In case you missed it, this is Darren Pang from last night on TSN. In the clip, Pang lands perhaps the most unfortunate slip of the tongue since that time Lorraine Baines tried to park with Marty McFly, when he compares Alex Pietrangelo's quiet class to P.K. Subban's chirping, declaring that Pietrangelo plays "the white way."
Obviously, he meant to say "the right way." I feel terrible for him. I'm laughing a little too, of course. But it's a gentle laughter.
Now I've been holding my tongue on the P.K. Subban issue, but I'll take this opportunity to talk about it (sorry, Panger). The furor around P.K. Subban isn't going to go away. First, because P.K. Subban is a very, very good player, and second, because Subban is a completely different breed of hockey personality. He's flashy and arrogant in a way few are, and it doesn't help his cause that he's black. Other hockey players play with swagger too, but when P.K. Subban sports that swagger, it's hip hop. As a result, it's hard to put Subban's blackness aside-- it's a major element of his playing style. Worse, it's hard not to consider the role that plays when people talk about how he needs to earn respect.
Subban's blackness will continue to be an issue in the same way that Ray Emery's was. These are black athletes with hip hop swagger in hockey; they stand out like a sore thumb. Worse, they're stars in Canadian markets, where the coverage is vast, and, frankly, most hockey fans and media guys aren't really sure how much they're allowed to notice what's so plainly evident.
But worst of all, they're both jerks. It's hard to point that out without being labelled a racist. There was a brilliant episode of 30 rock on this once.
Anyway, as a result, coverage of Subban has become very, very sensitive. (Crap like this doesn't help). Nobody wants to be the racist. As Greg Wyshynskhi pointed out:
[This incident] does speak to some hypersensitivity in coverage in Subban, who is quickly becoming one of the most prominent black players in the NHL.For example, CBC analyst Glenn Healy's words were scrutinized in the Globe & Mail after he said Subban was having "none of this monkey business" during a scrum. Columnist Bruce Dowbriggin wrote: "the incident illustrates the new sensitivities of modern broadcast etiquette in Canada’s multiracial culture."
Very true. But the Panger incident is different. He didn't break some sort of modern etiquette rule; he just had an Elmer Fudd moment. Later in the show, the panel briefly addressed the issue. Panger: "I feel terrible. I've got a knot in my stomach; it was an honest mistake, and I mixed up my words, obviously." Darren Pang is no racist. Heck, he's the star of the Urban Dictionary. Urban! But seriously, he's no more a racist than Ron Maclean is the grand marshall of Mardi Gras.
Edit: For a different take on this, check out Angie Lewis at All We Do is Puck, who takes issue with the things Pang said leading up to the gaffe:
Well, notice how Pang, and of course everybody else comments on Subban's behavior, need of "settling him down." The same conversation has happened with Russian Alex Ovechkin's personality and party-boyish ways. While it is understandable in the case of Subban in a community where everyone else doesn't act the way he does that he should be mindful of this for the betterment of his team, it is still troublesome that he has to do so.
This all goes under this concept of "conformity"... the idea that the right, proper way to do everything is to assimilate by conforming to the Anglo-Canadian style of play, attitude, training, etc. And this concept appears in many forms in our daily lives, and it is hard to detect by others on the outside because of the idea of privilege... unfortunately, this is All We Do Is Puck and not sociology class, so I won't explain all of it here, but it is something to be aware of.
There's definitely something to this, though I don't entirely agree with Lewis. To my mind, conformity is a team sports convention. I don't like it (it's partly why weirdly adorable Kyle Wellwood is playing in Russia and, as Lewis points out, it's certainly caused Alex Ovechkin undue grief), but it's not solely racial. Conformity attacks difference of all sorts.
That said, I've spoken to Angie Lewis on Twitter, and we both agree that no one seems quite sure what to do with P.K. Subban, and where his personality and his blackness intersect. This won't be the last we hear of this issue.