Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Thumbs down, Grapes.

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Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang.

Another take on the Hero-Villain binary exhibited by the notorious Don Cherry.

Over the past 35 years, Don Cherry has spent every Saturday night over the course of a National Hockey League (NHL) season on Coach’s Corner, co-hosting the 1st intermission segment of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). At the end of segments, Don routinely gives a big thumbs up to the audience. However, after reading this article, I have to give Cherry a big thumbs down.

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When the horn blows to signal the end of the 1st, the unmistakable trumpeted theme song of Coach’s Corner comes on.  If you’re like me, you stay seated on the couch, not eagerly awaiting to hear the outlandish comments Don will undoubtedly provide, but to simply get a laugh at his flamboyant fashion choices.  Aside from his attire, Cherry is also well-known for his rants, often offering his opinions on a range of sociopolitical issues that stray far from the on-ice content he is paid (handsomely) to comment on.  If we ignore the velvet blazers and fuchsia ties, and truly listen to his message, these boisterous critiques include targeting Europeans and French Canadians (focused on in this article particularly) and constructing a controversial version of Canadian national identity.

Don’s version of ‘Canadianism’ leaves millions of Canadians out of the picture.  It is the ‘good ol Saskatoon boys’ that grew up on the farm, rather than Francophones, who encompass his view of toughness and patriotism, he feels a ‘true’ Canadian should have. His exclusion of certain groups does not reflect the cultural diversity which is what SHOULD be one of the pillars of Canadian identity. This interpretation is interesting considering the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s (CBC) Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, is hosted by individuals who would not fit Don’s image. Don’s version of nationalism contradicts the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on in a global context.

To piggyback on Don’s controversial interpretation of Canadian identity, is his interpretation of masculinity. This concept is not explored in the article, however, I find it interesting to contrast Don’s own portrayal of masculinity (his outfit choices ) with his conservative notions of toughness and aggression when commenting on players; often referring to French Canadians, and Russians as “cowards” for wearing a visor, or shying away from a fight.

The militarization of sport and hockey in particular, is not a recent phenomenon. For example, players have gone to ‘battle’ in the corners and ‘snipers’ have been scoring goals for years.  Don has long been known as one of the military’s greatest supporters, the sincerity and respect Don has for the Canadian Armed Forces is unquestioned. No one can critique the emotional memoirs he often gives to fallen soldiers and their families. However, at times his conservative views of the military begin to become political tirades. Foreign policy should not be up for discussion, as Don gives only a one-sided biased take on war and military engagements.

CBC has done relatively little to stop Don from vocalizing his brash and uncontested opinions (the seven second time delay is far from the game misconduct he deserves). Like him or not, Cherry’s notoriety has made him a staple in households across the country every Saturday night.

Is Coaches Corner the appropriate platform to be vocalizing such controversial ideology? Probably not. However, this rhetoric is what makes the man behind the fuchsia suit who he is, and viewers cannot wait to see what he wears and says next.

 

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