Don Cherry talked for a living for 39 years. With his inappropriate comments on Saturday, November 9, the 85-year-old hockey commentator managed to talk himself out of a job.
Sportsnet was right to remove Cherry from his position. The public has no tolerance for the kind of message he sent during his high profile Coach’s Corner segment alongside longtime host Ron MacLean. Reactions are swift in today’s world, whether the incident involves an average citizen, an athlete or a sports figure, or someone from the entertainment world. Just ask Mel Gibson how insensitive or racist comments can affect a career.
There are cameras everywhere, and people do not hesitate to press record when they see something they deem inappropriate, or illegal. Road rage, parking spot disputes and public transit assaults, fights and thefts find their way onto the nightly news on a regular basis. Cherry knew he was on live television and still chose to deliver his message on a platform specifically designed for him to voice his opinion, about hockey though, not poppies or the military.
Should we be surprised? He has been controversial before, but his rants are usually about the game, which is fine.
Cherry was hired to talk about hockey, and if he stuck to that, he might still have a job.
Sportsnet, and prior to that CBC, has long trotted out the same old intermission segments and panels. The format, including Coach’s Corner, has been stale and in need of refreshing for years. Sportsnet had a chance when it took over the NHL contract in 2014, but other than briefly replacing MacLean with George Stroumboulopolous in 2014, the brand has remained the same.
With all the players and coaches who have been part of the NHL game over the years, why trot out the same commentators week after week, year after year? New voices bring new interest. By forcing viewers to listen to the same people every week, it eventually starts to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher is breaking down the game.
Cherry was a career minor leaguer as a player and turned a six-year NHL coaching career into a lucrative job as a broadcaster, making millions talking about a game. He does not need a job, but his last appearance will forever mark his legacy, much the way prime minister Justin Trudeau’s black face incidents have tarnished his reputation.
Who wants to work at age 85 anyway? Aren’t there better things to do?
Sportsnet has an opportunity to revamp, and should not stop with Cherry’s dismissal. MacLean should follow; there are many other sports he can cover.
Out with the old. Adapt or die.