Michael Elliot Landsberg is a Canadian sports journalist and current host of Off the Record for TSN.
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Reddit! Landsberg here again. My first go at this was a tremendous success, so here I am again opening myself up to you to answer just about anything you can throw at me.
I’m here for two reasons today – firstly, I’m blessed say that Off the Record will be premiering it’s NINETEENTH SEASON tomorrow on TSN network at 5PM ET. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you are that the big guys upstairs have let me stay on the air as long as they have, so I’m going to continue to milk this for all it’s worth! This season we’ve got legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, Blue Jays’ slugger Jose Bautista, and of course the return of OTR hall-of-famer Michael ‘The Playmaker’ Irvin…and that’s just our first two shows!
Secondly – and far, far more importantly – I’m here to once again hold an open forum to talk about mental health awareness. Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day, something that is very near and dear to my heart. For those of you that don’t already know, I have battled my own personal bouts of depression, and I believe mental health is a subject that deserves to be discussed openly and honestly. My hope is that in sharing my story, I will encourage others to share theirs. In 2011, I created the #SickNotWeak movement to further promote my cause, a community where people can feel safe to share their stories. Since then, I’ve tried my best to keep the conversation going because talking about these things can save lives.
I'll be back at 12PM EST to answer your questions...let's do this! Ask me anything!!
SickNotWeak (work in progress!)
EDIT: Ok reddit, you got me! Let's do this!
EDIT 2: This was GREAT reddit! Love doing this with you folks, but that's all the time I've got today as I'm actually undergsoing a minor "facial surgery" in about 20 minute s(and, you know, getting ready for a new season of television). You can ask me anything, anytime, on Twitter at @heylandsberg
Can the Hockey night in Canada crew get any worse? What did we do to deserve this?
Let's wait and see.
How much does Canada miss Jay and Dan, your former TSN colleagues? I feel so spoiled to have them down here in the U.S. Any fun stories about those two?
Jay actually left for legal reasons. He was seen leaving TSN with an actual studio camera. Do you know how big those things are? God knows what he did with the camera - but I do know Jay was spotted around the zoo shortly thereafter.
Big props for answering honestly. Much respect Mr. Landsberg.
The man can ask the tough questions, and answer them when the shoe is on the other foot.
Thanks bud. I've taken some risks, and avoided "the big one", but I actually use the leftover skin from Axel Rose's last neck trim as a filler.
Have you ever had any thoughts of having Off The Record return to interviewing those from the Wrestling World? Along with that how did you feel about the episodes you did with the wrestlers including the chairman Vince McMahon and would you have done anything different?
Loved the wrestling interviews. There was never, EVER any rules or boundaries, which is my dream. TSN doesn't carry wrestling anymore, so they are less inclined to give us guests. Favourite? Mark Calloway aka the Undertaker. Freaky to have an open, honest talk with the Undertaker. Great guy.
Who is the least charismatic athlete you have ever interviewed?
Not an athlete, but David Copperfield. I believe he fell asleep - and that wasn't the worst part of the interview.
How much plastic surgery have you had? and what have you had done? Do you regret any of the procedures?
I have no regrets. I have had 23 actual surgeries. 29 injections. And I have smeared my face with the blood of a goat.
Appearing "manly" and having a macho attitude with other guys often gets in the way of being able to say that someone isn't feeling like themselves, or struggling with mental illness. I've had guys ask me what it was like telling my friends about being bipolar, and it was honestly so difficult to open up to them.
What advice might you have for guys to be able to tell their bros what's going on?
A few suggestions. 1) Whatever you say, say it with strength. 2) Whatever you say, say it like you're not ashamed. 3) Whatever you say, make sure they know that you are sick, not weak.
What advice would you give to friends of people suffering from depression?
First thing: you have to acknowledge that you will never understand what your friend is feeling. Tell them that. And stop giving advice that makes sense in your head because it likely won't make sense in theirs. And ask! Ask "what can I do for you?"
Who is the best interviewer ever in your opinion? (Radio, print, or TV?) The conventional best choices might be Larry King, Charlie Rose, or Howard Stern - what do you think of them?
Larry King doesn't belong in that list. Charlie Rose I love. Howard Stern is brilliant. Why don't we replace Larry with Barbara Walters. Now, she had balls.
As someone with a significant anxiety disorder, thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you've done to shine a light on mental illness in this country; and for providing support to those of us who struggle on a daily basis. I've read and re-read your tribute to Wade Belak god knows how many times. It remains some of the best writing on the personal impact of mental illness I've ever read.
I guess I should ask a question. We're in an election campaign right now, and outside from Bell's "Let's Talk" day, politicians of the federal and provincial variety rarely discuss mental health. What initiatives would you like to see implemented that would make life easier for Canadians suffering from mental illness?
That's easy. More facilities. More doctors. Better access to all of the treatments. But first, an acknowledgment that we have a HUGE crisis in how we treat mental illness in this country.
Michael, what meds do you take for depression, are you diligent in taking them, have you ever tried to wean yourself off without doctor approval by skipping doses, and do you believe they work?
Meds saved my life. 30 mg Cipralex daily. 2x 150 mg Welbutrin. Never weaned on my own. But tried 5 times, relapsed each time.
Connor McDavid - worthy of the hype?
I'm gonna say he's better than me and Stamkos right now.
What do you make of the early career of Michael Sam? What kind of career could he have in football at this point?
Doesn't have the talent to play in either the NFL or the CFL. Simple. I was pulling for him, though.
Do you think Tebow will end up in the CFL?
I doubt we'll ever see Tim Tebow, and I doubt he would ever actually make it. How was a guy who can't throw 20 passes a game going to throw 45? He just isn't good enough. End of story. End of career.
I'll be blunt: are you aware of how unflattering your makeup people are making you look on TV?
I wear less makeup than almost anyone, and perhaps I need more - not less! Thanks for your bluntness.
How do you feel when guests get combative when you ask them a seemingly innocent question? I can think of two guests that come to mind that got angry with you; Chael Sonnen and CM Punk
I love the combativeness. It's better in person, though, because it's easier to read what's going on in someone's mind. Chael may have been acting a bit. Punk is just overly sensitive...I think.
Hey Landsberg, can you tell us a cool story about Michael Irvin?
Off camera - even nicer than he is on camera. He's never said 'no' to anything we've asked, and we've asked a lot, including getting him to eat an entire box of Popeye's chicken on air. You'll see him tomorrow on our season premiere!
Michael, what's your opinion on CM Punk and your interview with him? Also how do you think he will do in his debut UFC fight?
I thought all my questions were fair. Is there anything wrong with asking a wrestler whether he's ever taken a real punch to the face? Is there anything wrong with asking a guy who has criticized the company severely whether or not it's uncomfortable for his wife to work at that company? Tell me is there anything wrong with that?
What do you make of the trend of news stations tentatively avoiding the issue of mental health until a violent tragedy occurs?
News stations are not about the news. They are about the ratings. Mass murder coverage gets ratings. Individual stories of mental health struggles do not.
What about when you don't know what people can do to help?
One thing you can do, always, is reduce their guilt. People with depression always feel guilty about not being able to be the person they were. Tell them you understand, and don't expect anything.
One of the best interviews I saw on OTR was Claude Lemieux and Darren Mccarty were these two as nice to each other off camera?
Moments before OTR, they said NOTHING to each other. Not a word. Afterwards, they talked openly and honestly.
What was the closest you've came to getting smacked through provoking a guest?
Probably John McEnroe. On a court at Casino Rama. I honestly thought there was a chance. Too bad, I coulda taken him. Lol.
What's your Grey Cup prediction?
Calgary - Hamilton.
You were an early, early anchor on cable sports TV. (Starting on TSN in 1984.) What was it like to produce in the days of complicated satellite hookups and analog videotapes vs. today?
I was a talking head with big hair. So none of that was my concern.
You admitted during a interview with ric flair that you weren't really a big wrestling fan
...however in my mind you are on of the best pro wrestling journalists in the business. I would assume that you would have some sort of great passion for the sport given how great you are at your interviews
So how can you be so good at being a wrestling journalist without really being a huge fan of the product?
First off - not being a fan makes me far more objective. Secondly, while I wasn't a huge fan of the sport, I was fascinated by the culture. And thirdly, ok I lied. A bit. I was a fan.
Was the interview always supposed to be open topic? because Punk seemed like he thought it was going to be UFC specific
I thought it was open. We had no discussions beforehand. None. We asked his weight division, when he was fighting, who he would fight, who he might fight, and the answer was always "no one knows". So what UFC questions could you really ask?
What are the challenges in booking a guest in/around Toronto? Yours and The Hour with Strombo have been a couple shows that have raised the bar. What is the secret?
Mostly, it's to treat people with respect. And you show respect to people by researching them, and asking questions that they perceive as thoughtful.
Who would win in a fight between you and O-Dog?
O-Dog would win because the taco stains on his shirt would cause me to lose my grip.
How important is it for Veterans, or anyone with depression really, to seek out peers who've undergone similar experiences?
Additionally, do you favor alternative therapies (meditation, marijuana, MDMA, mushrooms) over pharmacological solutions?
For your first question, absolutely. Being surrounded by people who understand you and won't judge you is HUGELY liberating. Secondly, I believe in anything that might help.
You've had plenty of WWE Superstars on your show over the years; was there any 1 in particular that was difficult to obtain or flat out refused? Any one that went on the show and was overly-confrontational?
First off, there's no such thing as overly confrontational. Confrontational is the BEST part of this job...bitch. (kidding) Stone Cold was likely the biggest challenge. One of the smartest guys you'll meet. Loved Vince. Never got hurt feelings, no mater what I asked.
I think it is so Great that you lend you name and time to the cause of raising metal health awareness, thank you
there is a certain parallel that so many of the tough guys of sports, who are now suffering brain injuries that lead to metal health issues, when they themselves were often bullies and psychological abusers in the sport (not necessarily, but possibly outside the game as well).
Is it sometimes hard to ratify the mental image you have of these tough guys you have in your mind, with sometimes very vulnerable individuals who are suffering, in front of you in the studio?
How has that changed your perception of violence in sport?
Most of the tough guys that I know were not tough off the ice when they played, so your perception of them was never the way I saw them. Really, likely the group of guys that I liked the most in any sport have been the NHL tough guys.
If you had five minutes to create the world's most disgusting burrito and everything in the world was at your disposal, how would you create the burrito?
Burrito filled with tomatoes. I'm sick thinking about it...but not weak.
First off, thank you for all the mental health advocacy you do! I have suffered from bipolar disorder for almost 10 years now and strongly believe that I lost my last job because of it. What steps, over and above general awareness, do you think might help end the stigma in the workplace?
The key to reducing the stigma everywhere is dialogue. We need to make it part of the conversation. What we don't talk about, we don't understand.
Who is your favorite personality that has worked on TSN?
Rod Smith. There's no replacing a deep voice and big hands. Honestly, love the man.
Who are a few names of guests that you have been trying to get on OTR but have not been able to? and why?
CM Punk in a return. Why? Because he thinks I'm a jerk. Tried for Phil Kessel knowing this is the LAST place he'd wanna be. But I really wanted to understand him ad get to know him a bit better.
What got you to where you are today?
One thing. Hard work. Practice, practice, practice. Just like playing a musical instrument. The only way to get decent, is to do it. Oh yeah, one more thing - make everything you do unique to you.
Me and my dad have been watching your show for almost two decades now, and we keep tuning in together because you're by far the one guy on TSN who is least afraid to ask your guests tough questions and let your panels talk about controversial issues.
I remember recently there was a big argument about Caitlyn Jenner, and you let your guests argue their position, even if it was totally offensive and you disagreed.
Some of your regulars make for great television, but you clearly know that they aren't always the most "politically correct." Was there ever a particular time where you felt like the conversation got too political, or that a guest said something so bad that it upset you or you couldn't air it?
It's happened a few times. The threshold is not whether or not I agree, or whether I am personally offended. The threshold is whether we as a team feel it is 'destructive'. By that I mean inciting hate, or belittling a group. By the way, what's politically incorrect on OTR is irrelevant.
Thanks. Just wondering if you have any ideas as to how to get the dialogue started in the workplace given the added fear of losing your job if it does not go well?
I would say it's management's job to start an maintain the dialogue. If they aren't willing to do it, then we all have a real problem. Whatever YOU say, say it with strength. If you act like you have something to be ashamed of, then people will see you as weak.
I used to see you all the time at Delisle Goodlife Fitness. I hated to see them close that location down, they had the best steam room in the city!
My Question: What is your favorite part/perk of your job?
Congrats on your 19th season and #SicknotWeak
The OTR steam room. Towels not mandatory.
Can a sports broadcaster fake their love/knowledge of sports, the way newsreaders can? Ever known any that could?
I've known many fakers, but none that could fool the people they wanted to fool (big sports fans). Talking sports is a language.
Will you ever bring back Tracy Mcgrady and Vince Carter (+Charles Oakley) to a live interview?
I know the last time was during a video broadcast but to have them all in the same room would be pretty awesome.
I would do that in a heartbeat. Are you kidding?! When Vince retires, guaranteed.
Look back on how mental health was approached 20 years ago and then use your crystal ball to tell us how it will be approached 20 years from now.
Thanks for this, even though I love to hate your on air persona (is it a persona?)
Forget about 20 years. 5 years from now we will never hear the term 'mental illness'. It's biased, pejorative, and damaging. Why is my depression called a mental illness, and my friend's Parkinson's called a brain disease? Keep on hatin'.
Would you rather fight one horse sized dutchy (this is, in reality, a dutchy sized dutchy) or 100 duck sized dutchy's?
I actually already have fought one horse sized Dutchy. It didn't go well for me. His mitts are pretty good.
Mike, if depression is clearly rooted in someone's life circumstances, do you still consider it a sickness? Or is this distinction reserved for people who seemingly should be happy but aren't?
If life circumstances change our brain chemistry, then of course it's still an illness.
How good of friends are you and Chael off screen? You guys have I'm pretty sure the best interviews I've seen between any anchor and athlete.
That's awesome! Thanks so much, To be honest, any idiot could do a good interview with Chael. He's that good. We're friends. Not best friends, but friends. I told him last week that the best things about him, no one ever gets to see.
Is Patrick Kane guilty?
No, he's innocent, until proven guilty. So I'm going with innocent for now.
Thanks Michael for the AMA. I've always enjoyed your work
For a while, I've struggled with on again / off again depression.The biggest struggle is wanting to be open with the struggles and get help, but worried about the stigma's and potential impact on the career it might have.
Based off this few lines of text, where would you think the best place to start is?
The best place to start is with you. If you believe the stigma, then others will believe it about you. Learn that you are sick, not weak.
Your run with Brendan Connor on Sportsdesk was the greatest anchor duo in TSN's history. How would you feel about doing a throwback with you two back together for one more highlight package?
I would do that any time. Any day. Any where. Assuming I still remember how to wear a tie. By the way, greatest duo? Nah.
Big fan of your work since back in the Sportsdesk days and love OTR when I can see it (currently living state-side). I work in mental health and I'm so happy that you're championing this cause north of the border. So I have two questions about that subject.
1) In your interactions with Canadian mental health professionals and advocates, what's your sense of what they see as the most important issues/problems in that area? Is it stigma? Access to services? Quality of services? Something else?
2) If you could get one of the major leagues (using the NHL as an example) to rally behind a single cause or message related to mental health, what would you want that to be?
Forgive me if you've answered these on prior AMAs or on OTR/other media and I've missed it. Looking forward to your responses!
1) Those are all hugely relevant. But stigma is the thing that people like me can help with.
2) One message? Mental health problems are never, ever, EVER about weakness. Remember, #SickNotWeak
I'm not entirely sure how to answer this, as the system is very different between the U.S. and Canada. But a believe that what we can all do is talk.