Thursday, May 29, 2014
Here's your hat, what's your hurry?
There's been a Bob Cole gushfest on social media for the past few days, as the venerable Hockey Night in Canada announcer winds down a career that seemingly began around the time Wellington was chasing Napoleon off the battlefield at Waterloo. Most of the Twitter praise being heaped on Cole is from media members two generations his junior, for whom Cole's voice represents a deep and meaningful connection to their childhood, when hockey leaves its most indelible impression. They brook no criticism of Cole because to discredit him would be to invalidate their own youth. He's a legend, he's an icon, and he's the best - not because he's he best, but because he represents their best memories.
I appreciate the power of that emotional bond. My generation feels the same way about Danny Gallivan. I also recognize that Cole has a booming baritone voice and that his enthusiasm is genuine 100 percent of the time. My longstanding problem with Bob Cole is that he too often can't find the words to describe what he's watching. Think about that: a broadcaster who struggles to articulate. That's what leads to cringeworthy moments like "everything is happening", "Oh baby for sure" and my personal favourite, "Here's Daoust; he can be dangerous", an epic moment 30-plus years ago when Cole apparently mistook journeyman forward Dan Daoust for Dangerous Dan McGrew - the turn-of-the-century gold prospector who died in a hail of bullets whilst dueling for the affections of a saloon trollop, as per Robert W. Service. (Cole's call of the gunfight would have been "WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE YUKON?!", while Gallivan would have described a scene of "pistols drawn in rapier-like fashion" and McGrew "careening gutshot over a poker table" before "being attended to rather gingerly by the lady that's know as Lou." Danny Gallivan was never at a loss for words. He was a master wordsmith who excelled at theater of the mind in a visual medium, and left theater of the absurd to lesser professionals.)
I don't begrudge Bob Cole his long and successful career, because I was never one of the promising younger play-by-play announcers held back by his refusal to exit the stage in a timely and dignified fashion. I don't dispute that he's a legend and an icon. He's earned that status on the basis of longevity alone.
But the best? Sorry. Not even close.