By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Controversy sells. Any sports talk radio host worth their salt knows this, and the same philosophy extends to talking heads on TV. After 18 years as a player and coach in the National Hockey League, former Bruins and Islanders head coach Mike Milbury has made a second career out of making unfiltered, aggressively cynical, brutally honest comments on hockey talk shows. He’s making headlines Wednesday for his latest controversial remarks, and this one has people calling for his head to hit the chopping block.
During Tuesday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, the Blues took some bad penalties that led to two power play goals by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns and a 4-0 loss to tie the series at one win apiece. Milbury was not satisfied with the Blues’ penalties, saying that they should have really made it count if they intended to hit the penalty box.
Translation: If you’re going to hit a guy hard, really hit him hard. Don’t let him forget you. But, Milbury took it a step too far in calling for concussions and broken bones – not because he’s a bad person for saying it, but because you just can’t say things like that on TV without facing the wrath of the internet.
It started with the comment immediately being taken out of context…
Then others being the bigger person and taking the high road by merely suggesting Milbury get a taste of his own medicine…
Then, of course, the demands for his firing…
…And the inevitable angry blog reactions admonishing Milbury for his comments, but at the same time realizing what people calling for his head may not realize: statements like this are the reason he is still on the air.
Milbury was not seriously calling for the Blues to break bones or give the Sharks concussions. He exaggerated for effect and it was a total misfire of a joke attempt. Is Milbury a comedian? Of course not. Are real-life concussions a laughing matter? No.
But Milbury’s bad joke was not the frustrating part. Just because real concussions aren’t funny doesn’t mean you can’t joke about people getting hurt. The real frustration lies in the backlash that became the inevitable pot-kettle moment, such as joking that Milbury should be beaten with a shoe for his comments. That’s also a joke and also not a particularly funny or clever one, yet that’s OK for someone on Twitter to say but not Milbury? Why?
Some people did have Milbury’s back against the overreaction to his comments.
Ultimately, this guy had the right idea:
Milbury’s own broadcast partner Jeremy Roenick doesn’t even take him seriously, so why should you?
So next time you get angry or feel triggered by an ill-advised comment someone made in jest, first understand the context, then take the high road and react appropriately. If you want Milbury to be hurt as badly as the players he jokingly wanted to be concussed, you’re being just as ridiculous as he was. If you don’t think it’s funny, then just change the channel.
But now, all the attention on Milbury can only help the Stanley Cup Playoffs bring more eyeballs to their screens. This is what he does and if you fell for his shtick, you’re only helping NBC SportsNet. You’re outraged over a guy who makes a living saying outrageous things.
Milbury has kept his job after saying many over-the-top things in the past and is best known for beating a fan with a shoe. If he hasn’t been fired already, he won’t be canned for this, nor should he.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.