Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Give It A Rest

This was the moment when Don Cherry uttered something last Saturday when everyone gasped in shock. This was the moment when Don Cherry, master linguist that he has always been, said something so outrageous that people began reaching for the pitchforks and torches to hunt Grapes down. This is also the moment that we, as a society, need to collectively examine our ability to listen because what Don Cherry said, once you strip away the layers of Cherryisms piled on top, actually makes sense. Yes, I'm serious.

I've seen local female reporters take him to task. I've seen the major media outlets only post a headline of his poorly-worded introduction to what he was trying to express. Even the CBC's Karin Larsen had strong words on Twitter for Don Cherry regarding his view of women reporters in a locker room.

I'm not trying to defend any misogynists here, and I'm not saying that Don Cherry is a misogynist either. But did anyone actually listen to Don Cherry past the point of his gasp-inducing statement?

I get that women have fought hard for all of their achievements that they accomplished, and that no one should be looking to take anything away from them. Heck, I fully support women being included in eveything, and celebrated Manon Rheaume's smashing through the gender-barrier! But Don Cherry wasn't saying that women should be banned because of their gender if you listened to his poorly-crafted, terribly-worded diatribe. He actually, if you listen very closely, wanted women out of a male locker room because of the behavior of the male hockey players.

Like an onion, his speech made some cry as you peeled back the layer. I'll even go as far as saying that it stunk. It wasn't his most eloquent speech, but that's more or less Don Cherry's style. If you're unaware of that, you haven't watched Don Cherry in probably 15-20 years. As he's gotten older, he routinely makes his point by shocking everyone with a statement before qualifying it. Don Cherry wants people to listen to his points, so he hits them with a sledgehammer rather than tapping them on the shoulders.

Is it the right way to go about making a point? Hardly. In fact, it works against him often as seen by the anger and vitriol spewed at him after his comments on Saturday night. But if you strip away the Cherryisms, you understand where he's coming from as a man who first opened the door to women being in an NHL locker room after games.

Here's the video of Coach's Corner from last Saturday. Watch it, and listen closely. Remember: like an onion.
Ok, let's start by looking at Cherry's track record on this. The guy hasn't coached since the 1970s, and times have significantly changed since the last time he was intimately involved in the on-goings of the locker room. If you know anything about Don, he speaks his mind in terms of how and, more importantly, WHEN he coached: no visors, no Europeans, Canadians are the best, more fighting. All of those things he likes are all traits of hockey in the 1970s!

Admittedly, Cherry is a little out of his element when it comes to progressive issues and the evolution of the game, but he's still entertaining because he's like one of those old guys at the sports bar that harkens for the "good ol' days" when the Bruins, Leafs, and Canadiens ruled the rinks. Canadians, it seems, love that idealism, but it comes across as being anything but politically correct in today's day and age.

In her piece for linked above, Robin Herman writes,
"I’d gotten a lot of publicity for breaking 'the locker room barrier' at the 1975 NHL all-star game in Montreal, but that was a one-off. You were the first coach in the NHL to allow me, a female, accredited sports reporter and member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, into your locker room as a matter of policy."
I'd say that's a little progressive. But Don Cherry was actually never worried about women being in the locker room. While it took a few minutes to get his point across in the video above, he stated that he was always worried about the behavior of the semi-naked to fully-naked male players in the locker room when women arrived. As he stated,
"I remember the first time it happened to me. Guys are walking around naked and I hear this woman's voice. I turn around and she's asking me about the power play. I say, 'Let's go outside.' She said, 'I'm not embarrassed.' I said, 'I am.'"
Again, basing his statement on the 1970s era, that statement is entirely fair considering that male players used to wander around in their birthdays suits in locker rooms during that era.

Now, you might be saying, "Hold on, Teebz, you don't know that for sure". Granted, I was never in NHL locker rooms from that era, and I'm not even granted access in today's NHL. But consider the image to the right of Mark Messier and Gary Coleman. That towel is barely covering his manhood let alone anything else, and Gary Coleman is inside the locker room standing beside him. Alcoholic beverage in Messier's hand aside, if that's how players "dressed" in the 1980s when celebrities dropped by the locker room, what standard of dress would the players have had in the 1970s when Don Cherry first allowed Miss Herman into their world?

Cherry tried to qualify his view of women in the locker room with naked men by harkening back once more into the days of when he was a coach in the Bruins' locker room.
"I don't feel women are equal. I feel they're above us. I think they're on a pedestal and they should not be walking in when naked guys are walking in. And you know some guys take advantage of it and I don’t think it should be."
Even Ron MacLean says that the players in all sports push the sexism towards women way too far, and both Cherry and MacLean touch on how it still exists in hockey today.

But the key is this: they never said "ban women" once. They're talking about the behavior of the players towards female reporters and how these behaviors towards female reporters embarrass them and the game as a whole. Again, Cherry is talking about the 1970s while MacLean is discussing today's sporting world so there's an obvious disconnect there, but the point the two of them seem to agree upon is that the behavior of the players is the problem, not the women covering the game.

While I am certainly and entirely for women covering the game of hockey, every single woman who covers the game that found Mr. Cherry's comments to be an attack on their profession and gender is not a very good listener - something I would assume to be extremely vital when it comes to reporting. CBC's Andi Petrillo, who is a mainstay on Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts, seemed to catch what Don Cherry was saying. She said,
"I think his comments were misinterpreted and if you actually listen to what he was saying, it wasn't so much about women not being in the dressing room as it was about players perhaps not conducting themselves appropriately around women."
You have to know Don Cherry to understand Don Cherry, and I'm quite certain that Miss Petrillo has been able to get to know Don better through their working together at CBC and on Hockey Night In Canada. If Andi Petrillo understood what Don meant through his twisted diatribe, why can't others hear the same thing?

He's "old school" in his thinking. He's not the world's best orator by any means, and usually gets caught saying things in the most convoluted way. But Don Cherry certainly isn't sexist as far as I can tell. The problem, in this case of reporting, seems to be the listening being done by the reporters and the spin they're putting on this story after Don Cherry grabbed the spotlight by saying something entirely unfathomable in trying to make a point about the behavior of the men playing the game when a woman enters the locker room.

If Andi Petrillo - a beautiful and successful woman in the sports industry - can hear what Don is saying, why can't everyone else?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Ya, a dumbass entry supporting a dumbass dino. Watch hockey progress in leaps when the fruit retires.

Teebz said...

Here's an idea: try reading and listening. Listen very closely. He's denigrating the behaviors of players, not the female reporters. Why is this so difficult to hear?