On October 12, 2008, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher was tossing a football on his front lawn with his son. Wurzelbacher decided to wander over to a political rally that was happening in his Ohio neighbourhood.
The visiting politician was looking for a photo op with the common folk. Wurzelbacher decided to take the opportunity to ask a simple question about the candidate’s tax plan and its affect on small businesses.
Without the aid of a script or a teleprompter, the politician stumbled with his response.
An ordinary guy had entered the daily news cycle about the U.S. Presidential election. “Joe the Plumber” was born. The campaign machine working to elect candidate Barack Obama was not amused.
Setting aside politics, one had to be impressed that a regular guy had a substantial impact on such a major event. One side exploited Joe the Plumber as a poster boy while the other spent a great deal of time and money trying to discredit him.
But Joe, with his simple question, was part of the conversation.
For some time now, a few of us in the new media have been discussing the hiring policy of the Montreal Canadiens. The policy, as articulated by the President of the Canadiens, puts language skills above hockey expertise. Further, Pierre Boivin has stated that the goal of the policy is to employ francophones at every level of the organization.
Some believe that this is a sacred cow that shouldn’t even be discussed. Others feel that the policy has bred mediocrity and merit should be the primary criterion used to hire talent.
To date, the main stream media have steered clear of the issue.
The MSM mostly asks softball questions of Canadiens’ management due to a lack of knowledge, pandering to the organization, or busy promoting their own personal agenda. The Canadiens are able to control the message and we are left to read descriptions of the facade.
When the Habs appointed Pierre Gauthier to the position of General Manager in February without conducting a single interview, Boivin described the process as “no stone was left unturned.” The mirage that he created was not challenged.
On Wednesday night, the Canadiens lost 6-to-3 to the Washington Capitals in game five of their playoff series. Following the game, the first caller to the Team 990′s post-game radio show was rather memorable.
Some may say that he is Montreal’s version of Joe the Plumber. The caller’s name is Sal. He is a self-described “frustrated and proud Canadiens’ fan.”
Sal’s voice quickly elevated in volume with his message mostly directed at Habs upper management. “You start getting some competent people behind the bench!” “I’ve had it with this!” “I want them fired!”
People have had different reactions to the call. Some are shocked, some are amused, and others applaud. Personally, I experienced all three emotions.
Refrain if you can from focusing on Sal’s delivery. Instead listen to his message. He is a passionate fan who has been driven to the point of exasperation. Amidst the frustration and anger, Sal made some very salient points.
In a grassroots way, Sal’s rant brought the main stream media into the ongoing conversation. On Thursday, hosts of the Team 990 began discussing the issues that until now have been taboo.
Let’s face it. The Canadiens are an organization that is broken right now. Mediocrity has replaced excellence. Winning the Stanley Cup has given way to making the playoffs.
It is unfair to place the burden of responsibility on the players until management are in place who support the philosophy of a meritocracy. Having the Montreal Canadiens guided by a commitment to winning should not be controversial.
Thank you to Sal, Joe and all other regular people who have the courage to question the rich and powerful. Sometimes, it is the first step to change. Your voice can truly make a difference.
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