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.”