Column #444 A conversation with Tommy Cox
Friday, March 1, 2013
A conversation with Tommy Cox
The phone rings. My wife answers. The voice on the line is British.
The caller asks for me. My wife tells him I’m at my office and gives him the number.
A few minutes later my phone rings, but not before my wife reaches me first. “I think the GEICO gecko just called for you.”
I love the gecko! So I was disappointed to find out the caller was Tommy Cox.
Well, not really. I’ve known Tommy for years and have been worried since I learned of his recent stroke while on holiday in Tenerife. “How are you Tommy?” I asked.
The good news is that he’s on the mend.
I think a lot of Tommy Cox. We’ve had our disagreements. Once he forced me to leave the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) control booth and go shopping at a Vegas outlet mall for a pair of proper trousers. Apparently boxers are considered inappropriate.
Another time we had a heated conversation after he disqualified Ricky Villanueva for showing up late for his stage match against Steve Coote at one of the Desert Classics.
Yet another time Tommy got after me for not chalking after I won a match. “You know mate, I could disqualify you – I could eject you from the tournament.” He gave me a pass though, probably because he knew the likelihood of my ever winning another match was slim to none. The guy I beat had no arms.
Over the years I’ve come to greatly respect Cox’s even application of the rules. He doesn’t play favorites, at least not in my experience. He’s a straight shooter. He’s tough. He’s fair.
So when he told me he thought I was unfair to Phil Taylor and the PDC in my February 1 column (“Eric Bristow was right – Phil Taylor must go!”) I listened carefully to what he had to say and took aboard his point of view, not that I agreed entirely.
In nearly twenty years of writing this column I have never debated an opinion I’ve expressed. I put the opinions out there and let the controversy go wherever it goes. But if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I admit it. That’s just the way I roll. For example, once in 1998 I misspelled a word. I owned up immediately.
Cox and others, including Phil Taylor (no surprise there) didn’t like what I had to say last month. Of course, when Cox told me this my first thought was, Holy Crap – Phil Taylor reads my column! As Cox continued, telling me I “could be sued” if I published what I wrote in England, my second thought was of my drinking buddy Freddy. He’s a libel lawyer. I give him a lot of business.
I listened to Cox’s point of view, actually his two points of view. Even though he sounds like the GEICO gecko I understood most of what he had to say.
His first issue was that my condemnation of the sixteen-time world champion for pinching walk-on girls and his disgraceful treatment of Raymond van Barneveld during the recent world championship was unfair. Cox didn’t disagree that Taylor’s actions in these instances were inappropriate – but he did argue, quite effectively in my opinion, that such examples tend to pale when set in the broader context of all that Taylor does that is genuine and good. For example, when Cox’s brother passed away a few years back it was Taylor who stepped up first and then led the effort to raise funds – ultimately more than £40,000 – to assist the family. This is but one example of many generous actions for which Taylor has earned respect.
So while Cox and I agreed that Taylor has (to paraphrase Mike Tyson form The Hangover) “done some dumb shit” and while Cox explained that Taylor has been disciplined or will be soon for the infractions noted in my column (and that second to just one other PDC professional Taylor has been disciplined the most – a fact of which I was unaware) we didn’t quite find common ground on my charge that Taylor’s actions disqualify him as a role model and, as I put it, “earn him a solid place on the list of those who disrespected themselves, their fans, their friends, their families and disgraced their sport.” That’s just the unfortunate reality of being a top professional athlete or celebrity – you are branded by the “dumb shit” you do and often much of the rest, all the good you do, gets lost in the bad press. I’m far from the first to call out Taylor.
I did find more than ample reason to concede to Cox that I was wrong to claim that as a role model Taylor fell short of the standards of such great athletes as “Ali, Jordan, Ruth… and so many others – all who respected themselves and their sport.”
I was taken to task on this very point in an excellent piece by someone named RP BILL at The Website That Shall Not Be Named. The guy tore me a new one and he was absolutely right.
Ali… the greatest of the greatest. There will never be another like him. He transcended the sport of boxing itself, and became a worldwide phenomenon that may never be equaled again. However, he was also a convicted draft dodger, refusing to serve his country in a time of war. Because of this, he was stripped of his World Heavyweight Championship title, and his license to box suspended. He left boxing for four years, eventually was reinstated, and became champion, once again. Paul talks of the great respect you should have for your opponent… Now, Ali may not have invented trash talking and showing up your opponent, but he certainly perfected it. Is this what we should teach our kids? To be a trash talking, draft dodger?
Jordan… wow, was he good… I’ll say it again… wow, was he good… And by good, I mean the greatest. Great in basketball, business, advertising, flying through the air, and winning championships. He transcended his sport, as well. In the farthest, deepest, corners of the globe, you could mention Jordan, and the person you were talking to was likely to be wearing a pair of Air Jordans, and wanted to be like Mike. However, to be completely like Mike, you would be found in a casino, or gambling on a golf course, or trash talking your opponent (one of the greatest trash talkers ever), and be a womanizer. This is probably why he paid a woman $5 million to keep their affair a secret, as well as the details about her child (who was eventually found out not to be his. Whew!). There’s something for your “Little Johnny” to aspire to be!
Ruth… the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat. He transcended his sport, and became a phenomenon, too. He was as legendary as they come, but he had “busy hands.” That’s my theory, anyway. Whether he was swinging a bat, or pointing to the fences, disrespecting his opponent, and hitting yet another legendary home run, his hands were busy. When not on the field, you could find his hands holding a cigar, or a drink at the bar, or his arm slung around whatever girl he was with that day, other than his wife, who put up with his behavior for years. Take a look, Johnny… there’s your role model.
And after tearing me a new one he tore me another new one…
Is Paul (Dartoid) actually comparing Taylor to the likes of: OJ (double murderer), Armstrong (doper, cheater, pathological liar, destroyer of lives and corporations), “Shoeless” Joe (World Series gambling scandal), Harding (cheater, accomplice to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon), Tyson (robbery, aggravated assault, rapist), and Vick (illegal gambling, dog fighting, inhumane treatment of animals), amongst others of similar ilk? C’mon, really?
Okay. Okay. OKAY Tommy and RP BILL. I get the point. I stand corrected. There are levels of indiscretion. Phil Taylor may not be a role model in my book – some of what he has done is simply unacceptable. But I agree. I condemned him for actions far less significant than those of some of the athletes I touted as the epitome of role models who “respected themselves and their sport.”
But Tommy Cox had a second point and it was by far the one of most concern…
Cox and others felt that I charged Taylor and by association or collusion, the PDC and Michael van Gerwen, of match fixing – that the unusual unfolding of the world championship final was not just high drama. Cox – very rightly so – shared his view (and it’s a view I wholeheartedly share) that were such a claim true it would undo all the incredible work so many have done to advance the sport to the level of respect it is accorded today. Nothing – absolutely nothing – could be more harmful to darts than rigging the world championship final. And to be clear – the PDC has in place the most sophisticated of systems to spot betting anomalies and to take immediate action if there is even the slight suggestion that something is awry.
What I pointed out to Cox and must state again here – I made no such charge. Here is what I wrote…
Was the match fixed? Was the van Gerwen loss actually a carefully choreographed dive? Let me be clear: I personally do not for a moment believe that van Gerwen threw the match.
The “choreography” of it all – from the Taylor-Barney flare-up to the wild and crazy Taylor-van Gerwen final – were not my words. They were the words of others.
Some think it was real: half who responded to the Dartoid’s World poll. Almost certainly it was just another incredible performance in an incredible Phil Taylor career. But then there are the conspiracy theorists… those who think there was something odd. It’s a shame that there is such speculation. But the reality is what it is.
So there you have it – my conversation with Tommy Cox…
He’s a stand up bloke. He enlightened me on a number of points and I think he saw my point of view on a couple of others. I only wish I had taken a moment to call him before publishing what I wrote – and in the future I will. No doubt the column would have been better informed and well rounded.
As to Phil Taylor and role models, again I think RP BILL summed it up in outstanding fashion when he wrote…
…nobody’s perfect, even the greatest. Teach your children right from wrong, and instill in them proper values through your own example. If your child’s role model, or hero, has flaws, then take that as an opportunity to show them why they are flawed, and what a proper way to act should be. That way they can make decisions for themselves and, someday, become role models for their children.
One final note to those of you out there of the female persuasion who sometimes find my choice of words to be inappropriate: if you have made it to this point in this column you have just, right now, read the word “Cox” for the nineteenth time – without once taking offense.
From the field,
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