Feschuk: Who will think of the broadcasters?

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

You may not have much pity for those who gave you months of speculation. But they suffer for your entertainment.

You know those heart-wrenching commercials for groups like World Vision and the SPCA? Prepare yourself for an even more emotionally devastating ad, coming soon to your TV…

Open on a shot of the Canadian flag, flapping in slow motion. Soft, sad piano music plays. Cue the voice-over.

“Canada. For many, a land of hope and opportunity. But not for all.
Not for him.”

Slo-mo image of a middle-aged white man in a suit, sitting at a desk, staring into the camera, talking. Sarah McLachlan sings something about an angel. The voice-over continues…

“Exploited. Cast aside. This is the all-too-common story of a tragic victim of our modern world.

The Canadian hockey panellist.

For months—for years—the panellist is relied upon to provide his opinions on who will make the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team.

Whenever there is time to fill. Whenever they run out of real stuff to talk about. Whenever someone recognizes him on the bus.

Over and over again, the panellist is asked to speculate, to spitball, to guesstimate, to approximate. Whose stock is rising? Who’s a lock? Who’s on the bubble?

And always, the panellist opines. Trusting and naive, he gives freely of his perspective.”

The sad music gets sadder. McLachlan sings over a montage of panellists slumped at the desk, spent and winded after a marathon session of Olympic musing.

“Then, one fateful morning, the roster is announced. A nation cheers an end to the uncertainty.

But what of the panellist?

Hundreds of times he has done his duty. He has been a professional.

During countless segments, he has debated the merits of Brent Seabrook vs. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau vs. Logan Couture. Somehow, he even kept a straight face when one guy tried to make a case for Jason Spezza.

The panellist did not ask to be born into this world of repetition and shameless time-filling. But now, abruptly, he is asked to stop speculating. He is expected to go cold turkey.

They all try. Most do not succeed.”

Zoom in on a panellist in the fetal position, mumbling: “Thornton…
St. Louis… Getzlaf… GETZlaf…

“These pictures aren’t easy to look at. Sometimes, the damage is permanent. Already, several panellists have been diagnosed with a unique form of northern Tourette’s.”

Scene: the McDonald’s drive-through.

Voice: Would you like fries with that?

Panellist: Kunitz!

“Every Olympic cycle, more panellists are being abused, used up—and then neglected.

Right now, today, in a major media market near you, there is a poor, innocent Canadian hockey panellist who is crying out for help. Will you hear his call? Will you take action?”

The sadder music gets saddest. McLachlan is now basically singing a string of synonyms for “miserable.”

“For only $2.75 a month on your cable bill, you can help provide a panellist in need with a 24-hour channel devoted entirely to speculation about the roster for the 2018 Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team.

That’s just nine cents a day to give the gift of hope—a safe, well-lit environment with a camera, a desk and a wardrobe courtesy of Botany 500.

A welcoming place with a highlight reel of every Olympic contender, set to generic rock music, for the panellist to talk over, night after night.

A caring environment in which baseless speculation is valued,
wild guessing encouraged and Connor McDavid’s name uttered 3,800 times a day.

Call now and the panellist you sponsor will send you a handwritten letter expressing doubt about P.K. Subban’s reliability in the defensive zone.

The Canadian hockey panellist has given so much time, effort and skilful hedging. Don’t let him suffer in silence for even one more day.”

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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