Villains outnumber the heroes nowadays in our sports culture

Ryan Stieg

Sports are oftentimes divided into heroes and villains.

The heroes are your favorite team, favorite player, people who put you in awe of their abilities or just ones that can inspire you not only in athletics, but in your everyday life.

They help you get through your tough times by showing you can overcome adversity, or maybe just give you a distraction from your pain and disappointment.

Right now, though, there seems to be more villains than heroes. Some of them because of their behavior on the field, court or rink. They are too numerous to name in just one column. Others earn the distinction for bad and controversial decisions, and again there’s too many to list here.

But then there are a few who blatantly cheat to win and that applies to a team that recently won a world championship. No, not the New England Patriots, although cheating is their thing.

This time, it’s the Houston Astros. I wrote a column about this organization and its inability to handle an assistant general manager making light of domestic abuse, and then accusing a Sports Illustrated reporter of fabricating the story only to retreat, fire the assistant GM and eventually, apologize to the reporter.

Well, now it seems that the Astros not only are OK with domestic abuse and mistreating reporters, but cheating as well.

Former Astros and current Oakland A’s pitcher Mike Fiers came out earlier this week and told The Athletic that Houston used a camera placed in centerfield to help steal signs during their World Series-winning season in 2017. That activity would violate Major League Baseball’s rules against using technology for an advantage and now has resulted in an investigation.

As bad as poor behavior, choices and cheating are, some villains are just terrible people.

Now we’ve come to our star villain, National Hockey League analyst Don Cherry, who was with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Like the Astros, I mentioned Cherry in a past column when he angrily condemned the Carolina Hurricanes’ postgame celebrations during his weekly “Coach’s Corner” segment during Hockey Night in Canada.

He famously called the Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks” and did this while wearing a bright blue suit with golden dragons on it. Yes, a man who makes a living acting and dressing like a clown got upset when players had fun after winning hockey games.

Last week, though, Cherry decided to go the extra mile and instead of playing the angry old buffoon, he turned into the angry old xenophobe. In last week’s Coach’s Corner, Cherry went on a perceived anti-immigration rant when he angrily slammed people in Toronto for not buying poppies for Remembrance Day, a day where Canada honors its fallen soldiers and occurs on the same day as our Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.

Despite no real evidence to back up his claim, Cherry said “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Now whether you choose to wear a poppy in Canada is a different issue, but it’s the perceived immigration comment that got people rightfully steamed. The Toronto Sun reported that the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council got so many complaints about Cherry that they overloaded its processing capacity.

After getting slammed repeatedly on social media and other areas, Sportsnet, who produces the HNIC Saturday broadcasts airing on CBC, fired Cherry on Monday. The company condemned Cherry for “divisive remarks” and added “sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us.”

It could’ve ended the statement there, but then went on to say “Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”

Did Sportsnet contact the Astros public relations team on how to handle this, because what their statement sounds like is this: This guy said some horrible things that we oppose, but hey, he’s a wacky character and he did some good work for us, so hopefully this problem goes away.

To his credit, Coach’s Corner cohost Ron McLean apologized for not responding to Cherry’s remarks during the segment, which is far better than what Sportsnet attempted to do.

In case you’re wondering what Cherry has been up to since he got canned, he’s been doubling down on what he said. He’s quoted in the Sun as “I speak the truth and I walk the walk” and he wouldn’t change anything.

“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” he also is quoted in the Sun. Cherry also appeared on Fox News for some bizarre reason and said he should’ve said everybody instead of you people. Yeah, that makes it all better Don.

Cherry still has his supporters, including NHL blowhard Jeremy Roenick, who said on TSN Radio about Cherry “I don’t think it was very offensive, that’s just me. But to have him leave one of the most popular and watched hockey shows in the past 36 years over this is very shocking to me. I feel terrible for Don Cherry.”

Not the people Cherry offended and insulted. Roenick feels bad for the famous old guy who said the terrible things. Some people have said that Roenick should be Cherry’s replacement, which would be a great transition for Sportsnet as it’d just be going from one disliked moron to another.

Villains will always be a part of sports whether we like them or not. There will be arrogant idiots, cheating franchises and terrible individuals cropping up each year, but we don’t have to take it. We can do something about it. We can ignore their antics, punish the violators like the Astros and Patriots, and stand up to people like Cherry when they say hateful things.

Sometimes we look to athletes and coaches to always be the heroes, but we can be them, too. All we need is the courage to be one.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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