05:50:07 pm on
Sunday 23 Jun 2024

The Suits of Don Cherry
David Simmonds

Don Cherry is off the air; at least the air controlled by Rogers Communications. On the 9 November 2019 edition of Coach’s Corner, which aired between the first and second periods of Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry said, “You people ... love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.” The suggestion is Sportsnet, owned by Rogers, fired him after he rejected the opportunity to make the sort or grovelling apology, for his statement aimed at some immigrants, that his host Ron Maclean made earlier in the week.

Principle over friendship.

A nation waited with baited breath on Saturday 16 November 2019, to see what would become of the Coach’s Corner slot. A sombre Ron Maclean, appearing solo, pronounced Coach’s Corner dead and left viewers to wonder whether his friendship with Cherry was also dead. Maclean said he chose principle over friendship in denouncing the remarks by Cherry, although he was fortunate that choosing principle also meant he kept his job, at least for now.

I can’t add much to the debate when it comes to the firing of Cherry; it was a decision Sportsnet leaders wanted to make and did. As far as I can see, Sportsnet got what they paid for when they hired him. He was always operating in murky territory, so it ought to have been no surprise that he crossed the line. I have no doubt that, if he feels so inclined, he could resurrect himself on some YouTube channel and carry on much as before, presumably, though, without Ron Maclean.

I will miss Don Cherry, not for his political views or his hockey analysis, but for his willingness to dip into his pocket and produce an outrageous suit with every appearance he made. The suits have become a mini-industry, spurring best-of-Don-Cherry-suits tribute websites and even academic articles. In hindsight, perhaps the suits tended to distract people from the substance of his comments, allowing him more slack than deserved; perhaps, in hindsight, the suits were a good investment for him. 

What will happen to the suits Cherry wore only once? He reportedly decided not to donate any of them to charity because he feared an inundation of requests. Perhaps he will change his mind and donate his entire collection to benefit an immigrant services organization. Spare a thought for the tailor and suit maker for Donald Trump and the shareholders of FabricLand, where Cherry personally selected the material for his suits. Their lives will be much emptier without his regular purchases.

Where am I going to get my sartorial jollies now that Don Cherry is out of commission? One approach might be to appoint another natty dresser to appear on hockey telecasts, if one is locatable. That’s the challenge.

Nicholas Lowry springs to mind.

The only candidate who springs to mind is Nicholas Lowry, known to fans of Antiques Roadshow. On the show, Lowry appraises posters and who sports a collection of outrageous tartan suits. It would not be a big step for him to move beyond plaid into florals, stripes and other motifs.

The slight bugaboo would be that I am not sure how much Lowry knows of hockey. According to his biography, his interests include “finding treasures in flea markets and garage sales, long hikes in the mountains and drinking scotch while listening to heavy metal music.” No hint of any exposure to NHL hockey there, although the heavy metal music shows some promise.

The suits worn by Cherry should remind us clothing is a vital part of a complete public image. A quick survey of our political leaders suggests the possibility that more thought could go into clothing them; for instance, what if Andrew Scheer decided to do himself over? He wouldn’t necessarily adopt, slavishly, the Cherry style of high collar and double-breasted jacket. He might try a Toronto Raptors tee shirt, a replica middle finger championship ring and generous neck tattoos might be enough to persuade voters to take a fresh look at him and see him as a hip 905er instead of a social conservative from the deepest suburbs of Ottawa. 

Justin Trudeau could take his inspiration from the Village People. He might rig himself out as an unemployed pipeline construction worker, with a hard hat tethered to his jeans, to show his affinity for the west. Perhaps Jumpin’ Jasmeet Singh could add to his gravitas quotient by abandoning his necktie and adopting the trendy George Kent, foreign policy intellectual, just like Lester Pearson, with a slightly askew bow tie look.

Why stop at politicians? Take the At Issue panel on The National. What if Andrew Coyne wore an open necked shirt, with a long collar, Las Vegas gambler style; he’d certainly attract more attention. What if Chantal Hebert wore a white leather pantsuit emblazoned with Montreal Canadiens logos? Would she be a more commanding presence.

Bombastic suits silenced.

Don Cherry may be gone from public view, but our memories of his suits live on, if only to remind us that, although clothes may not make the man, they tell us much of him. In the case of Don Cherry, the visual cacophony of his suits matched his bombastic pronouncements on hockey. In his new podcast, Don Cherry’s Grapevine, the effect of his suits will be limited to our imaginations.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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