In Kingston and Wolfe Island, where I work and live, Don Cherry occupies a rather unique place. He grew up in Kingston, and has a summer cottage on Wolfe Island. Here, he is one of our own.
In a larger sense too, Cherry is considered by many across Canada to be just that - one of our own in a way that few are. For that reason, from time to time the whole nation erupts in a great Cherry controversy. The Globe and Mail employs a fulltime columnist apparently for that reason alone.
So for the last few weeks, much attention was paid to what Grapes said on the inaugural Coach's Corner of the hockey season. On Saturday, Oct. 15, on his regular spot, he apologized.
"Now, I have done 1,500 shows and the ones that I've done bad on, or I haven't been right on, I can count them on one hand," Cherry said.
"But last week, the first Coach's Corner, I've got to admit I was wrong on a lot of things. I put down three enforcers, tough guys, my type of guys. I threw them under the bus. I'm sorry about it, I really am."
"I was wrong on that," Cherry said. "One hundred per cent wrong. And when you're wrong, you have to admit it."
The enforcers whom Cherry had insulted professed themselves satisfied with the apology. The Globe and Mail columnist for all things Cherry, Bruce Dowbiggin, was not, but then, he never is. Being upset with Don Cherry is his patch, never to be ceded in any circumstance.
Like most everyone else in our city and on our island, I am a fan of Grapes. I never thought it necessary to write about his commentary, but his apology bears noting.
Most important, it was actually an apology: "I was wrong. I should not have said what I said. I am sorry."
Most public apologies today resort to the conditional tense. If anyone was offended by what I said, then I am sorry they were offended. Such weasel words do not concede that there was anything wrong with what was said at all, just an unfortunate reaction by some people.
The if-then apology could be delivered after any statement at all: If anyone was offended by my anodyne salutation, then I am sorry.
Grapes did not do that, and for that alone the whole episode concluded with some educational value. That is how an apology is made: "I did it. It was wrong to do it. I am sorry."
Catholic penitents might well emulate such simplicity and direct speech, as confessors too often hear formulations such as, "I haven't been the best person I could have been." An angel could say the same.
There are likely few people who have conversed about the liturgy with Don Cherry, but upon visiting my parish church some years back, we discussed just that.
An Anglican, Grapes was familiar enough with the sonorous cadences of the Book of Common Prayer to recite some passages by heart. One of the most noble prayers in the Anglican liturgy is the introduction to their version of the Confiteor. The priest begins:
"Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy."
No cloaking, no dissembling. And the people reply in equally lovely language:
"Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. And there is no health in us.
"But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent . . .".
That's a confession that it is good for the soul, not to mention the lips and the ears. Would that we had it in the Catholic liturgy!
Coach's Corner is not the forum for elevated, let alone liturgical, language. But perhaps the direct admonitions of the Anglican liturgy encouraged Grapes to be direct and sincere.
Many a man would rather take a punch than to admit an error, confess a fault. But learning how to apologize properly is a manly thing, the kind of thing a tough guy ought to do properly. Grapes did so on Saturday night.
Fr. Raymond de Souza - firstname.lastname@example.org