Michael Landsberg is concerned. The host of TSN's Off The Record has had a long friendship with former NHL coach (now senator) Jacques Demers.
"He's not just another guest on the show," Landsberg said. "He's gone out of his way to help my family. The other day my dad Ronald sent him an e-mail saying, 'When you coming to have Passover?' It will make me sad if other people use this to go after Jacques because he's not that kind of person."
"This" being Demers's appearance in Montreal last week on OTR:
In the final moments of the show, Landsberg and Demers were kibitzing about where the TV host should go to dinner. The exuberant Demers suggested Moishe's, "a nice Jewish place." Demers then suggests that when the folks at Moishe's see Landsberg's nose, they will give him a table right away.
As the show faded to black, Landsberg was laughing at the remark from Demers, who's been an advocate for literacy since revealing he could neither read nor write during his coaching career.
Landsberg says he did not initially hear the remark live and noticed it only on the tape of the show.
"Did he get carried away?" Landsberg asks. "No. I understand the context, the nature of our relationship. I knew where it was coming from, even if others don't. We do go back and forth all the time, making references to Jewish things, Jewish words. Was I offended? No. To me, if it's generated by malice, then it's racism. But there's no malice in Jacques."
Should others be offended? "It's not for me to say if someone else should be offended," Landsberg said. "So I asked my dad, he's more sensitive to these things. He said, 'Absolutely not.'"
In earlier times, that would have been enough.
But these days, human-rights commissions feel it is their sacred duty to prosecute standup comedians for hate speech, or parse magazine articles for cultural insensitivity. In their mind, the compass has moved. It doesn't matter if neither party to the actual event is offended.
Demers, a senator, would make an impressive trophy for their vigilance. Landsberg hopes not.
"I say things all the time, not in the same vein, but if I am wrong, I retract them," he said. "To me, there's nothing Jacques needs to retract."
CBS Sports columnist Mike Freeman illustrated that in a column disparaging Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who was surprisingly chosen by Denver in the first round of the NFL draft. Freeman, who is black, wrote Friday of Tebow, a devout Christian who has performed missionary work: "Denver wasted a valuable first-round pick on a player who will do nothing for years unless they move Tebow to fullback or make him a missionary and have him snip foreskins."
Malice? You bet. Apparently this passes muster at CBS as the column was still on their site at press time. Guess there's no one to do any editorial snipping at CBSSports.com.
Very Windy City
That'll teach him to answer the phone when the Fan 590 calls. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times made disparaging remarks about Toronto's affection for the Blue Jays, saying it was time Major League Baseball gave them the Montreal Expos death sentence.
That led the Fan 590 to get Cowley on the air with Don Landry and Gord Stellick. Good for a few laughs!
But then, after some tepid to-and-fro between the sides that proved Cowley was more show than go, Landry went Glenn Beck on his guest. Heading to commercial, the Fan's anchor announced time was running short, and "maybe you're a nice guy who's trying to be funny. And, if so, let me just say, kiss my back bacon."
And scene... You could almost hear Cowley going, "Why did I agree to this?" Stellick went silent as the tomb. Uncomfortable.
Maybe Landry thought his show could use a little Bob McCown/ Doug MacLean tension to boost ratings? Initially, the Fan used the witless exchange as a "What You Missed This Morning" bumper. Then, on second thought, the station pulled back from Landry's outburst. Landry/ Stellick can use a ratings boost, but slaying paper tigers is not the way.