Remembrance day is always a sad day no matter what. Remembering such tragic events and that people had to give their lives for our freedom is pretty damn sombre. But then the news broke that Rogers was getting rid of Don Cherry. And while I want to do a bit of a tribute to a man who I view as the most entertaining hockey broadcaster of all time and a man who did a lot to grow the sport I love, there is also the other side to this. I’m probably way out of my lane on a lot of this and should keep my mouth shut. But like an idiot, I’m not going to. First things first, I want to talk about Grapes.
I got my first Rockem’ Sockem’ VHS (yes, I’m THAT old) from my Grandma Babb for my 8th birthday. To this day, I can quote the entire video. In fact, I’ve been wanting to start doing “watch-along” podcasts with different videos like that which are now on YouTube, and that will be the first one I do if or when I get around to it. Anyway, I obviously was well aware of Don Cherry before I got that video, but after I got that video I became a massive fan of Grapes. Coaches Corner became appointment TV for me on Saturday’s, despite not having the attention span to watch a full game (unless maybe it was the Oilers), I would know that Grapes would be on around 6:45 MST, and then starting in 1995 it would be around 5:45 MST (actually in that season and maybe 96 too, might have been 6:15 because I believe when HNIC first switched to doubleheaders they started at 5:30, not 5:00). My Grandma knew I loved the Rockem’ Sockem’ videos so much that I’m not sure I ever again got a different Christmas gift from her (she got me 2 for my birthday, but of course they were always released around Christmas). Even after they dropped off (around 7-10 they declined in quality), I’d still look forward to getting that gift, symbolic of one of my favourite gifts I ever received. And you’d always watch the latest one once. Even if they got bad, at some point on Christmas day (normally in that lull from about noon until 4 or 5) I’d be off to watch it with my brother, brother in law, nephews, whoever.
I’ve got his books, his videos/DVD’s, and watched Coaches Corner for years. In more recent years, I haven’t cared whether or not I watched Coaches Corner, because if we’re being frank, it’s declined. It’s what happens. It just was no longer appointment TV for me. Nothing wrong with that, and no doubt Don still had a big audience. Otherwise, he wouldn’t continually be brought back. But I still hold him in very high regard, have always understood that he shouldn’t have been taken overly seriously and that a lot of what he had to say was more schtick/brand than anything else. “But he said X” yeah, and why are you taking it seriously? He’s just being a loudmouth, that’s his schtick.
More than anything, Grapes reminds me of my Grandma who passed away a little over six years ago. So when he was fired, a lot of that pain came back.
Let’s be honest, people got “outraged” because it was Don Cherry, not so much because of what he said. I follow a lot of hockey analytics people on Twitter for example, and a lot of them seem to watch Coaches Corner non-stop because they hate what Grapes had to say on hockey. They wanted him fired, not because of anything controversial that he had to say, but because he had a different view of the game then he did. If they were being honest, they would say they just wanted him gone, they didn’t care how. In reality, they were likely the ones keeping his numbers up having far too little common sense to simply turn the channel. But there is this desire to silence anyone who disagrees with anyone in anyway (speaking of all people). And guess what? It’s working. Corporations are listening to this vocal minority. The “outrage” about this is no different than it was for the latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special. Is what’s being said truly offending people, or is it just that people are so thin-skinned these days that nobody can say anything? It’s the latter, without a doubt. People in general, no matter what your political affiliation, race, gender, etc need to get thicker skin. Too many people love to play the victim card. It’s something I talked to my psychologist about because I worry that I do it all the time. A shit ton of people LOVE to play that card and it is an awful quality.
So many people on social media love to look down on others as if they are so much morally better than everyone. I think of a guy like Bruce Arthur, who will go after people on Twitter he views as pieces of shit (for lack of a better term). Which is fine. I have no issue with that. But then you better be one damn good person. A lot of people act this way online. And you can tell with how they converse with people online that they aren’t. They actually seem like the complete opposite of that. Otherwise, why are you talking down to people no matter what the setting is? I’ve got into it with people online and more specifically on Twitter, and I’m humiliated by it. But I can at least say that I rarely do it, I’m not looking to do it as so many others are. They’ll talk in one tweet about how they’re anti-bullying, and then they are looking to intellectually bully someone. That’s not any better, jackass. I go back to Bruce Arthur, and I have no idea if Bruce is perhaps the best person mankind has ever known, he could be. But I do know that a day after he tweets #belletstalk, he is then looking to shout down or humiliate anyone who disagrees with anything he has to say. I know when I get humiliated in more of a public setting, there are times that I get embarrassed to the point where I go into depression. Do I “deserve” to get depressed? Do I “deserve” to feel worthless and have suicidal thoughts? Are there some people on social media who are pieces of shit? ABSOLUTELY. Is that everyone who might disagree with you? Hell no it’s not and some people just don’t know how to articulate their opinion well or maybe just are heated in the moment but are actually a good person. If you’re so much more intelligent than other people, how about we have the intelligence to know that you don’t know what might be going on in someone’s life and just walk away from it? Those people would likely say that people just need to be more educated. Well if I smack you in the teeth, shouldn’t you just hit a weight room or take some self-defence classes to fight back?
There are a lot of self-righteous people like I’m talking about above disgustingly dancing on the grave of Coaches Corner and claiming their reason is that Don Cherry would hurt people with what he would say. And that’s not untrue, I’m sure this and other things have hurt people. But they just want to use that as their crutch. They are the same people who wouldn’t be anything even respectful, let alone gracious, to people in everyday life. It’s all an act just because they believe it makes themselves look good. Scott Burnside from the Athletic wrote earlier today that Rogers should look at Christie Blatchford as a possible replacement for Don. Scott, you’re completely full of shit because the only reason you said that was to make yourself look “woke” to your readers (Scott also called for Ron McLean’s head in the piece, if you think Ron McLean should be fired from his job or that he’s ANYTHING other than one of the best people in the country, you should retire from writing because you are simply horrendous at your job). Jonathan Willis did the exact same thing when writing about the Oilers GM opening last spring for the Athletic. Fuck, Jon didn’t even mention the most qualified woman for the job!! The woman he brought up didn’t have anything close to the qualifications for the job, and meanwhile, Meghan Chayka (sister of Coytoes GM John Chayka) was more than qualified and he didn’t bother to mention her. If you MUST attempt to sound woke, AT LEAST get it right!! That’s how you know these guys don’t actually believe what they’re saying. I’m a guy that has ZERO issue with women getting roles predominately filled by men. Could not care less who might occupy a job. Gender, race, age, doesn’t even slightly matter to me. I simply have one ask for any person getting any job: They’re qualified. That’s it.
Back to my point here though which is looking to legitimately be a good person and not just act like it.
I know for myself, I look to beat people to the punch with politeness. I think of anyone in the service industry, and how I’ll try to tell them to have a good day before they can say it to me. Why? Because I worry that others might not, and they are essentially forced to do that to customers, no matter how those customers might treat them. I’ll look to hold doors open for people, and I’ll never forget the elderly man at the EPCOR offices in Edmonton 15 years ago who I did it for who was ELATED that I did that and exclaimed to me “apparently chivalry isn’t dead after all!” I laughed and said “oh thanks” and then proceeded to go back to my apartment, go to excite.com, and look up what that word was he used…because at 20 years old and taking broadcasting, I didn’t know the word chivalry. Look, am I a hero? Of course. But do I brag about it? No….Seriously though, I don’t think I’m any kind of “do-gooder”. I can pick apart a ton of things that I do wrong or should do better. But common courtesy things like holding doors open, telling people to have a good day, showing respect by always shaking someone’s hand, I look to do non stop because you never know what someone might be going through and how you might impact that. So why not do little things like that? I deal with depression, and I don’t want anyone else to feel how I might when I’m going through that depression.
The easy thing to do on the internet is to be a social justice warrior and act like you care about everyone. In most cases, those people are just looking for likes, the same as people are looking for likes for pictures of their kids on Facebook or likes for their beach body on Instagram. It sounds good, but they don’t actually walk the walk. If there is a quality I loathe more than any other, it’s being phony. I really hate fake people. I have an uncle who is the most fake person I’ve ever met in my life, guess how I get along with him. It’s a disgusting quality in my books, and on social media it is all over the place.
I’ve never been a Rogers/Sportsnet fan. I knew they would do a poor job with the NHL package since desperately and wildly overpaying for it in the fall of 2013 (even wrote about it at the time how they were just looking to buy their way out of being a poorly run organization). Whether or not you agree or disagree with Don Cherry being fired, announcing it on Remembrance day just shows how poorly this company is run. It was disrespectful to the day and disrespectful to the man who perhaps does more to bring awareness to the importance of the day than anyone else in the country. Wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to announce it. Awful decisions are why Sportsnet is bleeding money and having to let so much talent go, and they proved it yet again with the timing of this.
The obvious bad in what he said
Back to the task at hand…I was in Edmonton on Sunday (November 10th) and was in Southgate mall (because Steph just HAD to go to Lululemon…although she also impressed me when she asked if we could go into Jersey City and later Lids where she bought a new Jays hat, brought a tear to my eye). I made a point of looking for poppies because of what Grapes had said. And in there, he was right. Steph and I were in the MAYBE 5% of people wearing poppies. It seems to me if I had to GUESS that it’s an urban thing, but even then I don’t want to generalize it like that, because it’s not as if Lloydminster is flooded with poppies on coats and shirts either. And I’m sure as fuck not going to blame “immigrants” for not wearing one. Those of us who have a few generations head start on them need to do a better job bringing awareness to its importance and lead by example.
For me, I do believe Rogers had no choice but to fire Don in the end. From the outside looking in, it looks like Rogers were set to keep Don and just wanted an apology. Don wasn’t willing to, and so how can Rogers bring him back (even if you wanted to suspend him)? It was worded wrongly, and if you aren’t willing to clarify that, then yes you should be fired. However, if he was willing to apologize on the air, then this definitely went too far. It is painful to see such an iconic and from all accounts, a truly good man go out like this. But if he had the chance to right the wrong and chose not to, then unfortunately, it was likely the choice that had to be made.
What can be done to further what he was saying
Let’s not forget the true point of what should have been taken here despite the way it was said. We don’t do enough for our vets and we don’t do enough to honour those who have fallen on Remembrance day. I’m guilty some years of not wearing my poppy, or at least not enough.
This is going to sound very “millennial” of me, but I believe it needs to be said because it actually could really help the issue. Our government needs to look at not only how poppies are distributed, but how they can be improved. Sounds funny? Sounds ridiculous? I’ve OFTEN relented from picking up a poppy when I’ve needed one because I don’t have any change to donate. I rarely have any kind of cash on me. I know I can simply take one and don’t have to donate, but then I’d feel like a complete piece of shit. However, if I were able to donate while purchasing something, I’d be more than happy to add the charge to my purchase.
Then you also have the fact that the damn things don’t stay on!! I just said this to my broadcast partner Shane Tomayer off-air a few weeks ago that they need something better. The last four games we did I was wearing one and my head-set cord knocked mine off at least once a period. They can fall off so damn easily. They also can stab you if they aren’t pinned in properly. I’d GLADLY pay a toonie for one every year in exchange for backs being put on them. I’m well aware that I can find something myself (Steph and Shane both have something to ensure they stay on), but most are like me where they don’t think to go to such length’s, even though I’m well aware that we should. Sometimes a person just doesn’t think, especially if they believe they’ve had the right intentions.
Let’s wrap this up
Grapes is going out on his shield so to speak. He refused to apologize, which whether you agree or disagree, I strongly believe he should have. And he didn’t, which I believe is the actual reason he is now gone. But in his mind, I believe he was standing up for those who have fallen, and if that was in his mind, then good on him. I don’t do a good enough job honouring those who have fought and/or given their lives for this country, nor have far too many of us. Don has in a way sacrificed his career to bring more attention to this issue. I guarantee you next November, you’re going to see a lot more people wearing a poppy.
As for Don himself, again, it’s a damn shame that he is going out like this. But then again, Don has said in the past “Someday I’m going to say something that they don’t like and that’ll be it”. And that is exactly what happened. He’s 85 and has given those of us who enjoyed him damn near 40 years of entertainment. For the faults that he has, his values are incredibly admirable. I don’t consider myself an intelligent guy (in fact I often tell myself I’m just barely smart enough to realize how dumb I am), but I was intelligent enough to know to laugh off the things that I disagreed with and to incorporate the values he’d pass on. And I believe there were MANY people who did the same. Thank you Grapes.
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