Sour Grapes: an open letter to Don Cherry

Hi Don, pleasure to talk with you again.

You won’t remember me but we chatted briefly back in 2005 while I was working in the production office for CORE Feature Animation, creators of an animated Disney movie called THE WILD. In a delightful bit of stunt-casting, you were hired to provide the voice for this hockey-announcer penguin:

“Everybody loves fights!”

And while that onscreen penguin had all of your popular bold and brash vocal style, you in person were surprisingly mellow, friendly and warm. Everyone at CORE responded to you as if you were a favourite uncle. Me, I brought you to a comfortable chair and offered you a coffee and then left you be so you could prepare for your meeting. I had fond memories of our brief moments together but I regret that now. I wish I’d talked to you more, said or done something to make you remember me with similar fondness.

You see, Don, I’m a left-wing pinko. I live downtown, I recycle my cans, I ride transit in the winter and yes, a bike in the summer. I’m even (gasp!) a homosexual. And, according to you, Wednesday night’s depressing post-Stanley-Cup-game rioting in Vancouver was the fault of people like me:

You keep throwing this weird slur out there, Don. Back in December, at mayor Rob Ford‘s inauguration ceremony, Toronto welcomed you to our city hall but you wore a pinko suit and a strange chip on your shoulder. It was as if we invited our beloved uncle over and he peed on our living room carpet. I worry I got you all wrong.

I mean, here I am offering you a hot beverage when what you really crave is a good fight. During game 6 this week, Canuck player Henrik Sedin got into it with a Bruin and you took him to task for being a poor example to his team–not because he was fighting but because he didn’t fight harder. “The fans love it,” you’ve famously said, “Anybody who says they don’t like fighting in the NHL have to be out of their minds.”

Well, someone was out of their minds Wednesday night and it wasn’t left-wingers. I can’t say I spotted any feminists in that rioting mob, did you?  And if you’re going to compare that ugly scene to the G20 protests, please recall that Toronto had a left-wing pinko mayor at the time and he didn’t seem to get in the way of your “guys with billy clubs” cleaning up the town. Your cheap labels are pointless and even counterproductive–by denouncing leftist politics and glorifying thuggery, you are by definition making thuggery a right-wing value. Is that what you’re after?

Very little would be solved with the police state you crave and I wish I could’ve talked with you about this back when I met you. Maybe if you actually knew a left-wing pinko instead of just ranting about them, you’d see and understand the many things that we believe in–fair wages for workers, energy conservation, more bikes and transit on the road, a police force that serves and protects, corporations that pay their fair share of taxes, social equality and a desire to protect the natural splendour of this country we all love as much as you. These aren’t left-wing values–they’re values.

“I’m a construction worker. I’m not a performer.”

But no, it’s easier and more lucrative for you to fill your CBC airtime with catch-phrases, bombast and lazy homophobia (for the record, I can assure you that if you should walk into a gay bar looking like some demented grandmother’s sofa cushion, no one will start holding your hand).

No, chances are, if I’d made all my speeches to you back then, you still wouldn’t have agreed or remembered. As we’ve learned, you’re not a talker, you’re a fighter.  I figure you keep saying this crap because you either enjoy demonizing people in hopes of starting a fight or, as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

So instead of wishing I’d once talked to you, I wish that I had simply punched you square in the mouth. Instead of showing you to a chair, I wish I had leapt over that front desk like it were the boards at the arena and just started pummelling you in the face, wailing on you like Tie Domi. You’d look up at me from the floor and smile through a bloody mouth of broken teeth, laughing in delight because yes, that’s what it’s all about! You’d finally stop seeing some lily-livered “pinko” and start seeing an equal.

But I’m kidding, Don, I’m a kidder! I’m not convinced such violence would work but you’re more macho than I am so let me know. Should we try to connect Canadians when Vancouver has shown it’s so obviously necessary or shall we just keep picking useless fights?


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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