On Bruce Boudreau and cursing
This Donovan McNabb thing has paralyzed me, but I did want to note that Katie Carrera and I wrote this story about HBO's 24/7, which led me to talk to a few people outside of Kettler. A few of the people offered their thoughts on Bruce Boudreau's 31 F Bomb Salute that was one of the more remarkable parts of episode one. I wanted to provide their fuller thoughts.
Here, for example, is Barry Melrose, when I asked if Boudreau's locker room language was excessive or surprising.
"I would think he's even toned it down [for HBO]," Melrose said. "I know what I'd be like right now if I was Bruce Boudreau. My language would be the last thing on my mind. That's how we talk. It's amazing, that we talk like that when we're together. You can say it's terrible or whatever, but that's how athletes talk. It's not hockey players; it's athletes.
"That's the language of competition. That's the way it is. If anything it's probably tamped down because of HBO, and I also think HBO does a good job of being there but not being seen. It's not like they're being influenced by the cameras. HBO's doing a great job.
"That's how it is. That's how we talk. We always say it takes you like two weeks after the season to talk normal again when you're away from the rink. It's almost like a switch is turned on every time you step into a rink; you revert back to that language. That's the way it is. It's not just hockey. I know NBA guys and I know football guys and I know baseball guys. That's how all athletes talk. That's just how it is."
This was almost the exact same thing Alan May told me, especially about the switch being turned when you step into a rink.
"I know one thing about hockey players: they drink beer and they curse," May said. "But they won't do it in public. You won't see these guys curse out of that locker room. That doesn't truly represent who Bruce is. If you were to sit down and have a beer with him, you wouldn't hear all that. That's frustration and anger. For all the things Bruce does, that's a very small part of it
"When I coached, I probably put to shame what Bruce did. Every coach I've ever had has lost his temper; even the most mild-mannered of guys. I guarantee it happens in the Pittsburgh room, but that doesn't define who the guys are.
"I'll make you a bet. No matter what happens with the losing streak, I'll guarantee there's not as much profanity in the next [episode]. The guys are gonna cut it back. That's not how the guys want to be known. They don't want to be known as these uncivilized guys who swear all the time. They do care about it. That's why hockey players are so polite in public. At the rink, they're in their space, and the magic of HBO is they found a way to get the guys to relax and be who they are in that moment. That's not how I speak [in every-day life], but there were a lot of habits I had that never left that locker room. It's all part of getting your gladiator on and getting ready."
And when I talked to HBO's Ross Greenburg, I asked him about how they balanced using their best material with providing a representative look at the personalites.
"it's not about being provocative; we don't want gratuitious language," he said. "I think a lot of people are so shocked when they hear the speech that has all the F bombs, that they kind of let that override who Bruce Boudreau is. We all, at moments in our life, have those one or two minutes where we explode. That doesn't represent who we are. We just got done doing Lombardi. You can bet he was in locker rooms exploding at points in his life or career. That's just what it takes to be a professional coach. Each coach is different, but they're certainly not all Tony Dungy."
In other words, the implication is that the Boudreau we saw this week was a product both of NHL locker-room culture, and of a uniquely awful losing streak.
"That's what losing teams go through," Melrose told me. "It's not pretty. If people felt uncomfortable watching it, that's what it's like. It's a terrible time. A losing team and a team not playing up to expectations is tough. It's not a nice time to be a player, and it's a terrible, terrible time to be a coach, because you're the guy that's gonna be gone....Everything's going so great for the Penguins, so the Pittsburgh guys are always laughing, joking, having fun. And it's not nice to be a Washington Capital right now. That's what it's like. I've been through it."
On this, too, May agreed.
"It really made me miss being a hockey player," he said. "I know the good times you have, on the Penguins side of it, and I know the turmoil it causes in your life when you're losing like that. From an insiders point of view I thought God, I miss those feelings. I miss those extreme highs and extreme lows like that....It shows the humanity of it. They care about losing, and it's wearing guys out. You can just see how they look. Losing sucks the personality out of you."
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