Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Speaking of Cox

I picked up a Toronto Star sports section that had been abandoned on the subway this morning. I probably should have stuck to my book.

I'm going to tread into CoxBloc territory here and I don't even know where to start. Cox assembles a rambling collection of "thoughts" on the Rangers-Leafs pre-game festivities; McCabe's gaffe; Tlusty's photos and comes to the strange conclusion that the Leafs have sold their soul.

Where to begin? Let's start with the pre-game shenanigans, in the print edition Cox writes:

Were [Stafford] Smythe around yesterday, the collective misbehaviour of today's Leaf millionaires would undoubtedly have made him throw up.

For starters, you had the team and one of the veterans it counts upon for mature leadership, Darcy Tucker, rapped on the knuckles and fined by the NHL for participating in a truly adolescent scene last Saturday night in the pre-game warm-up with the Rangers.
So in the print world of Mr. Cox, one would conclude that the skirmish must be a pretty big deal. It's the first page lead (or lede for your print-junkies) it includes an exhumation of poor Stafford Smythe, and it produces the usual smug indignation from Cox.

But over in the electronic world of the Star it's a bit of a different story.

In his on-line "blog" (which is just another 500 word column that the Star insists on calling a blog even thought it has all the intimacy and two-way communication of K-Fed and Britney's marriage with about half the intellect) Cox writes of the skirmish:

Everybody's up in arms about Sean Avery after Saturday night's Rangers-Leafs game, and to be sure this is a juicy story. But outrage? I don't think so. Peel away all the rhetoric and here's what you have: two guys pushed and shoved during the pre-game warm-up, said nasty things to each other and then fought during the first period. Big Deal.

I'd just like to know which one it is - blog=no big deal or front-page=lead item and big deal?

Flipping back to the print story, Cox concludes the Avery-Tucker skirmish with this odd thought:
Try as they might to make it all Sean Avery's fault, the Leafs were, essentially, found equally culpable in the idiotic episode.
The Rangers were fined $25,000 and the Leafs $10,000. Avery was fined $2,500 and Tucker was fined $1,000. The League said, "The unprofessional conduct of Avery in initiating this the basis for this discipline....Tucker also bears some responsibility for his inappropriate response. "

So, the Rangers fines are 2.5x those of the Leafs. The League found that Avery was the initiator while Tucker only bears "some responsibility" and Cox concludes that the Leafs are "equally" culpable.

That's the strangest definition of "equal" I've ever encountered.

Next up: the McCabe give-away.

It was a bad pass. A horrific pass. A stupid play. Next...

Oh good, more moral indignation from Cox - just what we all needed - and this time it's poor Jiri Tlusty in the cross-hairs.

For those of you living under a rock, the kid took some naked photos of himself and emailed them to a woman, who promptly posted them all over the web. The fact that the Toronto media are only picking up on this today (it's the front page of the Toronto Sun) tells me these guys need to trade in their dial-up modems and check out this thing called the world-wide-web. Deadspin broke the Tlusty story on November 8 and it's been on Leaf discussion boards for days. That's a long time in this world of 24 hour news cycles and breaking stories, yet Cox only brings his faux-moral indignation to the table today, he writes:
...if this was a team of pride and tradition, Tlusty wouldn't have been in the lineup last night and Leaf ownership wouldn't have been hiding behind a press release.
The youngster would be back in the minors, having disgraced what was once a Canadian institution – a team that once had a member of Parliament in its lineup – with his amateur porn shots. Ownership, meanwhile, would be vowing to make certain such foolishness never reoccurred.
Really? A teenager sends a naked photo and he's disgraced a Canadian institution? For posing naked he should be sent to the minors? Is once having a member of Parliament in its lineup really the best indicator of quality? Has Cox ever watched question period? What's a bigger disgrace to the Leaf brand - a teenage prospect posing naked for a cell-phone photo or a paedophile ring being run out of Maple Leaf Gardens? many questions.

Sure Tlutsy was rather misguided in sending those photos, but to call for his demotion in order to protect the Leaf brand - a brand that is somewhat sullied after 40 years of losing, managerial incompetence, criminal behaviour and other assorted f*ck ups is a bit rich.

That said, I do look forward to future columns from Cox calling for the suspension of Garth Snow for encouraging hot (well, hottish) girl on girl action. Keeping Robbie Schremp buried in the AHL for his frightening photos in a bad thong. Shutting down the NBA for the way players interact with fans (some of those guys are married!). The elimination of NFL franchises in Cincinnati and Minnesota (surely Cox would call for Fred Smoot to be sent out to sea, alone on an ice floe) and the future of Isiah Thomas outside of sports, perhaps as a squeegee kid.

Look, I'm not saying that athletes shouldn't be held to the same standards as the rest of us. I'm not saying that Tlusty didn't make a mistake and I'm not saying there isn't a place for some sort of moral decency.

But I'm sick of Cox being all incensensed and sanctimonious over what are essentially mistakes. A teenager posed naked; McCabe blew a pass; Tucker and Avery had a little spat - is this really the right fodder for the front page of a sports section? Can one really tie these things together and conclude that a franchise has lost it's soul? Is this really the best that Cox can do?

As an aside, didn't the Leafs sell their soul back in the 70s? I'm pretty sure you can only sell your soul once. It's just like the "city losing it's innocence" trope that lazy media types love to trot out - once that innocence is gone, just like one's soul - there's no getting it back.

As for Cox, if this is the best he can do and he honestly believes that last night was some sort of tipping point or threshold for the Leafs, it's time he heeded his own advice to McCabe and considers a move to a new market to ply his trade.


  1. Great write-up. As a Leafs fan in Lotus Land (Vancouver) my options are limited for print-media "quality" sports columnists who regularly write on the Leafs. I started reading Cox's stuff on a few years back, and I really am getting sick of his constant contrarian, anti-leaf views. Sure, they haven't done much in the past 40 years to warrant much love, but neither have the Canucks and they get much sloppy love from the sports columnists writing for the rags here.

    I'm dying for some level-headed, intelligent, thoughtful columns on the leafs from someone who has an inside track and doesn't just bash on the leafs to pay the bills so he can follow his true love of tennis.

    Sorry about the rambling, but geez, what a douchenozzle. Hadn't heard the Tlusty stuff out here, I feel for the kid! Dumb move but hey, I did a lot of stupid crap when I was his age and I didnt have a whole city following my every move.. Hope he deals with it ok.

  2. Anonymous1:18 pm

    MF37 - I read that article and was just waiting for someone to tear it apart because sadly I can't do it anymore. I literally feel burnt out reading the tripe that Simmons and Cox write.

    The kid was trying to hook up with some chick and sent her some pictures to entice her. Big deal would have been appropriate about that incident than the Avery-Tucker spat. Men who are much older than 18 do much worse things to pick up women.

    Highlight of watching The Score last night? Strachan saying that Simmons is an idiot that says idiotic things (paraphrased) after he wrote that Larionov shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Al was right but the irony meter was off the charts.

  3. Hey, I've noticed that the Toronto Star has become vehemently anti-Maple Leaf. I used to think they just hated Pat Quinn but with Quinn gone it has only picked up. My read is that the Star is expressing fan discontent and directing it at management. Afterall 41 years is a long time to milk fans and show nothing for it. So is Cox going overboard - you bet. Do the Leafs deserve such treatment - absolutely.

    Bring on the next saviour - Glen Healy?

  4. Pseudonym - I'd agree with you if Cox was taking shots at Peddie, Ferguson and the MLSE board with the same regularity that he goes after the players.

    He's calling out McCabe so much that you'd think #24 is the one responsible for Cox wearing those horrid mustard coloured dress shirts on TV.

    Tlusty is just a kid who made a mistake. I think Shoalts and Wharnsby had the right take and Cox really needs a holiday, some perspective or a new long until Tennis season?

  5. By the way mf, I always enjoy reading your blog. Your comments are thoughtful and intelligent.

    And I am not a fan of Cox. He's one of those trashy journalists that intentionally goes over the line cuase it sells papers. I also usually don't have too much empathy for high paid athletes though poor Jiri had no clue how foolish he was last year. Not too many players run away from Toronto because of the attention they get here. And you're going to get positive and negative attention. Those who choose to play here appreciate that hockey matters here. It doesn't in Phoenix. So Bryan McCabe with the biggest contract on the team (and not close to their best player) is going to get both positive and negative attention. He's a big boy and understood the Toronto market when he asked for a no movement clause in his contract. If he doesn't like it he can always waive his no movement clause. I would bet that doesn't happen.

  6. the leafs suck. but you already knew that didn't you!

  7. Anonymous4:32 pm

    Snowman is the epitome of the anti-Leafs fan that makes up such a large percentage of other team's fanbases.

    Too bad they just can't be fans of their own team.

  8. Anonymous4:34 pm

    Don't like it, don't read it! Since when does a journalist have to write a column that fits your point of view? You might try the National Inquirer...

  9. Anonymous - No reporter, columnist, author, blogger, anonymous internet commenter or writer of any sort is under any obligation to file anything approaching my point of view. How boring would that be?

    But to only read and comment on things one agrees with? That's a really limiting approach to life. I mean just for starters, such an approach would deprive the six or so people who comprise my readership from being exposed to such uplifting and enriching comments like the one you left here.

  10. Great article, MF. Thoughtful and objective. Exactly what the usual Leaf-based Toronto media doesn't subscribe to.
    There is such a lust for Leafs copy in Toronto that the easiest (read: laziest) thing you can do as a journalist is to write lowest common denominator pieces like Cox's. It's an ugly brand of cynicism, designed only to give the blood thirsty what they have been trained to think they deserve; a lackluster hockey team.

    As for the Tucker/Avery thing, I guess Cox is the type to peak out of his window if someone is yelling in the street, and then quickly draw the blinds shut. What kind of team would we have if we didn't have guys like Darcy, ready to kick Avery's head in for ANY perceived infraction against a teammate. What would Cox have said if Avery had been allowed to throw his little-guy shit around, and nobody stepped up? We all know what the answer to that is.

  11. Yes, Cox's outrage at the Jiri Tlusty incident was just plain ridiculous. Who knew Cox was such a prude.

    Cox is justified in criticizing JFJ and Leaf upper management, but he seems too eager to bash the blue and white and their fans(me included) on a weekly basis. The Tlusty incident was just another club for Cox to use in his non-stop bashing.