Don Cherry does strange things to people. He’s been accused of “shifting … the meaning of hockey in Canadian life … from being emblematic of a culture of survival to an offshoot of the military” — quite the feat for someone who can’t string a sentence together.
He’s also been accused of “merrily pushing this country to the far right, loony division,” by endorsing, in his free time, Julian Fantino for MP for Vaughan and Rob Ford for Mayor of Toronto. And that’s just one Globe and Mail columnist over the course of two months!
I’ve often lampooned Canadians’ tendency to lose all sense of perspective when Grapes is part of the story. The guy’s on television for, like, 20 minutes a week! But now, after Mr. Cherry’s speech to city council on Tuesday, it seems to be my turn to blow a gasket.
I’m not angry at Mr. Cherry, mind you. He has a biological imperative to spout off about how virtuous he is, and about how dreadfully hard done by he’s been by “left-wing pinko newspapers.” I’m angry at Mr. Ford for allowing him to become the main story of his first city council meeting as Mayor.
I’d love to focus on Mr. Ford’s beaming smile, the obvious delight with which he presided over the proceedings — so at odds with the morose, mumbling automaton of the campaign trail; on his sincere, friendly photo-ops with councillors of all political stripes, all the way down to progressive stalwarts Gord Perks, Adam Vaughan and Glenn de Baeremaeker; on his heartfelt belly laugh when Mr. Perks fake-punched him and Mr. de Baeremaeker kissed him on the cheek; on his on-message but not inflammatory speech, highlighted by an obviously heartfelt reference to the joys of public service.
But clearly he didn’t want us to talk about that, because he invited Mr. Cherry to deliver a speech, and didn’t stop him when he proceeded to insult giant swaths of the population of a city he doesn’t even live in.
Offered a chance to comment afterwards, Mr. Ford claimed he hadn’t known what Mr. Cherry would say — which is, admittedly, better than if he had. But there wasn’t a hint of contrition. “I’m a huge fan of Don Cherry and Coach’s Corner,” he added. “And Don is exactly … what you see is what you get.”
So, screw it. Let’s talk about Don Cherry and his pink suit jacket and his offensive speech.
“I’m wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything,” he began — one of his more intelligible utterances, despite doubling the number of syllables in the word “pink.”
So, that’s great. People who ride bicycles are communists — or at least worthy of investigation. (Goodness knows what “and everything” means. Hide your library cards, people.)
And then there was Mr. Cherry’s memorable conclusion: “I say he’s going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever seen, as far as I’m concerned, and put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks.”
I’m all for political incorrectness. But this was like Don Rickles without the laughs. Mr. Cherry berated the City of Toronto with a bitter, self-interested screed, and Mr. Ford followed with a speech about respect for taxpayers — all of them; about councillors working together to implement the enormous mandate for change handed them on Oct. 25; about a transportation plan that respected cyclists, for heaven’s sake!
“Put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks”? How can Mr. Ford just shrug when his invited guest spoke at such insulting cross-purposes to his own?
Like I said, Mr. Cherry was just doing what he does. As I write this, I imagine he’s at home in Mississauga, gently stroking his persecution complex while browsing the day’s press clippings and counting his (taxpayer) money. It’s Mr. Ford who owes the city an apology.
Tax payers money paid in full