Ask The Toronto Media Member Damien Cox pt 2

By TSM

Here’s round two- Any requests for the next MSMer?

Question: Damien – I have listened to you on radio for some time. You frequently question and challenge people’s claims and opinions. Is this a journalistic/personal philosophy, or simply done to be a contrarian? I find the media in general does not question people or each other thoroughly enough, or demand accountability.

Damien “Well, I prefer to avoid saying what the “media in general” does or doesn’t do. That kind of sweeping generalization doesn’t do anybody much good.
As far as being a contrarian, sure, I accept that. I loath easy consensus and lazy acceptance of popularly held ideas. I love to look at things from a different angle, to ask questions of popularly held beliefs, to identify the most important figure in a game as someone different than most others have identified. I like to think for myself. If that makes me a contrarian, I’m cool with that.”

Question: What is your overall impression of the experiences you have had on Twitter? Is it more positive or more negative? It strikes me that a lot of time is wasted dealing with trolls (people who are just trying to start a fight).

Damien “More positive than negative, but sadly, lots of negative. It seems to be used as an anonymous weapon by too many. People seem to think that by calling me bald, or a douchebag, or some other name they’re going to hurt my feelings. Those are the easiest to ignore and just block. I think for the most part I’ve abandoned trying to have a useful back-and-forth with someone, as 140 characters is just too limiting. To me, and this is just the way I look at it, its my twitter account and the people who follow are interested in what I have to say or, at the very least, friendly. Someone who thinks I’m an idiot or a jerk or bad at my job or whatever shouldn’t follow me, and i try to make sure they can’t.
Beyond all of that, I find twitter very useful as one of many ways to keep an eye on the news and on the opinions and ideas of others. And I’m very big into knowing what others have to say.”

Question: As you have stated the leafs have to stay the course with young player. Agreed, but i think the owners do not need to extend that to management. Any out of work GM can look at this and come up with a plan. Has Burke lost the fan base, or does he just not care about the overwhelming sentiment that he and his staff should be fired?

Damien “Well, I’m not sure I agree with your statement that there is an overwhelming sentiment that he should be fired. I know what some fans think, good and bad. I don’t know what most fans think.
Beyond that, any executive worth his salt can’t spend much time worrying about what the fans think. As Harry Neale often quoted somebody from his past, as soon as you start listening to the people in the stands you’ll be sitting with them. Look, two years ago in Ottawa they wanted to lynch Bryan Murray. Last year he was a genius again. People in Toronto are tired of losing and since burke hasn’t been able to change that in 3 1/2 years, he’s going to have his fair share of detractors. To me, two things are true. If you replace him, the next guy is going to have to continue doing what he’s doing. And what gets him in trouble are his words, not his actions. If you evaluate him strictly on what he’s done and the position in which the team is in, he’s done a solid if unspectacular job so far.”

Question: Maybe just a curiosity instead of a real question, but how do you manage to actually fit all of the things you do into a day to day routine? You’ve got a few different hats to wear when you’re in the city. Do you actually have time to read the rest of the Star? Do you poke through the sports sections of the other newspapers?

Damien “I’m lucky in that I have a lot of freedom to fit my work in an around the rest of my life. I read all the Toronto papers every day, try to read as many publications outside Toronto and around the world as possible, follow as many sporting events on tv live or taped as possible and spend a lot of time on the phone. I’m pretty sure there are people out there with more demanding jobs. I’m pretty busy, but i wouldn’t have it any other way. Luckily, I’ve been doing the multi-media thing for many years. I feel like I’ve figured out how to balance things. But it also means that when people are snoozing at night I’m up at 3 a.m. writing. It helps to have insomnia.”

Question: I’m curious about the separation of personal and professional lives for someone in the public eye. You generally play a devils advocate role, does this always (or ever) reflect your true opinion on a subject? Or for example would you speak about the subject in the same fashion socially as you do professionally? Lastly, it seems you enjoy or even thrive on provocation, is it ever difficult or frustrating hearing so much flak from fans, readers, listeners, etc?

Damien “I think there’s this belief that I’m subjected to a blizzard of negative reaction every day. Its really not the case. Most of the feedback i get is positive, and when I actually meet people, 99 per cent have only nice things to say. So I don’t think I’m this polarizing figure in Toronto sports media. That said, I talked about being a contrarian, about being willing to step out of line and take an unpopular opinion, but by the same token I would never argue something i didn’t believe in. There are times when someone – let’s say Bob McCown – is staking out a position, and I’ll deliberately try to voice a differing point of view to elicit a discussion. In other words, advocate a differing view for the sake of debate. To me, that makes good TV and radio if done artfully. But that’s different than saying something i don’t believe in. And generally speaking, what i say socially is pretty much the same as what I’ll say professionally.”

Question: Does it bother you that you are viewed by your critics as a contrarian or provocateur? Of course, if you are those things by design, discuss that too.

Damien “I think I’ve pretty much answered this one. Really, the only thing that bothers me is if my wife thinks I’ve gone too far. And that happens, believe me.”

Question: Are people too quick these days to automatically vault Nadal and especially Novak Djokovic into the top pantheon of tennis history after such a relatively short time? They might be on pace to reach Laver/McEnroe/Sampras/Federer status, but it still seems “too early” given the injury/burnout potential in tennis.

Damien “I don’t think so. Nadal is already unquestionably the greatest clay court player of all-time, and his success on other surfaces puts him, in my opinion, right there behind Federer. As for Djokovic, he’s got work to do to catch. But given his spectacular success of the past two seasons, he’s on the verge of being acclaimed as one of the best of all-time.”

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Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
October 12, 2012 7:03 am

Enough of Cox, be it caps locks or otherwise. Part 1 I found more interesting than Part 2. He is obviously in complete denial about what a polarizing figure he is, and no kidding, people he meets in person would act totally differently than the mass population who doesn’t have the honour to meet him. I would love to see a poll, just on your site TSM, and ask that question. Bottom line for me, would I want to have a beer with Cox, the litmus test for me, and the answer is an overwhelmingly No. I enjoy writers/broadcasters who write intelligently, never talk down to their audience, and have a sense of humour, realizing that sports is not the most important thing in life, something that can be hard to get away from if you work in the industry.

Some MSM guests i respect and would love to see interviewed, and I am basketball biased, so will lean that way are: Eric Koreen, Tim Chisholm, and Michael Grange, although he is on the NHL lockout beat right now, so likely a pass for me. With the Raptors likely the story this year with the NHL lockout going on, it would be great to wait about 20 games into the season, and then interview one of them for their thoughts on where the Raptors are at that point of the season, and also where they are likely headed. Lot of exciting changes to the roster. Eric Koreen though would be my #1 choice, as he is IMO the best pure basketball writer out there right now. Arthur covers too many sports now, plus you already interviewed him.

mike in boston
mike in boston
October 12, 2012 9:08 am

FIRST OFF, HUGE THANKS TO TSM FOR DOING THIS. THIS IS THE KIND OF ORIGINAL CONTENT THAT EXISTS NOWHERE ELSE ON THE INTERNETS.

SECOND, THANKS TO DAMIAN. HE SURELY KNOWS HOW MUCH HE IS DISLIKED BY THE CONTRIBUTORS HERE, SO IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASY TO REFUSE OR TO GIVE CHEAP ANSWERS.

I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS ON DAMIAN’S RESPONSES TO PART 1, BUT I’D LIKE TO READ WHAT OTHERS THINK FIRST. A TSM TAKE WOULD BE NICE TOO. A FEW YEARS BACK YOU HAD SOME STRONG OPINIONS ABOUT MR. COX.

Alex
Alex
October 12, 2012 9:41 am

Future installments requests:

Brunt
Marek
Kollins
Ormsby

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
October 12, 2012 9:59 am
Reply to  Alex

I love the idea of having Kollins on, considering how he is the Anti-Nelson in dealing with his listenership. Brunt is solid too, but since I feel I already know him so well, don’t feel the need to have him interviewed, but would still listen. Ormsby has been blacklisted it seems from PTS’s roundtable, which is too bad because she always brings a different perspective on things and is a welcome addition. Not a hockey guy, so no interest in Marek myself.

cam
cam
October 12, 2012 4:16 pm

Agree this is a great feature and would love to see it more often. As for future candidates, I would find it interesting to get Zaun or Hayhurst’s view on moving into the media in this particular market. Or perhaps, given the level of discussion lately, Elliotte Friedman.

Of particular interest in this was Damien’s perception of the various platforms and how he uses them. I have not changed the view on his controversial approach at times solely for the sake of controversy. Nor will I rush to change my opinion on his work and start reading him religiously. However, I had to respect his approach of “I do what I do; how you take it is your issue not mine.”

Given how we have ripped him on this site, I also appreciate he took the time to respond.

Kevin Carson
October 12, 2012 6:48 pm

HMMMMMMMMM….. SOMETHING SEEMS DIFFERENT, BUT I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS.

mike in boston
mike in boston
October 13, 2012 10:21 am

people don’t seem too interested in discussing Damian’s answers, but I’ll raise a few observations:

– Damian associates being a contrarian with challenging “easy consensus and lazy acceptance of popularly held ideas”. It’s worth pointing out that most people are against easy consensus and lazy acceptance, but Damian seems to have a unique was of going about it.

– Damian believes that his contrarianism is artful and makes for good radio

– Damian says that he blocks people who say negative things about him or things that he deems off-color & Damian says that 99% of the feedback he receives is positive.

– Damian doesn’t think about the criticism of his written work. Damian also feels that since he dishes out a lot of criticism he needs to be able to take criticism.

– Damian has no interest in being popular. Damian is surprised that there is a perception he is the subject of a blizzard of negativity.

thanks Damian for doing this. I think it provided a lot of insight.

ticky13
ticky13
October 13, 2012 2:16 pm
Reply to  mike in boston

So, he says he needs to be able to handle criticism, but then just blocks people on Twitter who say bad things about him? Rigghhhttt.

Alex
Alex
October 14, 2012 5:43 pm

Well, since I know Marek a little, there’s more than just hockey about which to talk to him. MMA, wrestling, some popular culture stuff.

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