on former Argo and Penn State linebacker Reggie Givens, click here.[/button]

Segment 2 – Occupy Toronto. Should demonstrators be kicked out of their tent city at St. James Park? Wouldn’t they be better off moving around anyway? And Don sings some Gordon Lightfoot.

Segment 3 – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford joins the National Ballet of Canada. Obama takes out crocodile insurance. And, who wants to lead the federal Liberals?

Segment 4 – Herman Cain. The comic gift that just keeps on giving. He should get paid for almost single-handedly writing The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Segment 5 – One of Don’s friends has decided to quit Facebook. Don’s thinking about it, too. Is Facebook’s time starting to fade?

Segment 6 – Boston Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic gets a walk after running Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller, and both Bill and Don think that’s unacceptable.

Segment 7 – Toronto Star reporter Dave Feschuk called Leaf goalie James Reimer’s mom to get a story. Is that okay?

The Gist Of It – November 2, 2011

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This guy, America? Really? Really??

This week Bill Hayes and Don Landry play verbal ping pong with some wide-ranging topics: The CBC’s anniversary and its ongoing funding, quarterback headhunting in the CFL, the hilarity that is Herman Cain’s presidential campaign in the U.S., Raffi Torres’ Hallowe’en costume, Kim Kardashian’s divorce, the World Series and Queen Victoria’s underwear. That’s right. They go there.

Segment 1 –  Don describes some of the celebrity trick-or-treaters that came to his door Monday night. And the guys talk about Raffi Torres’ Jay-Z costume.

Segment 2 – Bill talks about his high school’s 75th anniversary reunion. Bet the class of ’36 out-partied everyone.

Segment 3 – The CBC. On the day of its 75th birthday, the guys discuss its relevance. In a folksy, Stuart McLean fashion, though.

Segment 4 – The CFL suspends Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Johnny Sears for one game after he drilled Argo quarterback Stephen Jyles in the head. Warranted? Bill says “hell, yeah.” Don’s a little surprised by it. As well, they talk about the twitter fallout from the whole sordid affair.

Segment 5 – The World Series and its fabled Game 6: Beauty, or beast? As well, is Tony LaRussa a genius?

Segment 6 – Herman Cain. I mean, are you serious? What the hell is wrong with the Republican Party?

Segment 7 – The big finish. Quick thoughts on Tim Hortons and its menu changes, Queen Victoria’s undergarments and Kris Humphries.

The Gist Of It – October 19, 2011

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This week, Bill Hayes and Don Landry sink their teeth into a wide range of topics. Bryant Gumbel’s comments about racism in NBA collective bargaining, the lack of focus in the Occupy Toronto protests, even Shia LaBeouf’s reported troubles in Vancouver. As well, they discuss the accomplishments of the late columnist, Earl McRae, and  argue over whether an elderly barber in Nova Scotia should get more money from a guy who bought his antique hockey stick from him.

2 Mill for this hockey stick? Wonder how much the snowshoes are worth….

Segment 1 – Bryant Gumbel. Racial overtones in NBA collective bargaining? Nonsense.

Segment 2 – “Occupy Toronto.” What the hell are you trying to say?!

Segment 3 – Don Cherry’s apology. Arron Asham’s apology. And complaints that the NHL is turning into a touch hockey league.

Segment 4 – The plight of injured Leaf Centre Tim Connolly and the hot start for Phil Kessel.

Segment 5 – A Nova Scotia barber sold an antique hockey stick to someone for a thousand dollars. Now, it’s been appraised at 2 million. Should the buyer share the profits? Bill says: “Tough luck.” Don says: “Pony up the dough.”

Segment 6 – The great Earl McRae. Don and Bill share warm memories of the columnist/broadcaster who passed away last weekend. And some funny Earl stories, too.

Segment 7 – Trending on Twitter. Is that ever good? Not for Shia LaBeouf.

The Gist Of It – October 13, 2011

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This week, Don Landry and Bill Hayes wrap their noggins around such conversational topics as Don Cherry, the Blackberry crisis, the best movie tough guys and the dysfunction of the Boston Red Sox. In honour of the remake of Footloose, it’s an all singing, all dancing edition of The Gist Of It.

Who doesn’t love a guy in a jacket like that?

Segment 1 – A quick hello and update on Bill’s basement.

Segment 2 – “Bombs Away:” Don sets his sights on Blackberry whiners and Bill can’t find a book he really, really wants.

Segment 3 – Don can’t believe Bill thinks Jason Statham should be mentioned in the same breath as Clint Eastwood.

Segment 4 – Grapes. Bill thinks Don Cherry’s dangerous. Don tells him to relax about it.

Segment 5 – More Cherry. Should he be allowed to continue? Is Ron MacLean the real culprit?

Segment 6 – The collapse and housecleaning of the Boston Red Sox: Don declares that the dysfunction of the team should have been remedied long before the exits of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.

Segment 7 – The boys want people to stop tweeting every little thing and focus on quality.

[button link=”http://www.donlandry.com/2011/10/don-cherry-you-should-be-thankful-for-him/” bg_color=”#666666″ window=”yes”]To read: “Don Cherry: You Should Be Thankful For Him,” click here.[/button]

Don Cherry: You Should Be Thankful For Him

The Don Cherry haters are out in full force. Off with his head, they cry, or, at least, off with his mic. But here’s the news for Don Cherry bashers:

You should be thankful for him.

That’s right, thankful. While the progressive thinkers and modern hockey sages knock him down and drag him through the dirt, demanding that he be removed from the air, while they expend vast amounts of energy decrying his continued presence during their precious intermission time, while they pound the desk and turn beet-red and wail about the damage he’s doing to the forward march of hockey’s continued emergence from the dark ages, they are missing an obvious point. That Don Cherry is helpful to the cause.

Because here’s the great irony about Don Cherry’s notorious rant during Thursday night’s segment of Coach’s Corner:

It will accelerate hockey’s march towards improved player safety and intolerance for cheap shots and fisticuffs.

Don Cherry: He's actually doing you a favour.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, your great distaste for Don Cherry’s views on hockey. Let’s put aside the supposed issue of whether he should be allowed to “sully” the good name of the great tradition that is Hockey Night In Canada. None of that matters when it comes to the changing face of hockey’s physical contact rules.

Instead, let’s focus on what today has brought, in the wake of Cherry’s unabashed tirade against a gentler brand of pro hockey.

Yes, the usual outlets for discussion have been mobilized to talk about the issues of head hunting and pugilism in the NHL. Nothing new there, as there is an ongoing conversation about the state of the game and where it’s going at the sports media outlets. But check the level of vigour, intensity and frequency of these discussions. Amplified greatly in the wake of Cherry’s latest assault on progress.

As well, you’ll hear this discussion on non sports outlets as well. Jim Richards, at NEWSTALK 1010 made room for a conversation with former NHL enforcer Chris Nilan, amidst the usual current events and pop culture fare he offers on a daily basis. And this on a day where there’s no shortage of provincial election subject matter. (Note: while Richards booked both Nilan and Jim Thomson, he informed me after this blog was posted that both were no-shows)

So, what we have here, is a real spike in the conversation about the state of hockey. Born in discussions about the relevance and appropriateness of Don Cherry’s performance and standing, the back-and-forth invariably turns to tangential issues. Issues that have nothing to do with Cherry, and everything to do with player safety and where the NHL is headed.

Cherry’s strongly worded condemnations of the sport becoming too kind, too gentle, should be welcomed by those who oppose him. Because every time he overpowers even his own previous outrageous diatribes, it is met with an equally, if not more, powerful response in opposition. It’s a chemistry that jolts the conversation forward in leaps and bounds.

Ask yourself this question: Do you think Don Cherry is a buffoon? A clown not worthy of being taken seriously? Do you believe what he stands for is damaging? I’d argue that you can’t have it both ways. If Cherry is to be ridiculed, he is not to be taken seriously. Therefore, what he says isn’t nearly so damaging as you might think. After all, he isn’t going to sway you to his side. It’s also a given that you can’t sway someone who believes what he says to be the gospel truth, to your side of the equation. That part of it is a wash.

What we are left with is the malleable undecideds. Tell me, does it strike you that moderate people can generally be convinced to shift to the reckless fringes of any issue? Or are they more likely to be turned off by heavy-handed rhetoric. If it’s your kids you worry about, maybe you can keep them  from watching the “funny man in the crazy clothes.” If not, you should be able to easily combat the weekly lessons you fear they may be taught by counteracting them with lessons from the one person your kid really aspires to be like: You.

Think Don Cherry shouldn’t be allowed to “peddle his poison” on national TV? Wrong. He has a right to state his opinion. You have a right to state yours. But it is a widely held and cherished notion that we do not muzzle a Canadian’s right to his or her opinion and thoughts, unless they reach the pernicious threshold of mongering hate or discrimination. Cherry’s opinions on hockey fall far short of that and should not be the subject of banishment discussions.

Don’t like Don Cherry? Hit one of the buttons on your clicker when the time comes.

And rest assured that he’s actually doing you a favour by providing a loud,  provocative counterpoint to the glacial advance of change in the NHL.

He makes that glacier move much more quickly.

[box border=”full”]To read “Hockey Night Or Election Night? Both!” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “140 Character Assassination,” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Hockey Canada’s Headshot Rules: Necessary Medicine?” click here.[/box]

[box border=”full”]To read “Gary Bettman’s Winnipeg Quotes Translated,” click here.[/box]