Friday, November 22, 2019

Don Cherry: Pathetic Victim of PC Zeal

By Anthony Brancato

The politically correct crowd — and that is a misnomer since the vast majority of the time they are incorrect — has gone north of the border to claim their latest victim, in the person of Don Cherry, a two-time Stanley Cup runner-up as head coach of the Boston Bruins, for expressing dismay at how few people were wearing the traditional red poppy for Remembrance Day, Canada's version of Veterans Day.

And what did Cherry do, or say, to incur the PC crowd's wrath?


"You people love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada."

The PC crowd spun Cherry's statement as "anti-immigrant," and then spun it again by calling it "racist" — leading to Cherry getting fired from "Coach's Corner" (his gig at SportsNet, Canada's counterpart to ESPN), which was literally created with him in mind in 1981.

But where in the statement is any ethnic or racial group singled out?

As an 85-year-old pre-baby-boomer, Cherry is supposed to be "patriotic" — and not for nothing, but the word "patriot" actually appears in "O Canada," the country's national anthem: "True patriot love in all of us command;" it used to be "True patriot love in all our sons' command" until the PC crowd made them change it on the grounds that "sons'" was "sexist." Better grammatically incorrect than politically incorrect!

Even if Cherry's comment was anti-immigrant in some vague allegorical sense, there was once a time when no one looked under every bed for real or imagined slights.

On November 13, 1966, Garo Yepremian, an immigrant from Cyprus of Armenian ethnicity (so one would assume, neutral in the bitter, centuries-old Greek-Turkish divide that hopelessly cleaves the mythological birthplace of Venus, proving that the "Island of Love" has room for lots of hate), then playing for the Lions, kicked 6 field goals to lead Detroit to a 32-31 victory at Minnesota, prompting Vikings head coach Norm Van Brocklin, who, amazingly, still holds the NFL's single-game passing yards record (554 in 1951 as a member of the Rams, who won the NFL title that year; nine years later, Van Brocklin would add a second ring in Philadelphia, after which he retired to take the head coaching job at Minnesota) to say, "They ought to change the God-damned immigration laws in this country."

No public outcry — and no firing, although Van Brocklin did get fired at the end of that season, in which the Vikings went 4-9-1, making Van Brocklin 29-51-4 in his six seasons in Minnesota. After spending the 1967 season in the CBS broadcast booth, Van Brocklin returned to the sidelines (proving that he had not been blackballed by the NFL for his Yepremian comment), this time with the Falcons, three games into the 1968 season after Norm Hecker was fired for going 4-26-1 in the franchise's first 31 games. Van Brocklin also lasted six years in Atlanta, getting the heave-ho after a 2-6 start in a 1974 season that saw the Falcons score just 111 points, the lowest total ever in a 14-game season until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored 103 in 1977, the last year of the 14-game schedule (Van Brocklin was 37-49-3 at Atlanta).

And besides Norm Van Brocklin, a comparison between Don Cherry and Joe Paterno is also instructive: a fellow World War II veteran (born in the same year as Van Brocklin), Paterno could not have been expected to appreciate the moral dimensions of the situation he found himself in. Yet the PC crowd still destroyed him, after which Paterno, diagnosed with what was thought to be early stage lung cancer nine days after the PC witch hunt got him fired, simply lost his will to live, and Paterno died 74 days later.

So Canada is just like the United States when it comes to patriotism: witness L'Affaire Kaepernick, which simply refuses to go away — but Kaepernick has picked the wrong season to attempt another comeback, since all of the teams that have had to deal with the loss of their first-string quarterback, either due to sudden retirement (Indianapolis) or injury (Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Carolina — and now Nick Foles appears ready to return for the Jags), have seen their backups hold the fort adequately.

Maybe the two countries can become more alike in other ways, such as health care. But that's a topic for a different column — and indeed, a column that would not belong on a website devoted to sports.

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