A ‘mistake’ makes a sad day more sad

How sad … on a day when Canadians should come together to honour our war dead, Don Cherry’s words and firing breed more diviseness. Let’s work together people.
When I listened to the supper-hour CBC Radio News coverage of Remembrance Day on Monday, it seemed even sadder than usual.
 
It’s always sobering to consider the trauma that Canadian soldiers have suffered in wars around the world in standing up for our country and our values.
 
I felt that much more of a punch to the throat when I listened to the CBC News story that Cherry had just been fired.
 
I agreed with it. Cherry crossed a line. I was angry with him.
 
Geez. “You people”? Really?
 
What makes me cringe is the belief that underlies those words. Cherry spoke often about the code among players. To me, Cherry’s language was code for ‘us and them.’
 
Us are decent Canadian people with shared values and customs. Them are immigrants.
 
I’m also sad and angry that Cherry’s firing ignited yet more ugly debates that essentially hinge on ‘us and them.’ That immigrants don’t embrace “our” way of life, etc., etc.,
 
Ironically, this fundamental belief that there’s ‘us and them’ is the starting point for most every war that’s ever been fought. We have Remembrance Day largely because at some stage, a group has a belief about another group.
 
I am also sad that the wonderful Ron and Don show is over after almost 40 years. Cherry articulated an experienced coach’s perspective in a beautifully direct way. He knows the gamewith his head, heart and soul. 
 
But what made it was must-see viewing for me, and I suspect many others, was that Coach’s Corner always teetered precariously on the brink of chaos due to Don’s combustibility and take-me-as-I-am authenticity. One minute, he was as serene as monk, the next giddy as a five-year-old, and then grumpy as grandpa pushing a grocery cart. Many times, I was conscious that I was watching Coach’s Corner with a smile on my face as Don fussed and fumed that a clip wasn’t set up, or he wasn’t given enough time. 
 
Ron was the perfect foil, the quick punster who exuded Howdy Doody decency and doled out Swift Current anecdotes with McDavid-like ease.
 
It was deliciously unslick, brilliant, funny and insightful. Coach’s Corner was capital E entertainment for a hockey and media nerd. 
 
For all of his other over-the-line statements of his storied past, Cherry also did a lot of good for the game. He was the most influential voice in getting the dangerous practice of touch icing finally removed from the NHL. He took his coach’s role seriously, pointing out fundamentals “to you kids,” such as the importance of wingers backing up their defense.
 
But this is also where Don became a minus.
 
In his zeal for honouring Canadian soldiers and everyone scarred by war, his passion cup runneth over.
 
As Canadian TV’s hockey coach, Cherry was unconscious of the impact of his words, and that we are responsible for what we say and their consequences. Cherry’s rant was an abuse of the platform afforded him, and thus he lost it.
 
Rather than debate the tired whippng boy of political correctness, I believe it’s an opportunity to look at personal responsibility, and the awareness on the others for things we say and do. Cherry has since said that his choice of ‘you people’ was a mistake. That’s unfortunate, and a little too late. 
Living on that knife edge of chaos ultimately cost him and detracted from where the focus should have been on Remembrance Day.
 
I’m sad about the whole damn thing. It’s my hope that Cherry will continue to thrive in his life, and that as a country we’ll all move closer than further apart, regardless where we’re from.
 
PS. Speaking of ironic, I was listening to Canned Heat’s version of Let’s Work Together about five minutes before learning of Cherry’s firing:
 
Together we stand, divided we fall,
Come on now people, let’s get on the ball and work together,
come on, come on let’s work together, now now people,
’cause together we will stand ev’ry, ev’ry girl and a man …

 

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf and life coach, an award-winning writer, Head Coach of the University of Guelph golf team and Mental Performance Coach at the ClubLink Academy at Glen Abbey. He is author of the newly released second edition of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He is co-host of the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and a leader in training in the ManKind Project. He gets all excited when he helps people tap into their brilliance.

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