In his revealing book, “Pavel Bure: The Riddle Of The Russian Rocket”, author Kerry Banks rather exhaustively discusses the impact that Bure’s movie star appearance had on his perception, both with the public and inside the locker room. According to Banks, the fact that both women and men went wild for Bure during “Pavel-Mania” for some reasons unrelated to hockey, made some close-minded people uneasy.
Banks goes on to make the claim that a hockey locker room, is probably “not the most enlightened sector of society.” It’s this last point that seems to be especially relevant when examining the sickening display of bigotry that took place in London, and the ironic turn of events between Wayne Simmonds and Sean Avery.
A reasonable person should be able to notice and accept that the professional standard that athletes must abide by, is at odds with what they do for a living, and to an extent, human nature.
The incident in London is indefensible.
The apparent homophobic slur that Avery claims was hurled at him by Simmonds however, seems slightly different.
Is it really practical for us to expect hockey players to be mindful of their language during a game? Taking what we know about athletic competition into account, one is tempted to say no.
Furthermore, the word that Simmonds allegedly used, was almost certainly not used in a sexual context. What complicates matters even more, is the growing awareness of the damage that these words can have on their targets.
So we have a conundrum on the ice that bleeds into society: Do professional athletes have a responsibility to conduct themselves honorably?
Can we reasonably expect professional athletes to not use offensive language during a game?
No, I don’t think we can.
Sean Avery, is by no means a victim of anything. For him to blow the whistle on anybody is completely laughable. Simply google or youtube his name for the evidence. Wayne Simmonds was a victim of intolerance a few days ago, and is now in many minds, a perpetrator of intolerance himself.
Words, like practically everything else, change over time. What was once commonplace terminology during the 1950’s, is completely unacceptable now. The same is clearly happening with homophobic slurs.
While this is undoubtedly a good thing from an objective point of view, some will perhaps view this as oversensitivity and political correctness thrown into an arena, or rink, where these concepts have no place.
It seems that we are on shaky ground with whatever position we take in this matter, and we are left with no easy answer. You will be right and wrong simultaneously no matter what your point of view is. This is a situation where we are presented with two realities.
Hockey is the most beautiful of all the sports, but also possibly the most violent. It’s a game played by tough men, and women.
“I don’t care what he called your mom. Get on the bench.”
This is what a coach told us during one of my practices as a youth. This simplistic attitude, seems to be the best way to look at these things, at least in my view.
Ugly words will be used in sports indefinitely. To try and root them out, is completely futile. The best course of action here, is to leave the nastiness, both physical and verbal, on the ice. In addition, to draw attention to it by making accusations, may only make matters worse.
The notion that some things are best dealt with by ignoring them, cannot be dismissed. Yet we are faced with a societal epidemic here. One of grave importance. Eventually, intolerance in all it’s forms will hopefully no longer exist. However, as the last few days have showed, that moment is far away. And when it comes, it will take the sports world a bit longer to catch up.