Google "Simmonds banana incident" and you get nearly two million responses. That's less than a week after the incident. It's the banana that rocked the sporting world.
In case you missed it, there was a NHL exhibition game in London last week, and during the shoot-out somebody threw a banana peel on the ice. Massive indignation ensued. The banana caper has been the absolute high-light of an otherwise banal NHL pre-season. In the whitest sport this side of NASCAR, even a hint of racism works wonders to attract attention to the NHL's otherwise lame product, and any attention is better than no attention, so the powers that be have been working overtime to milk this little windfall for all it's worth.
NHL commish Gary Bettman wasted no time labelling the banana pitcher as "ignorant and stupid." Well, the stupid part is a no-brainer. Anyone who pays a hundred bucks to see the NHL's pre-season product is obviously stupid. But ignorant? If the banana-toss was indeed an intentionally racist gesture, the perpetrator must have at least a passing familiarity with European football, where certain home crowds have used the banana as a symbol of... well, I'm not sure of what. I think the train of logic goes like this: I throw a banana in the direction of a black player, everybody knows that apes eat bananas, therefore I am making a statement that black players are ape-like. Hmmmm..... a bit tenuous perhaps, but good enough to get the sports media, and especially the Canadian sports media, into a proper tizzy.
"Ugly incident." And so on and on. The mayor of London issued an official apology. Talk shows around the country stirred the pot as best they could.
Then, not even a week later, the victim becomes the bully. Wayne Simmonds is at this moment drowning under a tidal wave of indignation. Why? He called poor little Sean Avery of the New York Rangers a "fag."
Unbelievable, no? The NHL is obviously a seething cesspool of racism and homophobia.
Sean Avery is of course one of the most foul-mouthed agitators in the entire league. He is an absolute master of trash talk and has been famous for it throughout his career. Then this black guy calls him a fag and poor little Sean is sobbing into the Kleenexes in Bettman's office. The poor dear.
Hope they've got the helmet cams wired for sound the next time the Rangers meet the Flyers. Avery and Simmonds set up across from each other for the face-off.
It'll be a good fight. The NHL is counting on it.