One of the cultural clarifications that occurred after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 was the way we described professional athletes. Bravery was redefined. The idea that someone risking their life in a burning skyscraper could be compared to someone playing a triple-overtime game, for example, became preposterous.
Just over a decade later, Ron MacLean began CBC's coverage of Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers by comparing them to 9/11 first responders.
Here's how MacLean opened the game, obviously off the cuff:
"From the capital of the U.S. of A., it's New York and Washington. The economic and political engines of America, united in the birth of the country, they're also linked in tragedy. They were the twin targets of the coordinated attacks on 9/11. It's crazy to compare what the emergency responders did during that time, but a spirit has to start somewhere. And as you enjoy this series between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals — Game 6 comin' up, 3-2 New York — you can't help but be struck by the players and the way they've played these games.
"They are like police officers. They are like firefighters. You can't fight fire with ego. Brad [Richards] knows that. The pain these men have faced. The price they keep on paying. The hearts they keep on lifting. It's been through and through, five games in. You see the commitment, they're ready to go again this evening in Game 6 at Verizon Center in Washington.
"We all know about the firefighters. Our worst day is their every day. Been a joy to watch."
Well that was strained to the point of pain. Despite immediate backlash from viewers on Twitter and other social media, MacLean didn't address the speech between the first and second period.
Look, MacLean's heart was in the right place, as you can tell from that closing line. And he added a "this is crazy" caveat, but then went ahead with the comparison anyway.
But this was a tragedy on an epic scale, and an event that simply can't be minimized by comparison to entertainers having long nights. Apology forthcoming, we imagine.
UPDATE: Asked for comment, a CBC spokesperson replied: "As you know, Ron closed his opening remarks with 'our worst day is their everyday.'"
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