Da Bruins

January 7, 2013

Hockey is back in Boston, at least for half a season.   After months of fruitless negotiations,  the black and gold will take the ice, Rene Rancourt will pump his fist as he sings the national anthem, the jacked up fans in the first row will bang the glass till it sways, while the huge team flag will makes its way around the Garden. And oh yes, there will be games to be played with speedy skaters, shots from the blue line, terrific saves, and of course blood, lots of blood as enforcers make a statement using their knuckles and their knuckleheads.

The strike is over, Jeremy Jacobs made his point and got his ounce of financial flesh, the players will return from their European vacation, and the merchants in the barrooms, pizza joints and souvenir shops will finally be able to make a living. And perhaps most importantly, the billionaire owners will remain billionaires and the millionaire players will remain millionaires.

The question on the minds of many in this hockey town is will the fans actually show up for the 48 game schedule? Usually when professional sports temper tantrums end, the diehards  come back, maybe with a few boos and catcalls, but with a new vigor to watch the game they love and to see blood on the ice.

Professional hockey has always been the number four sport in town  (and in most towns where there is a wide selection of teams to choose from), and so there will be a lot of nervous owners and general managers once the season starts. The strike is over, but the sport may have damaged its popularity, not with the gallery gods, but with those occasional attendees who might be disgusted with hockey and have drifted over to the Celtics and the Patriots (or to Foxwoods).

It’s good to see the Bruins back in the game, although Jeremy Jacobs will never win the Mother Teresa award for selfless charity or human kindness. Rather he will win the Vladimir Putin award for cold-blooded stubbornness and a genetic proclivity for money-grubbing. Go Bruins. Thanks for nothing Jeremy.

Some of My Best Friends Are….

April 27, 2012

When Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals scored the winning goal in overtime to send the Boston Bruins home for the spring without a second shot at the Stanley Cup, there was a barrage of racist rants on twitter targeting Ward, who of course is black. No one really knows how many of these tweets were sent out, but apparently they were more than a handful, in fact it is likely that there were hundreds.

Now Boston is a passionate sports town and so such a heart-breaking loss can release harsh emotions. But there is more to these twitter racist rants than just high emotion and sports fanaticism. 

 It is not a false generalization to state that the Bruins are the favorites of the white working class in a town with a national reputation for not being welcoming to African-Americans. Sure the use of the N word in the tweets may be from a small minority and both the Bruins management and many fans condemned the messages sent out, but this episode of overt racism in our midst should serve as a stark reminder that right beneath the surface lies racial hatred.

Sure we have a black or at least multi-racial president of the United States; sure the workplace is fully integrated; sure the number of inter-racial marriages is skyrocketing and sure most of us often use the line, ” some of my best friends are black”, but it is important when such a racist incident is exposed that all of us think about how tolerant we really are, how welcoming we are toward people of different skin colors and how willing we are to accept non-white people in power or the victors in a sporting event.

There is no doubt that as a nation we have come a long way from the days of blatant discrimination and segregation, but we still have not conquered racism in its more subtle forms. There is no doubt in my mind that all this birther baloney targeting President Obama is race driven; there is no doubt in my mind that there remains far too many examples of race entering into hiring decisions, promotions, bank loans, construction contracts, and development projects; and there is no doubt in my mind that white folk quietly wish that more sports heroes had white skin.

I am confident that the Boston sports world will learn from this racist episode with the Bruins and some of its intolerant fans, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is still work to be done to change the thinking habits of most Americans. People have different skin colors, get over it and treat them as human beings, not some oddity or worse yet a danger.