By Andrew Bucholtz, Awful Announcing
Publicly wishing for anyone's death seems like a bad plan, but that hasn't stopped media personalities from doing so. We saw this in October with Columbus radio host Scott Torgerson, who was suspended and then fired over tweeting that he wanted Desmond Howard to die, and it's happened again north of the border this past week. Ahead of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders' Western semifinal clash with the Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday, Sportsnet 960 The Fan (Calgary) morning radio host Dean (Boomer) Molberg said on-air Wednesday he hoped the Riders' plane into town would crash and several particular players would die.
He quickly apologized on the web and offered another apology on the air Thursday, but has since been suspended through the end of the CFL season (the Nov. 25 Grey Cup). Much like what happened with Torgerson, this should serve as a call for media types everywhere to step back and realize that sports are just a game in the end, and it's probably not worth hoping for anyone's death. Jokingly or not. Even if you want to drum up that hate, it's probably not the best idea to take public statements of it to this level.
The historical context made Molberg's comments even worse. In 1956, four of the Roughriders' best players were killedfour of the Roughriders' best players were killed (along with Winnipeg Blue Bombers' guard Cal Jones) in one of the worst plane crashes in Western Canadian history (which killed 62 people in all), so there are particularly bad reasons to talk about plane crashes with that team. It's not like this is an obscure fact in Canada, either, especially not this past week; TSN aired a documentary revolving around that crash the preceding Friday, and it largely focused on Jones' grandson, Edwin Harrison, who happens to be a current Stampeder. Perhaps Molberg didn't see that film or didn't think of that when making his comments, but a link between the two was pretty easy to make for many CFL fans. That connection makes his comments even worse. Of course, these comments would certainly be bad enough to warrant an apology and disciplinary action without the history involved; the history just adds a further dimension to them.
Will Molberg be fired, as Torgerson eventually was? At the moment, that doesn't seem all that likely. It's worth noting he offered a thorough apology shortly thereafter, and while his suspension is for a lengthy period, it has a firmly-defined end date rather than the more dangerous "indefinite" term. However, unlike Torgerson (who tweeted his offensive comments), Molberg made these on the air, which is more concerning for the radio station. (It's worth noting that Stampeders' president Lyle Bauer quickly got involved, too, offering a statement that the team did not in any way condone Molberg's comments.) Thus, he's understandably going to be in hot water for a while. One would hope sports radio hosts will eventually learn that even joking about people dying is never a good idea.