The word “thug” was uttered on American TV 675 times yesterday, the most times in one day in at least three years.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 21, 2014
But this is understandable — Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned us about this kind of thing. And since the underlying event that must have motivated this discourse just earned one of the role models for the Taliban a 15 day suspension from the relevant pro sports organization, it’s worth getting into some background.
My favorite hockey team has a newish president. He has a pretty good track record all things considered.* But he has his blind spots — in this fascinating (and, given my parochial interests, terrifying) article about the selection of the U.S. Olympic team, he can be seen arguing that in retrospect he would have rather drafted the big, truculent, and abjectly useless Jack Johnson over the excellent sniper Bobby Ryan. So at a time when well-run organizations are moving away from this kind of thing he believes that the 28th-best team in the NHL could use at least two regular players who specialize in punching other players in the face. This Saturday, his coach listed both in his starting lineup against their primary rivals (to the extent that the relationship between the teams can still be described as a “rivalry” given the lopsided nature of the recent competition,) ultimately earning him a healthy fine. The Canucks also dress a face-punching specialist and a couple more marginal tough guys — curious, since unlike the Flames they’re playing for something other than draft position this year — and as is his wont their head coach decided to take the bait and start them rather than starting a line of all hockey players, and for extra seasoning he started a defenseman at centre to take the opening draw. Predictably, this lead to a line brawl two seconds into the game and eight ejections. For some reason, despite sharing substantial responsibility for this silliness, Tortorella raved like a lunatic for several minutes afterwards, and then tried to get into the Flames dressing room during the intermission.
So, I dunno, maybe J-Pod and his fellow cultural scolds are onto something about the moral decline of (North) America. Now, if all this hand-wringing and “thug” talk were directed at someone who gave a less-than-gracious interview immediately after making the key play in a critical playoff game and then apologized, that would be an embarrassment.
*In comments, Sarah J reminds me of this.
Fig. 1: Moral Decline in the African-American Community