The NHL returns to training camps in a couple weeks, with the season just about a month away. The league wants to make a big deal of its new TV contracts, putting a new shine and look to the league, with both ESPN and TNT picking the national coverage. The hope, as forlorn as it always is, was that either channel, or both, would give us something new and different to counter NBC’s steady-but-unspectacular coverage.
TNT announced its broadcaster lineup this afternoon, and one name on there would cause any hockey fan who doesn’t regularly huff paint to slump her or his shoulders to the point of dislocation. That would be Paul Bissonnette, who has risen into the hockey consciousness via hosting a podcast on BarfStool called Spittin’ Chiclets with fellow deflated brain Ryan Whitney.
The podcast was everything you might imagine it would be on that platform, claiming to “push the envelope” or “test the boundaries,” but really only ever trying to make anyone who never grew up past the age of 13 watching scrambled Spice Channel feel OK about being a raging asshole. They swore, they talked about sexual escapades to make their listeners feel like they were living vicariously through them instead of going through the motions of their own nothing lives, and whatever other assorted horseshit BarfStool has been known for and celebrates. None of it was revolutionary or even creative. It was just billed as that because it was the only place you hear it, as the literate had moved onto anything and everything else more interesting than constantly being in Beavis mode.
You may remember Bissonnette’s podcast as the forum where Jeremy Roenick lewdly talked about his coworker Kathryn Tappen and got his bloated, Neanderthal ass fired from NBC. Roenick has hardly been the only blowhard chasing his locker room days again to appear on the podcast.
What’s obvious is that TNT saw Bissonnette’s following, and either didn’t know why it was so big or didn’t care, neither of which is acceptable. Anyone associated with that site and its fandom has, at best, admitted that racism, misogyny, and homophobia are acceptable as long as it makes them famous and rich, even if they want to claim they don’t dabble in any of those things.
Which, for a league like the NHL — with miles to go to escape its roots in all of those things — is yet another stumble back down the mountain in its half-hearted attempts to escape the shackles of hate and ignorance that have plagued it since its inception. No league has been or remains more afraid of its entrenched, aging fanbase, which is why it’s always been slow to change. Hockey still thinks that if it were to lose that group, it wouldn’t have any fans at all. So it will still kowtow to fart machines like Bissonnette, and give him an even bigger platform, only salivating at the thought of his legion of sniveling dipshits, who are still pissed off at not being asked to the turnaround dance in 10th grade, following him to their studio show.
Does Bissonnette have anything to add to TNT’s coverage? Fuck and no. I’m sure TNT execs would tell you that Bissonnette brings an “unpredictable” element to their coverage. He’s the guy who might say anything! We just don’t know! He’ll be hockey’s Charles Barkley!
One, Charles Barkley works for the same fucking channel, so if you want a Charles Barkley, you can get get the 1.0 version, and he would be happy to do it. Second, Barkley’s charm at least used to be rooted in that he and Kenny Smith could actually tell you something about the game you were watching, though Charles left that behind a while ago. So did most of his charm on that show, where you’re not even sure he’s watching the game on the broadcast a good portion of the time.
Bissonnette will be pushed as “edgy,” but to be edgy or to be a “line-stepper,” as Biz Nasty would love to call himself, is not only to be unique but to provide commentary on the boundaries you’re pushing. Howard Stern did this 30 fucking years ago and made everyone question what censorship was really all about. That doesn’t exist anymore, and there are plenty of backrooms and corners for people like Biz Nasty, whose envelope-pushing extends about as far as asking his friends to smell his finger. It’s not edgy or wild, it’s just sophomoric garbage sprinkled with bigotry.
And with him come a raft of racists, sexists, and homophobes that the league would do well to leave behind once and for all. TNT had some interesting names on its roster, like Tarik El-Bashir and Jennifer Botterill. But what good does that do if you have a talking head installed whose standing is built on a platform that states people like El-Bashir and Botterill have no place in sports?