Sometimes People Misspeak

Darren Pang's Gaffe Reveals Hockey's Racial Divide

Darren Pang is one of the most respected hockey analysts in the NHL. But his Freudian slip on TSN (thanks to the GetReal Hockey blog for catching this) when talking about the benching of Montreal Canadians defenseman P.K. Subban, who happens to be black, is sure to open up the question of race in professional hockey that has always simmered under the surface. Basically, Pang said that Subban, whose freewheeling offensive style is apparently not to the liking of Habs coach Jacques Martin, should model himself after another young defenseman -- St. Louis Blues player Alex Pietrangelo, who happens to be white. Pang meant to say that Pietrangelo plays the "right way." But what he said instead was that he plays the "white way."

Actually, he said "the white way -- I mean, the right way."

Thus the Freudian slip.

Except, maybe not. It's only a Freudian slip if it reflects a meaningful, repressed thought or feeling on the part of the speaker. If it doesn't, it's not. Just because you can ascribe meaning to his mistake, doesn't mean there is meaning.

Alternate explanation:

The common classification of cognitive speech error known as "anticipation." For example, saying "right red" instead of "light red." In that example, the brain anticipates the r in red and mistakenly substitutes it for the l in light. And in Pang's case, anticipating the w in "way" and substituting it for the r in "right."

The brain is hard-wired this way. If you don't believe me, try saying "right way" over and over really fast.

I find the headline, "gaffe reveals hockey's racial divide," to be especially offensive. The gaffe doesn't "reveal" anything. At least, it doesn't reveal nearly as much as the reporting on the gaffe does.

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