Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thin Ice

I type this on the eve of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks have a 3-2 lead and if they win on Wednesday night, in Philadelphia, they will capture the Stanley Cup, for the first time since 1961. This is a pretty big deal.

The competition between the two teams has been quite heated at times -- the two teams have been playing very scrappy, tough hockey, leaving quite a bit of blood and sweat on the ice.

One of the more renown players on the Flyers is Chris Pronger, a well-traveled NHL player, who is tough, (some might say dirty), scrappy, and smart; the sort of player who gets away with a lot because he is nice to the officials, and who fans of every other team hate, but they'd take him on their club in a second.

During the last game, at the United Center in Chicago, Blackhawks fans showed their displeasure with Pronger by booing every time he touched the puck. Silly, maybe, but harmless, really.

Not so harmless was the Photoshopped poster of Pronger in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune. The poster referred to him as "Chrissy" and the Tribune "artist" who produced the picture put Pronger in a pair of women's figure skating tights -- all together, it insinuated that Pronger was a sissy, or a woman, or a fag, or somehow not a real man. That's the impression that I got, and as much as the people at the Tribune might deny it, that's the impression many got. This is the "journalistic" equivalent of shouting, "Pronger, you fag!"

I was instantly infuriated once I saw this poster. So infuriated that when I got home from work I didn't just put it up on my Facebook page or e-mail it to a bunch of people, I called the Tribune Sports department because I had one question, above all else: What was the point of this poster?

To their credit, the folks at the Trib seemed to be expecting my call (I wonder how many calls like mine they got on Tuesday). I was put on hold briefly, then a polite gentleman (I did not get his name) answered and after I told him about my objections to the poster, he said, "The point was just to try to have a little fun with who Chris Pronger was." he talked about Pronger's reputation and how Hawks fans hate him, and I told him that I am aware of that, because I am a Blackhawks fan, but that the poster was really offensive. He apologized and said that it was not their intention to offend women or gays or figure skaters or anyone else beyond Mr. Pronger (well, you failed at that, didn't you, Mister?). He then thanked me for calling and said they appreciated that I called and that I read the paper and that I listened to him. He did not give me the brushoff -- maybe that was because I did not get angry at him and I tried to be polite, though my voice was shaking at times. I then told him that I appreciated that he took the time to explain it to me and answer my question, though I still did not like that poster.

Not only is this in poor taste, but it only emboldens the meatheads who yell stuff such as "Pronger (or Crosby or Ovechkin or Thornton, et al) you fag!" at Blackhawks games. I know this because I have been there for games when, after scoring on the Blackhawks, these players have been treated to the above cries. (As if it makes it easier for one team's fans to deal with if they call the player that just scored on their team a fag.)

The good news is that most of the comments I saw on the Trib's website, as well as on some other blogs, really gave the Tribune hell for this boorish, stupid, juvenile, homophobic, misogynistic poster. The bad news is that it ever saw the light of day in the first place. I hope the sounds of the phone calls from angry readers are still ringing in the ears of the Tribune's sports editors.

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