III: GOOD DON
Perhaps Don’s single most attractive quality is his intelligibility. Don is articulate, eloquent even. Don has the gift of simplicity. Forget nuance. Forget subtlety. Forget multisyllabic obfuscation (hehehe). Don is the personification of sledgehammer clarity. What a precious quality! We understand him. We can agree or disagree with him and in doing so we are obliged to challenge ourselves and therefore come to a better understanding of our opinion/beliefs/attitudes/biases which awareness can only be a good thing, a positive contribution to the well-being of all if only because, albeit in a very narrow field of reference, he obliges us to identitfy ourselves, to also become visible and therefore accountable for what we espouse – no hemming and hawing, hiding behind hypocritical hedges. (It seems to me that every country has their version of Don. For example, England has Prince Charles and America, as befits its sprawling complexity, has several but the one who comes to mind is Sir Charles Barkley.)
This isn’t to say that the issues he addresses are simple – some are (for example, details re how the game is played, what happens in a game) and some are not (for example, fighting in hockey). Nor is Don simple. On the contrary, he has a sophisticated understanding of what his role is, of what he can say, of what his boundaries are. Unlike, say, Sir Charles, Don does not skate on the very thin ice of arenas other than his own. This is astute not only in a self-preservatory sense but in the broader sense that he knows (whether intuitively or explicity, it doesn’t matter) he doesn’t have to `hold forth’ on other topics simply because hockey plays a central role in whatever Canadian culture can said to be – it is our defining metaphor and as such touches on all the things that we do and are.
Don entertains us in all ways: he bemuses us, shocks us, informs us, challenges us – he is our Court Jester, motley included. He speaks out loud and clear, says things that can be understood and employed as a useful yardstick against which to measure not only one’s personal standards but as a means by which we can locate ourselves in the larger social and cultural context in which we move. And in this time of insipid relativism and pc silencing (lol, one of the pc journalist bullys accused Don of being pc – typical of such bullies to `accuse’ others of being/doing what is in fact true of them) Don’s openness even within the confines of such a formally restricted domain as hockey is a welcome gust of fresh air.
We marvel at Don. And Don is a marvel. Nor is he just any run-of-the-mill marvel, he’s a particularly Canadian one, although, given the current vagueness as to who and what a Canadian is, it’s understandable that it’s difficult to believe that a Canadian as clearly recognizable as absolute as Don truly exists, that he’s not a figment of our collective imagination, some kind of fantastic polychromatic 3-D dramatis persona grinning down at us from above like the Cheshire Cat on Alice verging on imminent dissolution, of going poof! and disappearing from our reality, if not forever, at least during the off-season. In this sense the question, `Why Don’, can be construed to be a quintessentially Canadian one in that it serves as a window on our quest for a positive self-image, a unique collective identity which has so far been frustrated by our notorious insecurity (we’re sorry, and we’re sorry we’re sorry), by our negative self-image (we’re not British, we’re not American, we’re not (`cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ – O! Those Americans! aka) French from France) and by our pompous compensatory self-delusion that we are morally superior to everybody else because we’re multicultural (We’re not racist, we’re not ethnocentric, we’re not bigots, we’re not, well, everything bad that everybody else is.), because we’re gender-sensitive, gender-progressive, gender-committed (Long live The Matriarchy!), because we’re polite (Excuse me, Sir/Ma’am but would you please stop hitting me.) and because, for the most part, we’ve only killed other people when it’s their fault (terrorists, assorted fanatics, wild injuns, people who don’t know that we know what’s best for them). But Don is not like this. He’s got an identity. At least he appears to have one which unconscionable chutzpah raises more questions.
If Don KNOWS who he is can he be a real Canadian? Or, is he simply a more real Canadian, somebody who is the embodiment of pure undiluted Canadian-icity, a reification of a sartorially-challenged platonic form? If so, who are we? Are we real? Is our national preoccupation with Don an expression of a repressed desire to be like his naughty unCanadian self – loud/opinionated/self-confident/patriotic/assertive/brusque/Leaf fan/Bruin fan/hammy/rude? Have we created him in order to assure ourselves of our own objective existence? Is Don a weird abstraction, a kind of animated declaration of our significance – Look Ma! Don’s doin’ it again! – in spite of our lurking suspicion that the pretentious aspirations of the current crop of pc ideologues is, as is invariably so, merely the icing on the cake of their self-serving interests, that their `vision’ of a higher realization of human nature is, at best, absurd, that their recipe for realizing this vision is toxic? If so, is he a bum or a hero? If Don could retire, would we go poof!? Oh yeah, Don makes us nervous ….. well, some of us.
Only in Canada, eh?