Big Bobby Clobber

Can we look at this “pansify” business as a teachable moment? I don’t mean “send Milbury to reëducation camp.” I mean “talk about what really happens in sports media.”

This is so old hat now that “important” commentators like Mark Simpson coin a phrase for it (“sporno”) and ritually phone in a critique from on high whenever somebody posts a cellphone photo of a “football” player’s behind. Sports are about performing masculinity. (There! It’s that easy. That and a few thousand words gets you an M.A. in wymmynz studies.)

Maybe except for sumo and powerlifting, what you’re dealing with are big strapping males in peak condition – surrounded by each other for hours, days, weeks at a time. It isn’t gay, but maybe it’s homoerotic. (Ask Simpson – or tight-bodied Josh Levy.)

So when Milbury says banning fighting would result in the pansification of the NHL, he doesn’t mean Steven & Chris would take over the league. He just means it wouldn’t be a safe place for tough guys anymore. Here “tough” = “violent.” That part is going a bit far, but in an information economy in which hot-swappable office drones stay seated and move barely anything but hands and arms all day, what happens to the virtues of traditional manhood?

A lot of that has to do with personal carriage and taking up space. It isn’t really related to dressing well. (Grapes should have gotten a full chapter in The Affected Provincial’s Companion; he’s the greatest Canadian fop.) It isn’t about being smart or articulate (Cf. Mike Rowe) or liking nice things. It’s just a way of acting, apparently, if I’m reading Milbury (and Androphilia) correctly. To use a pansy word, it’s about comportment.

I don’t know if we’d be having this discussion if the Incident had happened anywhere but the Corpse. Or it would have come up on a gay blog like Outsports, lasted a day, and died out. The Americans wouldn’t pussyfoot around – they’d say this whole issue was blown out of proportion by the “effete liberal media.”

Whenever commentators call for the elimination of sports (or just pro sports) from the CBC, they’re just exposing themselves as snobs who failed gym class. In fact, CBC Sports is unique: It shows pro hockey and pro football (and now pro “football”), but Saturday afternoons are packed to the walls with amateur sports. This is the legacy of Nancy Lee, who famously banned skimpy beach-volleyball bikinis and insisted that male and female competitors be given the same prizes. Great!

But there’s an unintended legacy. CBC Sports is home to the full spectrum of masculinity and manhood – everything from really girly figure skaters to actually rather butch female hockey players to divers, kayakers, and, yes, pro hockey stars. (Wymmynz in sport are still performing masculinity. Now you’re even closer to that M.A.!) Then there are the rainbow of gay accents heard in post-event figure-skating interviews (“Oh, Brian, I thought you skated amazing.” “Oh, no, Brian, you were the one who skated amazing”).

Along the way, CBC Sports shows us naked football giants celebrating after the Gey Cup, beauty shots of guys poised on diving boards, one paddler after another with no shirt on, and scores of zero-bodyfat hockey players in tight wicking undershirts. (Dream date: ALFREDSSON!, though that would be like going out with a balding ginger Vulcan.) One day I listened as a colour commentator wouldn’t shut up about how huge those bobsledder dudes are.

As the Americans love to say, the solution to offensive speech is more speech. A man’s man who thinks hockey won’t be tough enough without fighting is easily counterbalanced – on the same network – by seminude athletes and tales of four 220-pound guys in tights sardining themselves into a bobsled. Gay icon Grapes has enough contradictions he can balance anything out all by himself.

Think any of this could happen on TSN? As if. CBC Sports, don’t ever change!

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