Susannah Collins as Che in the Trib (Update: Collins releases statement)

(UPDATE 5-7-13 11:50 A.M.: Susannah releases public statement on her own home page)

As most of you know by now, I had a slip-up last week on the air while covering the Blackhawks playoff series.  As a result of the attention it received, an old web-based sports comedy series I participated in several years ago came to light. The intention of that show was to present a satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to sports but, unfortunately, some of the material it contained was off-color and offensive. I understand why some may have been offended by it and for this I am truly sorry.  To be clear, that show in no way reflects my personal opinions.   

It has always been my dream to cover my hometown teams on the network I loved watching.  I have worked tirelessly to develop my skills as a sports reporter, anchor and host, and I want to thank the city of Chicago for allowing me that opportunity. The outpouring of support I have received is overwhelming and it will remain in my heart, as will Chicago.  Always.


When the employment of Susannah Collins was terminated by Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, he probably had no idea what kind of populist backlash it would inspire. (See reader and fan response here).

Of course, who are you going to side with: the multi-millionaire with a family empire built on alcohol distribution? Or the hard-working, under-appreciated hockey reporter?

No-brainer on that one.

When Wirtz took his swift Draconian action, Chicago overwhelmingly rallied around Susannah Collins, not the Blackhawks ruling despot. Well, maybe Rocky is more an autocrat than despot. Or the team itself is an oligarchy: with John McDonough and Jay Blunk part of the ruling class.

I’m just surprised that she drew comparisons to an Argentine Marxist revolutionary and icon of counter-culture this quickly. The Chicago Tribune ran this cartoon photo illustration over the weekend. That’s Susannah Collins portrayed as Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna.

Yes, the famous doctor, author and guerrilla leader. I’m a huge Che Guevara geek. (not endorser of his actions or beliefs, just a student of his biography, I really need to make that clear)

I even have a Che Guevara hat; which a friend brought me from Cuba.

I wore it on The Laugh Factory stage when I performed; telling the infamous Jay Cutler bathroom incident to a live audience. The Chicago Bears QB and the phrase “DON’T CARE!” are synonymous now.

Back to Che Guevara, he was like a right hand man to Fidel Castro during the the Cuban Revolution. And everyone thinks he’s from Cuba, because the Communist island nation celebrates him so. However, he’s from Argentina, and the most inspiring/admirable portion of his life (you know, the part before he became blood-thirsty and vicious) occurred when he and a friend were in medical school.

They circumnavigated South America on a motorcycle they nicknamed “the Mighty One,” observing much poverty and class warfare along the way. This inspired Che to live a life devoted to social change. Best portrayed in the film adaptation of his book “The Motorcycle Diaries, with this rousing speech; I’ve cribbed this speech for toasts at social gatherings numerous times

Today, Guevara’s image is an ubiquitous counterculture symbol of rebellion and a global insignia within pop culture. He’s used to market anything and everything; which I don’t think he’d really care for, if he were still alive today. Only in America is Che forgotten and repressed. In the rest of the world, he’s an iconic symbol.

It’s easy to understand why.

The United States CIA captured Che in Bolivia in 1967. Here’s where it gets murky:

the U.S. wanted to keep him alive and interrogate him further. However, the Bolivian president ordered him dead; and Che was executed by a Bolivian soldier. Mass culture placed Guevara’s blood on the hands of the United States; although there is a decently respected conspiracy theory that Castro himself might have master-minded Che’s death.

A declassified memorandum dated October 11, 1967 to United States President Lyndon B. Johnson from his National Security Advisor Walt Whitman Rostow, called the decision to kill Guevara “stupid” but “understandable from a Bolivian standpoint.”

With the global hegemonic superpower (that would be us) now charged with having executed a charismatic, but not extremely threatening guerrilla, popular opinion went in favor to Che. When the old, very out of touch and socially ultra-conservative Rocky Wirtz terminated the job of the charismatic and non-threatening CSN reporter Susannah Collins, a local folk hero was born.

That’s where the Trib was going with this cartoon. Both Che Guevara and Susannah Collins are sympathetic figures; idealistic underdogs needlessly offed by a paranoid mega-power.

Plaza de la Revolución, in Havana, Cuba:

Aside the Ministry of the Interior building where Guevara once worked, is a 5 story steel outline of his face. Under the image is Guevara’s motto: “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (English: Until Victory, forever.). Which the Chicago Tribune used here.

The phrase “Viva la Revolucion!” (English: long live the revolution) is very often attributed to Guevara. However, that’s inaccurate.

Feeling inspired yet?

Want social change?

Here’s a Facebook page in support of Susannah Collins, asking that she be reinstated.

And an online petition demanding that Comcast Sports Net bring her back.

Obviously, both pages have their heart in the right place, but too many bridges have been burned at this point. Even if Comcast had displayed a backbone in this incident, and stood up to the Hawks, or at least tried to defend their employee; even if Rocky listened and brought her back…it’s too late now. Way too much PR damage has been done.

However, she’ll get a much better gig eventually. Given her approval ratings among the people, she’ll be back some time soon. At a much better place than Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Viva la Revolucion!

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports He’s also an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)

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