Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Damien Cox responds to Down Goes Brown. But he's still wrong.

As I joked over at PPP last week, I've been riding a streak of several attempted comments over at Damien Cox's "blog" being rejected by moderators. That streak ended today, and then some -- with Cox actually responding to my comment directly.

You can read his original post (about today's Harris-Decima survey that suggest that most Canadian want fighting banned, but most NHL fans support it), my comment, and replies from him and others here. The actual survey report is here (.PDF link).

Beyond hilariously referring to me as "Mr. Brown" several times, Damien makes a few points I'll respond to.

Damien here. . .interesting that Mr. Brown accuses me of failing to go into sufficient depth. Then again, he says fighting "has been on the decline for 15 years." Not really. It's up 24 per cent from last season.
So the past 15 years can be summed up by referencing a trend that's one year old? I stand by my "not enough depth" accusation.

But fine, let's look at the stats, courtesy of hockeyfights.com. Fighting is up this year, and has been trending up the past three seasons. But that's largely due to an enormous drop post-lockout.

But remember that fighting tends to decrease towards the end of the season, as games become crucial. You would expect fighting numbers to be high mid-season. Let's wait and see how they look at the end of the year.

And of course, the hockeyfight.com numbers only go back to 2001. I made reference to the last 15 years. While I can't find any stats on fighting frequency in 1993, I feel pretty safe in saying it was significantly higher than even this season's numbers. If anyone can point to the numbers and they prove me wrong, I'll be glad to eat some crow.

Also, you'll always notice that the pro-fighting crowd, when it doesn't get the answer it wants, simply disenfranchises people. Don Cherry will say if you didn't play pro hockey, well, it's none of your business. Mr. Brown, on the other hand, gives more weight to the thoughts of those who identify themselves as NHL fans, dismissing other respondents.
Yes, I think the NHL should pay more attention to fans than non-fans. Like any business, you look after your customer base first. Is this really controversial?

Put it this way: When they do various customer satisfaction surveys, does the Toronto Star care more about the opinions of long-time subscribers, or Toronto Sun readers? This is just Business 101. It's always nice to expand your audience. You don't risk losing your current customers to do it.

What would have been nice is a followup question to the survey: Would you be more or less likely to watch the NHL if fighting was banned. That would have given us some real data to chew on.

What would the answer have been? I don't know, but I'm willing to bet that the NHL has done similar customer research. The fact that Gary Bettman says banning fighting isn't even up for discussion might give you some clue as to the results they got.
Finally, he talks about success in U.S. markets, or the lack thereof. Again, given that fighting has always been part of the NHL game, we don't know how fans in certain U.S. cities would respond to a league that didn't have fighting. We sure know their lukewarm at best about the NHL with fighting as part of the package.
No, we don't know how fans would respond to a league without fighting. But this argument could be applied to any rule change.

Would fans like the NHL better if the nets were 15-feet wide and the games were played two-on-two? No? Well, how do you know that?

This seems like a pretty transparent ploy by the anti-fighting side. "Just give it a try," they say, "and see how fans respond". What they don't say, of course, is that once fighting is banned in the NHL it will never come back. Even significantly rolling back the instigator rule seems all but impossible now. Imagine if the NHL banned fights and found that fan interest plummeted -- do we really believe Damien and friends would accept a return of fighting?




21 comments:

  1. The Mr. Brown is very Reservoir Dogs. And makes me giggle.

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  2. Have to say I really like calling out Cox. Hilarious.

    -baggedmilk

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  3. Great post. If I got tickets to a game and had to choose between watching a highlight reel goal, spectacular save or epic fight, im going fight. I didnt pay top dollar to watch the ice capades. Give me hits, goals and scraps and Im a happy customer everytime.

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  4. Well Mr. Brown of course Cox is going to selectively use poll statistics to further his cause. Quite frankly if someone does not like hockey who cares what they think.

    That being said there are probably some parents who dislike the sport and its perceived violence and do not want their children to use those athletes as role models.

    Personally I love watching hockey fights. As a Leaf fan growing up in the eighties it was the only thing a could cheer for.

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  5. Good stuff.

    I don't understand why the opinions of people who don't watch hockey should matter. Isn't it as valid as my opinion that there should be more fighting in Curling, or that Baseball should be played on ice?

    There's no "integrity" in pandering to the lowest common denominator. Just like there's no integrity in shoot-outs, 3-point games, fire-pucks, cartoon robots, teams that buy their own tickets to qualify for revenue sharing, Gary Bettman, etc...

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  6. Wow, so you're saying that Cox not only responded but he did so without actually rebutting the arguments?

    I feel like I've had this dream before...

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  7. I don't understand why the opinions of people who don't watch hockey should matter.

    It matters in the sense that you'd always love to grow your fan/customer base. The more the merrier. You just don't want to do at the expense of your most loyal customers, which is the risk the NHL would be taking based on this survey.

    Side note: an abbreviated version of this post is now in the comments section on Damien's site. We'll see if he responds again, although he usually moves onto the next post fairly quickly.

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  8. I might have to refer to you as Mr. Brown from here on out.

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  9. As someone who grew up with a grandmother who got all excited about one of the Leafs "getting into fisticuffs with that Clarke boy", I have always loved fighting too. But I think the whole debate centres on binary logic- yes it's good, keep it. No it's bad, ban it. I think it would be more productive if those among us who like the non-wrestlemania-heat of the moment scrap to not get sucked into that debate and talk about ways of preserving it, and this in a way that avoids someone from dying at the NHL level-which we all agree would serve to put a definitive end to fighting.

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  10. Headline:

    Cox Goes Down On Brown

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  11. Just to support the argument that fighting has been on the decline for 15 years: Fights today are not the same as they once were. Unfortunately, noting just the 5 minute penalties doesn't tell me the whole story.

    1. Jerseys don't come off anymore. There are no longer the true slugfests unencumbered by the equipment. You also don't see some poor slob getting pounded with his jersey over his head.

    2. Fights are now broken up when they hit the ground. You no longer see a player straddling another pounding the crap out of him.

    Fights with these two elements should be weighted higher than those without.

    PS: Can anyone tell me when/why these rules were implemented? Newer hockey fan here.

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  12. The jerseys don't come off anymore because they have to be tied down or you get ejected. They changed that to keep guys like Probert from gaining an advantage in a fight by wearing ridiculously useless shoulder pads and bigger jerseys and slipping out of them.

    The second...I think they just changed the training that linesmen receive. I don't know that it's an actual rule.

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  13. Jersey tie-downs were the "Rob Ray" rule, as breathing in his direction would immediately cause him to become topless. To avoid an eventual "Slap Shot"-esque striptease, jerseys must be tied down now.

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  14. PS: Can anyone tell me when/why these rules were implemented? Newer hockey fan here.

    The tie-down rule was introduced in the early 90s. As others have said, enforcers were wearing over-sized jerseys with nothing underneath and the whole thing was getting silly. It's one of the few anti-fighting rules that I support 100%.

    As far as players no longer getting pummelled when they're down, that may be a side effect of another rule change that I think came in the early 90s. The NHL added a rule that during a fight, all players not involved must go straight to the bench (previously they would gather nearby to watch.)

    That resulted in a lot fewer scrums and secondary fights, meaning that when somebody gets knocked down, the linesmen are rarely engaged in breaking up some other melee.

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  15. "We sure know their lukewarm at best about the NHL with fighting as part of the package."

    Not to nitpick, but this is a writer read nationwide, and he's posting pithy comments including grammar mistakes? If he decides to respond at all (and this is the first time I've ever seen him post a response in his Spin "blog"), I expect better.

    " While I can't find any stats on fighting frequency in 1993, I feel pretty safe in saying it was significantly higher than even this season's numbers. If anyone can point to the numbers and they prove me wrong, I'll be glad to eat some crow."

    I get what you're saying, but I don't agree. If you can't prove it, it isn't a valid argument. It isn't good enough for me for you to basically suggest, "I think I'm right, but if you prove me wrong, by all means. Until then, this argument stands." It's the kind of technique you'd call Damien on and it undermines your argument, in my opinion.

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  16. If you can't prove it, it isn't a valid argument. It isn't good enough for me for you to basically suggest, "I think I'm right, but if you prove me wrong, by all means. Until then, this argument stands." It's the kind of technique you'd call Damien on and it undermines your argument, in my opinion.

    Fair point. But I don't have the same resources available to me that somebody like Damien does. Give me a research department and I'll have some better numbers to work with.

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  17. "Fair point. But I don't have the same resources available to me that somebody like Damien does. Give me a research department and I'll have some better numbers to work with."

    Well - again. If you don't have the numbers, you just don't. If a guy is making an empirical argument, he just needs that data or he can't argue the point. Don't take this as criticism, I'm just trying to hold you to a standard. There is something really satisfying reading an ironclad argument buttressed by inarguable numbers.

    Also, I have my doubts Damien is running downstairs to the trolls:

    "I need all NHL fighting stats back to 1991!" Damien yelled, waving around his usual scrap of paper. The trolls squinted in the gloom. "Igor! Make this your TOP priority!" Igor, seated at his workbench, hissed in irritation, and bowed his leathery head in submission. Someday, he knew - he would have his revenge.

    Anyway, you were the writer himself who months ago stated that salary cap information was conflicting among hockey writers because they didn't have access to the numbers, which would make them a laughingstock in the NFL. So why would you expect Damien to have his fingers on other stats with a degree of access you wouldn't have?

    Just sayin'. Great blog, dude.

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  18. Anyway, you were the writer himself who months ago stated that salary cap information was conflicting among hockey writers because they didn't have access to the numbers, which would make them a laughingstock in the NFL. So why would you expect Damien to have his fingers on other stats with a degree of access you wouldn't have?
    Different topic. The NHL, apparently intentionally, keep the salarly information secret. I doubt that's the case for game stats.

    In fact, I know it's not because I was able to track the info down. I'll post what I found later today.

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  19. My advice to the world is - stop reading Cox. I have and feel better for it. I certainly would never entertain commenting on his stupid blog.

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  20. If you want older fighting stats, try out DropYourGloves.com. They have a listing of pretty much every NHL fight ever, plus tons from the minor and junior levels.

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  21. Again, this is an old post, but I'll try. I just wanted to mention that I also appear to have been blacklisted by the censors at the Star. I comment frequently on Cox's blog, and several of mine have been rejected; apparently intelligence is considered offensive by this country's most popular paper. Cox, responding to a comment that criticized the anti-fighting crusade for being politically correct, said something to the effect of "If everybody loves fighting, and Don Cherry goes out every Saturday night and defends it, does that not make him and the pro-fighters politically correct?" I was astounded that someone literate (only requirement for a hockey writer) could say something so inaccurate and stupid. I called him on it, and was never heard from for a while. Funnily enough, it's only in the comment section of his posts about fighting that he responds to his critics. Of course, he usually picks the simplest ones and ignores the smart ones. Oh well.

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