By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Oct. 11) – In the wake of a blog I wrote early on Monday, extolling the phenomenon that is Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night In Canada, I received numerous emails suggesting that Don Cherry is a burden to people in this country. The thread was so common, you’d think these folks had organized a cyberspace assembly: to wit, Cherry’s “deeply hurtful”, “inflammatory”, “enraging” remarks tended to ruin their Saturday-night hockey experience each week. Oh, the pity of it all.
Of course, anyone paying attention would have noticed I neither supported nor condemned Cherry’s comments; in fact, there was no mention of such details. All I pointed out was the remarkable endurance of Coach’s Corner and that its lightning rod – still racking up enormous viewership nearing 80 years of age – is also a soft, empathetic character. For that, I was accused of sacrilege – which reveals all you have to know about those who self-punish in this world.
I quickly perused, this morning, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, implemented in 1982. I did so in the off-chance a clause had been added that restricted independence between 7:45 and 8 o’clock p.m. each Saturday; an article that forced those in this country to entrench in their family rooms and watch the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Though ratings are suggestive of such a clause, it simply doesn’t exist. As with all other freedoms in this country, the option of tuning into Cherry and Ron MacLean is every bit as fundamental as deciding on a menu-item for dinner; the car you wish to purchase, or where you choose to live. Only the allure of Coach’s Corner suggests otherwise.
What I’m saying here is quite simple: if you know that watching Cherry each week is going to elevate your blood-pressure to a dangerous level and/or cause your gastrointestinal tract to rebel, go take a walk for 15 minutes. Read a chapter of the book you’re so enjoying. Telephone the friend or family member that is ill, or recovering from illness, and provide support. Take that bathroom break you uncomfortably postponed while watching the first period of the hockey game. Fornicate. Do whatever you desire that will occupy the moments your tormentor is being viewed by fellow Canadians from coast to coast. Ignorance, after all, is bliss. What you do not know cannot hurt you.
DON CHERRY: FLAMBOYANT AND PROVOCATIVE. MOST OF US WOULD HAVE IT NO OTHER WAY.
Among the most apparently-difficult admissions for people is a desire and willingness to be provoked and entertained. There is no mystery to this inclination, as numbers prove why such personalities as Cherry, Bill O’Reilly, Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Bob McCown, Sean Hannity, Damien Cox, Steve Simmons and others have enormous followings. The aforementioned may be largely despised by their audiences but the audiences return – voluntarily and consistently. When acknowledging this becomes particularly arduous, a person will find comfort by suggesting that he avoids the provocative subject. This is universally accomplished nowadays by a reader, listener or viewer hiding behind the shelter of anonymity while posting comments on media web-sites or Internet chat forums. Rest assured that those who emphasize their avoidance of a personality are the ones that can least resist paying attention.
Now, this isn’t to degrade such individuals, or to minimize how they may be affected by the opinions of those in print, radio and TV. My response to all emails over the weekend accusing Cherry of an unconscionable diatribe against former NHL tough-guys involved – again – neither agreement nor condemnation. It is the right of an individual to form whatever opinion or response he chooses… and for that feeling to be respected. The emails that expressed anguish over having to tolerate Cherry each Saturday were answered differently – with a reminder of what these folks already understood: that they are under no obligation whatsoever to tune in to Coach’s Corner and if they do, it is not the result of an involuntary impulse (at least, not physiologically).
Whether Cherry crossed a line last Thursday – morally or legally – will be established before long. The moral issue is subjective and incongruous. The legal issue isn’t within my capacity to determine. What I believe is this: Cherry is more than decent enough to offer a sincere, heart-felt apology… if he considers – upon reflection – that emotion got the best of him and his words were not intended to be as hurtful as they sounded. To have expected such a mea-culpa on Saturday night, after two days of penetrating criticism, was not reasonable. It is human nature, when initially attacked, to push back twice as hard. The value of time enables most people to sort out how they really feel, and there wasn’t sufficient time – in my view – for Cherry to resolve that issue between Thursday and Saturday.
What will the coming weekend bring? You’ll know… because you’ll tune in to Ron and Don, as you always do.