CALGARY - You knew, at some point, there’d be some sort of verbal salvo fired to heat up Sunday’s CFL West semifinal.
You figured eventually comments from a Calgary Stampeders star or Saskatchewan Roughriders player would be twisted out of context to provide bulletin board material and endless sports-talk blather.
What wasn’t expected was that one of the healthiest rivalries in Canadian sport would be tainted by comments so egregious a local broadcaster has been suspended until the CFL season ends.
In what can charitably be called a momentary lapse in judgment, reason or any semblance of good taste, FAN 960 morning show host Dean ‘Boomer’ Molberg punctuated a contrived argument over Sunday’s game by saying he hoped the Roughriders’ plane would crash, killing four members of the team.
It was an ill-fated attempt at humour just five days after TSN’s documentary detailed the 1956 crash of Flight 810 that killed four Roughriders returning from the all-star game.
The grandfather of Stamps lineman Edwin Harrison died in that crash.
Of all things, Harrison’s nickname is Boomer.
Molberg apologized on air Thursday to go with an apology from program director Kelly Kirch deeming the comments that sparked fury on the Internet “uncalled for and embarrassing.”
“He has been suspended through the end of the CFL season and he has apologized, both publicly and to the Roughriders football club,” said Kirch in a statement late last night.
“Sportsnet 960 The FAN deeply regrets the incident, and will be making a donation to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ charity of choice.”
Molberg’s on-air apology was understandably contrite.
“I’m not defending it, because it’s not defendable,” said Molberg, who later issued a written mea culpa that included an apology to Harrison.
“I made a comment yesterday that had no place being on the radio — it was not thought-out. It was an attempt to be funny which, in hindsight, was ill-founded.
“There are a lot of people angry and they have a right to be. It goes without saying, I wish no harm to members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I’m not a Howard Stern shock-jock — we do things here to try and have some fun and get the fans and listeners invested, and what I did yesterday was stupid and I apologize.”
Stampeders and Roughriders players were told not to comment on the remarks, although Harrison gracefully took to Twitter after practice.
“FORGIVENESS is one of hardest actions to carry out, but in order for US to be forgiven, we must FIRST forgive others #MERCY,” wrote the classy Harrison.
“We do not, in any manner, condone the highly inappropriate comments,” said Stamps president Lyle Bauer in a statement.
“We cannot stress enough that they have no place in our sport. We pride ourselves on fierce rivalries and intense competition but also our great partnerships with the other Canadian Football clubs, including the Roughriders.”
Molberg’s co-hosts are both Riders fans from Saskatchewan, prompting Molberg to play the role of a Riders-hater. Suffice it to say, it was shtick gone sideways.
Obviously, what he said was horrifically offside.
But he shouldn’t pay for his comments with his job, as many suggested on the Internet.
We, in the media, are always one word or sentence away from losing our jobs or careers, which is particularly troubling when you spend four hours a day doing live broadcasts.
There’s pressure to be entertaining and provocative with an eye on never crossing the line you are paid to straddle.
He crossed the line, no doubt. And given the recent Locomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster, his mistake was particularly disturbing.
Unlike nameless, faceless Internet users, mainstream media is held accountable for everything we say or do — that’s just part of the business.
His gaffe shouldn’t be excused or easily dismissed, which it wasn’t.
But it should also be recognized we are human, and given his extensive apologies, it’s clear he made the type of error he’s certainly not known for making.
A family man who is shattered by the extensive fallout and debate, he’s certainly paying a heavy price already.