At this point, no one truly expects brevity from an Oscar winner or accuracy from Don Cherry, the bard of Hockey Night In Canada. In the past when the septuagenarian provocateur has wandered into a verbal mine field, CBC execs would shrug their shoulders and say that, “Don is an entertainer, not a journalist”. (Even though Rick Mercer is a CBC entertainer who takes pride in accuracy.)
People laughed. Fair enough.
So we shouldn’t have been surprised on Saturday when Cherry did his annual tribute to the clean-cut youth of Canadian hockey, one of the standard bits in his Coach’s Corner repertoire. (Like Henny Youngman’s “Take my wife. Please.”) We saw pictures of well-scrubbed kids in ties with beaming smiles offered as the paragon of virtue. What’s not to like?
Then Cherry did a nifty switchback, using the image of the wholesome kids to say that hockey doesn’t have any drug problems and that the athletes of the NBA, MLB and NFL have a stench next to the “breath of fresh air” from hockey kids.
We’ve been down this road before. Many times. And it’s always wrong. Inconvenient for Cherry’s narrative, hockey’s drug problem is as recent as the accidental overdose from Derek Boogaard in 2011. Regrettably, the league’s rehab department has no shortage of clients. And the NHL has done no drug testing in the postseason or off-season, the period when players would most likely be juicing.
So the drug claim is specious. As well, there are thousands of great role models in other sports, men who are a credit to their families and community. As it is every time he trots it out for public viewing, Cherry’s argument is as flimsy as his own NHL career.
The issue is not Cherry’s accuracy, however. That horse left the barn decades ago. The issue is the integrity of CBC. In the hours following Cherry’s jeremiad there was no attempt by anyone on the network to clear the record. Starting with a mute Ron MacLean on Coach’s Corner, a succession of so-called experts on the network declined to correct Cherry’s patently false comments about drugs in hockey.
His defamatory comments about athletes in the CFL, NFL, MLB and NBA were likewise allowed to stand. When we woke up Sunday, the network itself took no steps to distance itself from Cherry’s inanity.
People ask why we return to this issue, suggesting we have a vendetta against Cherry. That we’re jealous of his popularity. The reason we revisit the Cherry phenomenon is the policy of CBC, which takes full advantage of Cherry’s celebrity to its own benefit. But it accepts none of the responsibility for allowing their star to spout nonsense and reconstruct the truth to suit his agenda.
It’s not flattering for a corporation that gets all touchy whenever someone suggests the Canadian people not fund its work any longer. And where many of its own employees work hard to support the truth.
”@dowbboy Know CBC will say it's just Don, he's an entertainer etc. But isn't there one person at CBC who thinks accuracy on drug claim is important?”
That rush of wind you felt late Sunday afternoon was not a front passing through. It was Las Vegas exhaling as Danica Patrick failed to win the Daytona 500. While many in the racing world were rooting for Patrick to win The Great American Race and erase the memory of Saturday’s nasty crash, the folks who set odds in Vegas had all their chips pushed in against her winning her first NASCAR race.
Patrick was once a 75-1 long shot to win Daytona before she captured the pole position for the race. Even after winning the pole she was a healthy 18-1 as the race took the green flag. Patrick was heavily subscribed by the public at those numbers as the race began. A win was going to leave a mark. A big mark.
Then Patrick ran with the top pack coming down the final laps at the Speedway. So when she ended up eight (the highest finish ever for a woman driver at Daytona) Vegas exhaled. The lights could stay on along Las Vegas Boulevard for a while longer.
BOYS OF SUMMER
The long, languorous baseball season is all about subtle charms. After a winter of snow and ice, just the sound of the pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt on Saturday during the Blue Jays spring opener is a tonic for a weary Canadian.
So was the patter between Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler on Sportsnet’s broadcast. While it sounds banal, a conversation about Toronto switching its farm team from Las Vegas to Buffalo transported us to June and a soft summer breeze.
“@dowbboy Good jawbone w/ Buck Martinez, Pat Tabler about advantages of Buffalo vs LV as AAA farm team. Stadium, weather, more appeal for FA pitchers.”