Silverman: Boston’s Great Shame
By Steve Silverman
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The Boston Bruins are now the racist team.
These ignorant morons who have the courage to type out ugly, nasty rants with the use of the “N” word have mindlessly taken what has been one of the hardest working teams in sports and ruined its reputation with ugliness that has not been seen since the 1960s and 1970s. Anyone who lived in Boston during the busing controversy during the 1970s remembers how ugly the racism got.
Now, the hard work and decisive backhand shot by Joel Ward that ended the Bruins’ season has ignited childish anger that manifests itself through the most racist language and attitude imaginable.
It will taint the team. If not permanently, for a long time. Many casual sports fans will not think of Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque or Tim Thomas when they think of the Boston Bruins. Instead, they will think of hate-mongering cowards who hide behind their keyboards.
How awful for everyone associated with the team. How it must gall Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien, two of the best professionals in the hockey business. I think of players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, two players who were completely spent by the time Ward’s shot entered the net. Instead of rehashing the season and realizing how much last year’s championship run took out of the team, they all have to deal with this ugliness.
It’s hard to understand what would bring about this kind of reaction. The combination of anonymity, drugs and entitlement are the root causes. It was as if these fans thought the Bruins deserved a walkover because they were the better team on paper and their Original 6 legacy gave them the right to crush Washington. How dare the Capitals show up? How dare they play the Bruins even for six games. How dare they manage not to roll over in Game 7. How dare they allow an African American player to score the goal that knocked them out of the playoffs?
The NHL does not feature many African-American players. However, there are far more now there was generations ago. The NHL likes to feature Willie O’Ree in some of its public service ads. O’Ree, of course, was the first black player in NHL history and he played for the Bruins. It should be noted that O’Ree donned his Bruins sweater before Pumpsie Green put on a Red Sox uniform and became the first African-American player on that team.
The Bruins have not had a lot of black players, but Anson Carter wore Bruin Black and Gold from 1996 through 2000. He had speed, skills and passion. He was not an all-star, but he had his moment. In the 1999 playoffs, his overtime goal in Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes gave the Bruins a 3-2 edge of a series that they would go on to win.
Wonder if these racists were shouting epithets when Carter had the nerve to score the winning goal for the Bruins. From their identifying pictures, most of these racists were just children then. It’s hard not to wonder how they could adopt such hateful views and allow them to spill over in public.
I am 55-years-old and I have seen this team play for many years. I count myself fortunate that I saw Bobby Orr play in person. But as great as Orr was, the overriding characteristic of the large majority of Bruins players has been the effort they have shown, generation in and generation out.
Guys like Johnny “Pie” McKenzie, Terry O’Reilly, Stan Jonathan, Rick Middleton, Cam Neely, Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Gerry Cheevers, Tim Thomas, Bergeron and Chara. That’s what stands out. Most times, that effort had gone unrewarded. Heartbreak was the constant companion of Bruins fans.
That ended last year. Victories over the Canadiens, Flyers, Lightning and Canucks finally brought the Holy Grail to the Bruins and their fans.
Two in a row seemed likely when the Bruins ripped off a 21-2-1 streak in November and December, but that pace was unsustainable. They lost in sudden and stark fashion.
There was no shame in the loss. The effort remained intact.
But the shame came later in the form of virulent racism shown by ignorant slugs who are now associated with Boston Bruins fans.
They should not be allowed to ruin a team’s reputation nor that of the city it represents.
Yet that’s just what they have done.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy).