I’m always leery of diving too deeply into the comments section on any news article or forum post because I know that sooner or later I will emerge feeling shaken, disgusted, and in desperate need of a shower. It’s the same both in sports discussions and politics and since election season and baseball playoffs coincide this year, it’s especially nasty. Life would be so much easier if someone more mathematically savvy than I could develop an algorithm to determine how quickly an online conversation will devolve into outright idiocy. Granted, even I know that such a formula would be difficult to nail down to an exact science due to the highly dynamic nature of social media, but I think it’s still worth a shot.
Or I could just, you know, stop reading the comments section on any article on any controversial subject. The only issue that I can see with that is that there are occasionally some interesting, valid points raised in forums and in commentary… but based on my experience, trying to find anything worthwhile in most online forums is kind of like panning for gold in an outhouse.
This brings me to the subject of insults. A well-crafted insult is an art unto itself, displaying the giver’s quick wit and usually some higher level of intelligence. Since most insults are delivered when the giver is in some state of affront, a witty retort also shows a remarkable degree of composure. Think of it this way… It is said that Winston Churchill was in a social setting where a woman, perceiving herself to be of higher manners than the statesman, pointedly remarked on his drunkenness. He could have just told her to go to hell, but instead the retort attributed to him is (paraphrased) as follows: “And you, madam, are ugly. In the morning I shall be sober, but you shall still be ugly.”
So what does this have to do with sports? As I mentioned at the outset, there is a lot of crap to be found in the comments section of most articles or in response to many forum posts. Some of it is raised “just because”, while others are offended by some perceived offense to their favorite team or athletes and feel the need to reply in kind. This obviously isn’t unique to the Internet; indeed, it can be found at any sporting event and seems to have blossomed in the relative anonymity given by technology. The Internet enables you to reach for the low-hanging fruit on the insult tree and to throw said fruit with little actual consequence; or at least it does in America, where insults – however tasteless – generally fall under the umbrella of protected free speech unless the slandered party has enough money and cares enough to do something about it.
As a Giants fan, I have read a lot of negative commentary about the team and members thereof – some justified, some not. I know that I’ve contributed from time to time as well so I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve also noticed that it’s only gotten worse during the postseason, and especially since the Giants somehow managed to fall into the World Series after a season that made me feel at times like I was watching a novela instead of an extended athletic competition. The most basic and widespread insult that I’ve seen slung at the boys from the Bay is that they are homosexuals… because, well, isn’t everyone from that city gay? Well, “gay” or not, the Giants have gotten to where they are through a mixture of tenacity, skill, and sheer luck – and that could describe many other teams from many other cities throughout playoff history.
This is purely a matter of my own perception, so it may or may not be correct, but the vibe that I’m getting both from the media and from many in the local area as I rock my Orange and Black proudly this week is that somehow, by rooting for the Giants, I am supporting some evil alternative agenda. Quelle horreur! On the other hand, Detroit is being painted in some circles as all that is symbolically American – hard work, moral character, and all that. It’s enough to cause a headache when all I want to do is watch my damn ballgame without someone assigning subtext into who I cheer for.
Another argument that I hear is that San Francisco doesn’t need another championship; they won two years ago, and Detroit hasn’t won since 1984! Dare I point out that before their 2010 win, the Giants hadn’t taken a Series title since 1954? Neither team is more deserving than the other, so put down your bullhorns and pitchforks and enjoy what is sure to be a challenging, entertaining set of games.
The bottom line here is that I’m not asking people to be nice. Hell, half of the fun of sports is talking trash about your team’s rivals and quality heckling can liven up a game like few other things can. Passing off an inaccurate local stereotype as an insult may show passion, but in turn it evidences neither wit nor intelligence. I don’t care if you hate on my team – to crib from one of my favorite TV shows, hatred shows that you care – but if you must hate, at least be creative.