What An Absurd Correlation

TORONTO (Nov. 27) — Maybe I’m missing something here. But, I doubt it. On one side, we have a former Maple Leafs coach executing a callous mind game, after which penance was offered and accepted. On the other, we have a coach allegedly calling one of his players a “nigger.” From my perspective, that’s like comparing a domestic homicide to World War II. Both are terrible… but in an entirely different realm.

I have no comprehension as to why Mike Babcock has been dragged into the Bill Peters abomination. So, Peters worked under Babcock in Detroit. Are we to suggest that Babcock counseled him on the fine art of racial intolerance? Over and over, in the past couple of days, I’ve read that Peters was a “coaching disciple” of Babcock. Alright, then… if you wish to draw a correlation between Babcock’s propensity to intimidate his players and Peters’ habit of punching guys from behind while on the bench, go right ahead. Even that may be a stretch. But, offering a parallel between strong–arm coaching tactics and the use of the N–word? At any time and any place but, particularly, when addressing a black person? I’m sorry. It doesn’t compute. Not even remotely. And, to be honest, it’s Akim Aliu’s fault. Not only did it require ten years for him to reveal (on Twitter) the alleged incident, but Aliu offered the absurd coaching analogue at the start of his message.


“Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock,” he wrote, referring to the long–forgotten (until Monday) incident in which Babcock ambushed rookie Mitch Marner. “Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Same sort of deal with his protege in YYC (Calgary). Dropped the N–bomb several times toward me in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.” How on earth did Babcock, no matter what you may think about him, deserve that connection? It’s disgusting. And, it restricts my capacity to feel for Aliu. No person should ever be the target of a racial epithet. But, it doesn’t excuse that person for his insensitivity. I’ll assume that Aliu didn’t intend to paint Babcock with a sectarian brush, yet he was remarkably flippant, and careless, in his Twitter observation. Without question, it warrants an apology, though I suspect Aliu — immersed in his own crusade, however justifiable — hasn’t considered that he may have hurt someone.

Even more disappointing, to me, is how the mainstream media has connected the dots.

In the Toronto Star, a column by Bruce Arthur is entitled: “Investigation into racial slurs could lead to a moment of truth, a moment of reckoning, for hockey in Canada and elsewhere.” In the Toronto Sun, a story by hockey writer Lance Hornby is headlined: “Coaching styles across NHL under scrutiny.” Both men offer salient points. But, again, why should it matter who utters the N-word — a coach; a doctor; a plumber; a grocery store clerk? Or, anyone else? In any situation? And why should a person, resulting from a former work alliance (Babcock hiring Peters as an assistant coach in Detroit), be tied to a racial outburst?

This is not, even parenthetically, an example of guilt by association.

If you’re old enough to remember, or have read about, the O.J. Simpson murder trial (January to October 1995), you’ll know that a slam–dunk double–homicide — with enough blood and physical evidence to convict 20 people — turned on the disclosure that an investigating officer used the N–word, many years before, in a completely unrelated context. Simpson’s lawyers, realizing they had no alternative, coerced a Los Angeles jury to believe that Mark Fuhrman had planted a bloody glove to frame their client. The notion was utterly preposterous, but criminal trials are bound to reasonable doubt and Johnnie Cochran’s “dream team” provided more than enough subterfuge. A man, therefore, that butchered two innocent people was set free.

That’s the incomparable force of the N-word — repulsive in our society beyond any outrage.

Never should it follow a person by inference. As with Mike Babcock. Shame on Akim Aliu.


9 comments on “What An Absurd Correlation

  1. What an irresponsible article you sanctimonious piece sh**. With all the hate going on in the world, the high and mighty know it all Howard Berger sees fit to post this diatribe. How about sticking to comments about happens on the ice and keep your social judgments to yourself.

      1. there’s always going to be trolls Howard but it’s nice to see you wack-a-troll. You raised some really thoughtful, and important points that bland mainstream media has missed.

        The media has gone overboard on the “Babcock is a bad guy”. It was just time for him to move on …. Just like it was time for Burns & Quinn (my all-time favorite Leaf’s coaches) to move on years ago. (most) Coaches have shelf lives & not everybody gets along. It’s clear the players have moved on.

  2. While you are generally correct on this, you are straying into indefensible territory. If you want to rationalize Cherry’s comments I’ll do the same for Aliu’s. Why did he wait 10 years? I don’t know, maybe because it would have been career suicide to speak while he was still playing. The same goes for all those pesky women and their sexual assault charges. Couldn’t have been that bad if they waited. And no he shouldn’t have connected the two coaches but I’m guessing that after being subjected to a life time of soul crushing coaches he snapped. You can be a tough coach without destroying people. I think the apple comment was more about that than anything else.

      1. I seem to recall where he refused to submit to being forced naked into a bus bathroom with three other players and Steve Downy took it upon himself to attack him in practice. Not one coach intervened and he was forever labelled a bad apple. I’d call that soul crushing.

          1. Howard, are you really telling me you know nothing about this story? The following is pulled from a 2009 G&M article:
            Downie was one of the veteran players ordering rookies to the back of the bus so they could strip and cram themselves into a small washroom. Aliu, who had refused to take part in any rookie initiations, refused again. After that, Downie turned up the heat on Aliu, challenging him until Downie cross-checked Aliu in the mouth during a practice. Aliu left the ice for medical treatment then returned to fight Downie.
            It was a nasty affair caught on video and shown across North America, much to the OHL’s chagrin.
            Aliu’s Nigerian-born father, Tai, concerned for his son’s safety, told the Spitfires that Akim was being treated like a slave and that he wanted to file criminal charges against Downie. Those remarks were included in the Spitfires’ investigation sent to Branch at his request on Oct. 3, 2005. Eventually David Branch suspended Spitfires coach Mo Mantha for 40 games.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.