A recent article published in The Athletic has come nothing short of calling for long time National Hockey League analyst Mike Milbury to be taken off the air and fired and although I can certainly appreciate why many fans dislike Milbury I think this particularly piece has gone a step too far. Does Mike Milbury say things that rub me the wrong way at times? Of course. Can he be what many hockey fans would describe as "stupid" or "dumb" at times? Of course. To suggest that the man is somehow sexist and deserves to be fired over it however is another matter entirely.
On Friday writer Katie Strang decided she was "tired of this shit," when she published a scathing piece about Milbury following comments he made this past Thursday during an NBC broadcast regarding the presence of women inside the National Hockey League's protective bubbles in both Toronto and Edmonton. Now before I go into my opinion regarding what Milbury actually said here is a short clip so you can hear them yourselves free of any context.
"Not any women here either to disrupt you or your concentration," said Milbury during a game contested between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders.
It was this comment that Strang took issue with while insisting that this was not an isolated incident on the part of Milbury but instead a display of his sexist nature. From Strang:
This was not an errant slip or an inelegant turn of phrase. This is also not the result of someone being green or unpolished. Rather, it’s another example of casual misogyny that is not isolated, but instead a pattern of behavior.
There's no mistaking the tone or intent of Strang's article, which I encourage you to go and read yourselves, she frequently makes reference to Milbury's employer NBC and even goes so far as to suggest that they could be viewed as complicit in his behavior if they allow him to remain on air, a clear call for the man to lose his current employment. I won't go so far as to defend Milbury as a person but when it comes to this particular example I think Strang is way out of line and I would even argue that Milbury's comments were perfectly reasonable.
I do not believe that Milbury was implying that women only serve as a distraction to men but instead was commenting on the fact that male athletes can in fact perform better when abstaining from the opposite sex. It is no secret that for many, many, years male athletes involved in combat sports have abstained from sex prior to entering the ring or the cage, believing that doing so makes them more formidable opponents. Arguably the most legendary boxer of all time Muhammed Ali was rumored to have abstained for up to six weeks before a fight believing that it provided him with a competitive advantage and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier has expressed similar thoughts before his own fights.
In the case of Cormier he described denying himself that primal need as something that would cause a "hunger" to grow in him that would otherwise not have been there prior to achieving his goal inside the cage. This means that although there may be no physical benefits to abstaining before a fight, Cormier believes it gives him a seriously mental edge. This also means that when we factor in same sex relationships that this would not apply exclusively to either women or men.
Here's a short clip of him mentioning it briefly during an interview for those of you who are interested.
I am not in the habit of defending Mike Milbury for his often outlandish comments, but I would like to believe that he was not being dismissive or insulting towards women when he made his comments on Thursday. I also don't believe he was trying to degrade women as a whole, his comments here came off to me much more as an analyst describing why the NHL bubble could actually result in more competitive hockey from the men who have been forced to live inside of it and abstain from their partners as a result.
Who knows though maybe I am wrong and he did mean it that way, please let me know how you viewed this statement at the time in the comments.