Early Wednesday morning, Damien Cox caused a minor stir online with a tweet about a trade offer the Maple Leafs supposedly made for Roberto Luongo at the 2012 draft that Mike Gillis turned down. It had everything Cox could want in 140 characters: two of the biggest hockey markets in Canada, one of the hottest players in the NHL in Nazem Kadri, the ongoing intrigue of the Luongo trade saga, and even a snide put down of an NHL General Manager.
Worth noting at June draft Canucks could’ve had Kadri, Bozak and a pick for Luongo. Got greedy. Now have lost as many as have won.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) March 6, 2013
There’s only one problem: none of it was true. For such a brief little story, it had a remarkable number of holes in it. It’s the Andrew Raycroft of tweets, if you will. For starters, the Canucks were never offered a package of Kadri, Bozak and a pick at the draft. The rumour at the time was that Luke Schenn was the player offered by Brian Burke and Gillis, understandably, balked.
In fact, the Leafs never offered Kadri, Bozak, and a pick; instead, that was what Gillis reportedly asked for in a trade for Luongo from the Leafs. So, at no point could the Canucks have had Kadri, Bozak, and a pick for Luongo, because Burke and Nonis said no to that offer. What actually happened is the complete opposite of what Damien Cox said.
What’s worse is that Cox knew it wasn’t true. Actually, what’s even worse is that people believed him.
Here’s a tweet from February 19th from Cox, as dug up by my good buddy Harrison Mooney:
Can see why VAN hoped to get Kadri for Luongo.Can see why Leafs said no bloody chance.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) February 19, 2013
In the space of two weeks, did he forget that it was the Leafs who said no to trading Kadri? Or did he just disregard the truth and tweet something that he knew would get a response and gave him the chance to take a potshot at Mike Gillis?
Yes, Gillis would look greedy if he had said no to a trade for Kadri, Bozak, and a pick. Heck, Burke would have looked foolish had he offered that package given how Kadri has played of late. But, since that never happened, they both come out of it looking pretty okay.
This is nothing new. Cox has been tweeting and writing things that are poorly-researched, contradictions of his previous opinions, and blatantly false for years. There was his baseless speculation regarding Jose Bautista and steroids (delightfully skewered by Dustin Parkes at Drunk Jays Fans). Or how about when he reported the passing of Pat Burns back when the legendary coach was, y’know, still alive. He then refused to apologize for his role in the false reporting of Burns’ death, shifting the blame to Cliff Fletcher.
Those are just two of the big, noteworthy examples, both of which should have completely sunk his credibility right then and there. There are numerous smaller examples from over the years, including this gem during the lockout that Jake Goldsbie took apart where he manages to contradict himself within the space of one column.
My personal favourite comes from 2008, when Down Goes Brown pointed out that it took just 24 hours for Cox to completely change his opinion over the Bryan McCabe trade:
Damien Cox, Sept. 2, 2008:
‘Can’t say this is a bad trade for the Leafs…’
Damien Cox, Sept. 3, 2008:
‘McCabe deal a bad one for Leafs.’
So, at what point do people stop paying attention? At what point does he lose all credibility and people stop believing what he says? Does even Cox believe the things that he says? Apparently not with any sort of conviction, as he changes his opinions (and sometimes the facts) as soon as they stop getting attention.
Cox writes for the Toronto Star, Canada’s highest-circulation newspaper. He used to have a job at TSN, appearing on The Reporters and That’s Hockey, and now works for Sportsnet as an analyst, so his complete lack of credibility doesn’t seem to be hurting his career at all.
Ultimately, he gets paid to troll, to drum up web traffic by posting incendiary opinions so that people will click on them. Some might say that I’m playing into his hands by writing this post about him (you’ll note, however, that there isn’t a single link to one of his columns in this post), but the problem is that there are already so many people that believe him when he writes and tweets utter baloney. The tweet about a Kadri/Luongo trade sparked a flurry of activity on Twitter and lengthy threads on message boards and forums. Sure, some of those tweets and posts were questioning the validity of what Cox was saying, but far more were taking it at face value and allowing it to shape or reinforce their opinions.
What will it take for people to stop taking what he says at face value? He’s already falsely reported someone’s death and falsely accused someone of taking steroids under the guise of “just asking the question.”
The problem with being a troll is that a troll loses his power as soon as people stop paying attention to him. A surefire way to get people to stop paying attention is to consistently prove that the things you say have no value. At some point, Cox’s flip-flopping opinions, loose grip on facts, and lack of research is going to come back to bite him.
It’s counter-productive to consistently tweet and write things that are completely false. As more people come to understand that Cox has no credibility, fewer and fewer will even bother getting outraged by his trolling as it has no substance.