Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner, aka the Don Cherry/Ron MacLean freak show, went beyond its usual bizarre level of awfulness on Saturday.
The desperate for attention Cherry, whose ostentatious camp outfits make the most over-the-top transvestites look withdrawn and tame in comparison, threw a petulant hissy fit on-air as MacLean interrupted his defense of eight-time loser Chris Simon.
Incoherence collides with regression into sulking infancy, alternately coddled and prodded by a professional sycophant.
Add in the insulation provided by a few decades' worth of high ratings and you've got a pair of embarrassing clowns erroneously confident in the belief that they attract viewers based on something honourable, worthy of respect or representative of quality in any way.
Someone who yells, berates and becomes apoplectic at anyone who dares to hold an alternate viewpoint. Completely and totally bereft of skill in defending his opinion except for increasing the volume of his voice.
Legions of easily satisfied apologists regurgitate the same tired line whenever Don Cherry offers up another spectacle on par with public defecation: "He attracts the viewers, that's all that matters." Not surprising that such bland responses are offered up in defense of what is really a weak, wasted segment during the most watched television show in Canada.
The question is, how much better could it be and how many more people would tune in if there was real give and take by some of the clever and knowledgeable hockey media personalities working today?
The people who allow this to be aired week after week are simply demonstrating their lack of imagination. If CBC management really believes there aren't any other voices available or a different format that can be tailored to tap into one of the most consistent and captive television audiences in the country, then laziness and ignorance reigns at the nation's broadcaster.
Why exactly does Cherry remain so (apparently) popular? Regardless of his spluttering diatribes and decline in rationality, people sense that he is at least genuine in his beliefs and came to them through real experience in the world of hockey. And he wasn't always so absurd.
When he started out he was tame by comparison and actually made an attempt to present decent arguments. His opinions appealed to the young male demographic (and likely still do.)
He praised the kind of toughness that most kids aspire to when they start playing and watching hockey. He seemed confident in his opinions and not on the verge of a mental breakdown when someone lightly countered what he had to say.
Years ago I would watch Cherry during intermissions because he usually had some interesting comments on the issues of the day. Once, during a playoff game between the Jets and the Edmonton Oilers at the Winnipeg Arena, I held up a sign before the start of the first period.
Cherry and MacLean were doing the pre-game segment at ice level. It was a day after Easter and Dale Hawerechuk had improved his play in the previous game as compared to the start of the series. No one seemed to react to my "Hawerchuk has Risen" sign except for Cherry, who saw me waving frantically and gave me the thumbs up. Maybe that was before his religious phase.
A creeping mental stagnation and commentary full of contradictions and weirdness has turned him into an embarrassing sideshow schtick. His stable of "outs" invoked whenever he can't respond to a question with a modicum of logic is similarly pathetic.
The insinuation by many that if you criticize Cherry you are somehow against children, Christianity or "the troops" is, if not planned, then welcomed as a nice deflection. It means he rarely has to defend his point of view. He simply changes the focus to one of his safe topics.
In the episode on Saturday December 22nd, Cherry squealed like a spoiled child on the verge of crying because he didn't get his way, shrieking that "We're Hockey Night in Canada and we're talkin' about savin' the world here! Let's talk hockey! Now, DA TROOPS!"
Outraged? Proving that the kind of controversy he generates does actually provoke discussion? Yeah, maybe. I'm all in favour of saying the most politically incorrect things possible, as long as they can back them up. I will keep watching too, in the knowledge that people who thrive on attention but are devoid of substance will eventually do whatever it takes to keep getting headlines.
The comical aspect of someone who yelps about respect but is the most disrespectful person around is, at some level, entertainment.
Just as the impending train wreck provides easy fodder for those who want to rip Cherry, the celebration of his ignorance and hypocrisy offers a thrill for many as well. Anti-intellectualism in its purest form and the comforting thought that bluster, personal attacks and generalizations often do trump respect, quality and thought provoking analysis.