Is “fuck” gratuitous?

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that a live TSN interview with junior hockey star Jonathan Toews violated the industry’s voluntary obscenity standards because he uttered the F-bomb moments after his team won the gold medal at the world junior hockey championships.

Specifically, he said (emphasis mine):

Oh, it’s unbelievable. It’s a great feeling. You know, we’ve come, uh, overcome so much and, uh, you know, tonight was a battle from start to finish and we did a fucking great job.

The decision was not unanimous. Two of the seven council members dissented, arguing that TSN should not have reasonably predicted that a hockey player would swear on live television.

TSN won’t be forced to pay any fine, but they do have to broadcast the decision in prime-time.

In general, Canadian television is expected to restrict use of obscene language between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., when children tend to be watching. But even then there’s some wiggle room. The council also distinguishes between thoughtful use of these words and gratuitous uses.

Which brings me to my question: Is “fuck” gratuitous in this context? Is there another word that would more properly convey his feelings at this point?

I’m always frustrated that professional athletes, even after they win world championships, bite their tongues in front of the cameras. They talk about how great a game their opponents played, how this was a team effort, how the coach helped a lot, how honoured they are. When they’re asked how they feel, the response tends to be a throw-away “oh it’s great”. This problem is likely only to get worse as a result of this decision, which also urges broadcasters to ask athletes to watch their language before live interviews.

Jonathan Toews’s use of the word “fucking” is a breath of fresh air. It’s not gratuitous, it’s insightful. It’s news.

Leave a Reply