Friday, June 25, 2010

I don't even have a title for this.

I have been MIA this week due to one technological catastrophe after another. But honestly, it was kind of nice. It was surprisingly nice to watch these games and not see reactions online that force me to double check if we only lost a baseball game or if I actually needed to stock up on bottled water, batteries and canned goods for the immediately impending apocalypse.

My technological collapse actually came at a very good time, because I was starting to really hate the internet anyway. Considering I own this blog, saying that feels a little like hypocritical self-loathing, but it's true. I really dislike the direction that the internet drives social interaction. The anonymity seems to make people think that there's no consequences attached to their words, and they write and behave in ways I sincerely hope they would not in face-to-face situations.

If you haven't read last week's Sports Illustrated piece A Light in the Darkness, about mental health issues and baseball, you should. I worked in the mental health field for what felt like forever, and it's an area of particular interest.

Anyway, in the article Ian Snell spoke really candidly about the fact that he seriously considered suicide a couple years ago. And I think the following excerpt should serve as an interesting reminder when we're tempted to make cruel personal attacks because of ultimately meaningless play on the field:

"...Worst of all, Snell could not forget what he kept hearing and reading in Pittsburgh: the boos from the stands and the cruel insults online going back to the previous season, when he went 7--12 with a 5.42 ERA. Once the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year, Snell was now a figure of ridicule. You can find out where these guys live, he would think in a fury, even if they just have some secret name on the Internet.

The loss to the Brewers was a match flickering near all this tinder. Snell felt unbearably alone. Should I just do it? he thought again.

"It was a juggling back and forth, like the angel versus the demon," Snell says. "I felt like I was going to have a heart attack." So he turned the shower dial from hot to cold, trying to cool off, trying to douse a million burning questions: If a player messes up, why does everyone automatically think he's a bad person? Do parents even want me to say hi to their kids and give them high fives? Why am I always being singled out?..."


Now, I'm sure Snell would be the first one to say that the people insulting him were NOT the root cause of his issues, but I think it's worth keeping in mind that we have no idea what's going on in a player's life, what they're feeling and how random words on the internet might affect them at any given time.

I know I'm guilty of it sometimes, but I like to think that this blog is not really like that. I try not to be, anyway. But at the same time, I really have no interest in participating in a community, online or otherwise, where those sorts of negative, fatalistic and personally hurtful words and behaviors are the norm. And I get that feeling more and more about the Twins online world.

I guess I just don't understand the reasoning for it. When we lose, I do feel bad. But I feel bad because I (for the most part) love the team and the players and I want them to win. But we could lose all 162 games, and it would not affect my life one tiny bit. Same thing with winning...I would love to see this team win the World Series. They're a great team and they deserve that success and all the things that come with it. But I don't personally gain anything from it.

I have no personal stake in the team, aside from the fact that they provide me with a certain entertainment value, whether they win or lose.

Neither do you.

I really wish everyone would lighten up a little, I guess.

Now, the players and their families, the managers and coaches and the front office staff and the owners...they're a different story. Their jobs and livelihoods and professional futures are all affected by play on the field. So if they want to take a more live-and-die-with-every-pitch attitude about the game, that's up to them. But there's another line in that SI story that hits home: "Baseball is just a job."

I know I'm glad no one has a blog or Twitter account that's so reactionary about my job performance. I bet you are too.

So, that was a little soap-boxy. I'm sorry. I'm just feeling kind of ambiguous right now.

25 comments:

thetwinsdifference said...

Never apologize for jumping up on your soap box. It always leads to quality.

I've gotten to the point where I think the a$$holes just need to be ignored. But as someone coming from a family with a long history of mental illness, thanks for this. I hope ONE person reads it and realizes how much they can hurt others with stupid, derisory tags like "bum" or "failure."

So, yeah. Thanks for this.

Baseball_Lipgloss said...

This was a very interesting and eye-opening read. I know you and I have spoken before about stuff kind of tying into this article. These past few months I have found that I am distancing myself from the Twins blogosphere more and more...choosing (choo-choo-choosing) at converse/tweet/write/respond with other teams' bloggers. I don't know what it is but there's just something...feral here in the heart of Minnesota Nice.

k-bro said...

Thanks Sarah. This really needed to be said. And you did a very nice job of saying it.

You're right. Watching Twins games now is so much different than it used to be. Keeping an eye on Twitter during games used to be fun -- a group of fans chatting about the game. But recently it's become almost poisonous. I avoid it more and more lately, which makes me kind of sad.

Now everyone has the right to their opinion and can say whatever they want, but the rage and bile coming from some fans affects the way I enjoy watching my team. And it's getting increasingly harder to avoid the acid that's spilling everywhere. And these people claim to actually like this team...go figure.

I'm also finding that all this negativitiy affects my writing too. I feel like I always have to defend this team. I also feel like I have to tiptoe around talking about players who frustrate me -- it happens. I don't like saying "so-and-so sucks," but I would like to say "I want so-and-so to be good again" or even "so-and-so should be traded or sent down" without fear. I don't want to be lumped with those evil knuckleheads. I also hate being jumped on by saying I like a guy who maybe isn't necessarily the best player on the team.

Anyway, I could go on and on. Sorry for the long comment. This is an emotional topic for me, and you did a very nice job addressing it.

Keep doing what you're doing. I love coming here.

sarahgymnastnyc said...

Thanks for this

JS said...

Good post.

Stuff like this is a big part of the reason my Boston fandom has almost complete evaporated.

I love the Twins and I'm sorry to hear some fans have taken a turn for the worst. You guys don't need that.

Ian Snell came to Pawtucket last year! It was very exciting. I got my picture taken with him.

Jeremiah said...

Is there a "Like" button I can press a million times for this? Can I vote this blog into the All-Star game ahead of Teixiera?

I want to post this on the Twins page on Facebook so bad, but I'd be afraid that no less than 20 self-righteous jerks would then start commenting on here and ruining a fun and wonderful light-hearted site for everyone else.

margo said...

Great post! I am speechless...
which would probably be a good thing for many online voices from time to time.

Maggie said...

Great post!

I've recently found myself unfollowing people on Twitter at about the same rate I used to follow them. I couldn't take the constant negativity from folks who actually used to be fun to read because it really seemed like they cared about the team and were even occasionally constructive about needed improvements. That's gone away in the last couple of months.

It seems like the only way to get coolpoints there is to join in the bashing. I'm not on board with that.

I don't know if it was the early success of the team that made half of the Twins Internet family fling themselves off the proverbial bridge during the recent return to earth of the team, or if it's the fact that there are no consequences to belittling everything done or said by the organization. Anonymity. Ain't it a bitch?

And also, for the record, I like Brendan Harris because he just seems like a nice person. I feel bad that he got sent to Rochester and I'm not ashamed to say it. Though say it on Twitter and you're going to have to deal with 80 people telling you you're a moron. Which is always the cherry on top of my day.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I have never understood the meaness on the interent, and especially on sports.

Jammer said...

I agree - I think people take the hating wayyy too far. There is just no accountability for anything! I love Pittsburgh, but we do have a bit of a history of driving players out of the city. I think I'm the only Pens fan that was a bit happy when Hossa got to lift the cup.

I mean, I know I've said some things to my TV in frustration, but I try to keep it light-hearted and don't spend my time wishing that someone would never achieve their hopes and dreams.

Great post!!

mas032 said...

What a breath of fresh air. Thanks I needed this today after attending the last two games in Milwaukee. I really don't want to read the goofy stuff. It is only a game. There is always tomorrow. Thanks for the reality check.

On the road with.... said...

This is a great post. I wish I'd have thought of it. Glad I found it.

-Shawn

Benjamin said...

Good post because it made me think. I run a blog on thatstwinsbaseball.com and I had to think if my site was negative or not. Now I wouldn't have changed a thing with it after reading this but I think this is a very good read because it made me think about my own site (which is just fun and sarcasm btw). One thing about the fans on the internet becoming more vicious...I might argue those fans have always been around it's just now they have the internet to broadcast it.

Nice post.

Sarah said...

Wow...I'm glad so many of us are on the same page! It feels lonely sometimes...but I know folks like us are the majority, I just think we're not as loud, if you know what I mean.

Jeremiah...you're right. Most of the people/sites this applies to don't acknowledge my existence and I'd LOVE to keep it that way :)

A couple more thoughts, just to clarify:

There's a marked distinction between being critical about a player, game or team, and the type of overblown toxic personal attacks I'm thinking of.

For one, being critical of any given situation implies at least a tiny bit of rational thought process.

I'm not advocating everyone goes all bunnies and rainbows (although, let's be honest...that would be pretty cool), but I have a dream that someday sports blogs/new media would keep things in a little bit of perspective. We have an internet niche market devoted to a GAME. What the team does or does not do on the field is NOT going to kill us, so some folks need to take a deep breath and chill the f out. Think about who might be reading your words, how it reflects on other people's impressions of you, and what weight the things you say could carry, in terms of consequences you may never even be aware of. That's all.

For the most part, I have taken the same strategy as a few of you mentioned and I simply ignore a lot people. But if the Twins' internet community starts getting a bad reputation, we're all affected.

DH in Philly said...

This is the first time I have been to your blog. This is a brilliant post with an important and well expressed message.

Thank you for saying something that needed to be said and for saying it so well.

Jeremiah said...

Can I just add I'm super proud to be a part of this community?

I am an absolute smart-ass/critic/clever instigator and love getting people riled up by turning their own foolishness against them (you should read what I write on the Twins FB comments... which weren't nearly as bad as what I USED to write on the Twins forums before I realized the people there have no lives and use the Twins forum as their own AOL chat session) but I love coming here for light-hearted, kind, fun and not being insulting all the time.

Though... I can't understand why my "Google Identity" no longer stays in place.

David said...

Wonderfully thoughtful read. Thank you.

shannon said...

I try to be optimistic about the Twins. In fact, I generally hate pessimistic fans because they really don't contribute much positively.

That said, if I am disappointed in someone's performance over the course of the season, I do make it clear, but I don't resort to personal attacks on that particular player. Hey, I can think of one particular relief pitcher who hasn't been up to snuff for a nice-sized chunk of the season so far. Fans even have a nickname for him when he doesn't do well, and I'm even guilty of using that nickname before I even see how he does in the game in which he's inserted.

When it comes to the Twitter conversations, it's one thing to criticize a player's performance in that game or even the entire season. It's completely different when the criticisms turn into attacks on the players and the manager.

Mh said...

Thanks Sarah. I often do not have twitter on during games because I can not stand the crap and now I am wondering if I add to it.

I love the boys and I want them to do well, but really it is a game, a game that I enjoy and hope that others can as well with out attacking actual real live people.

I know that people would be shocked that Nick Punto or Gardy are people but they are and I really do not need to see them attacked.

be well and I value your voice.

shannon said...

To everyone who says Gardy should be fired:
He's been manager since 2002. In those years, the Twins finished under .500 ONCE. They won the AL Central title FIVE TIMES under Gardy and became a perennial contender and a team to take seriously. His win-loss ratio right now is much better than Tom Kelly's is.

To all the LNP naysayers: Look at his defensive skills. Sure, he leaves a lot to be desired offensively. But he's fast, has great hustle, and is very good at keeping hitters from getting on base.

I think that the haters need to stop focusing on one game at a time but instead look at the big picture that is the entire season.

JimCrikket said...

Good post, sarah, and I'm generally in agreement with it (especially as clarified in your follow up comment). I'm not as active with FB, Twitter, etc., as many of you are, so maybe I don't see as much of the negativity, but I do cringe at the stuff that's just flat out mean and insensitive. I think we can be critical, when it's warranted. It's nice when we can show some imagination and express that criticism with a good-natured sense of humor. In any event, keep up the good work!

Jeremiah said...

shannon, you have to remember, that the same people who are ripping on Gardy and LNP and the Twins as a team who have a better record this year than last year are also ripping on Joe Mauer for not having a BA of .365 and 20 HRs because that's what he ALWAYS does apparently.

These people are the "What have you done for me lately?" people. If the Twins aren't winning 162 games a year all by shutouts with 10 HRs a game and no errors or walks and aren't winning the World Series... then they aren't the team they want to watch. Essentially, the "fans" that say/do these things want to watch the Yankees, but just not as the Yankees.

I will say though, for as much as we complain about what our "fans" say... the Yankee fans are far far worse and much more vocal and descriptive.

puddles87 said...

I went over to Twinkie Town because there was another blog similar to yours, Sarah, that is excellent and talks about Brendan Harris and his latest blog. I commented there for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to see several of the people agreed they had gotten too personal and nasty. They actually admitted it. That impressed me.

I love the Twins, win or lose. I love the game of baseball and was sad when my son decided not to play this year. It is my escape from the reality that is my life.

Kudos Sarah! Well done!

Dawn said...

i heart you so much. always humbly bringing clarity and humanity to the masses. (i miss that.) elegantly stated for those of us that share the same observations. i, for one, will keep your words in mind as i trudge through the daily grind; you know, apply it to the face-to-face interactions (starting at work. ack!). stay beautiful. and on that soapbox from time to time...

Maija said...

I just read this, and I so agree. It's like Twins fans now are more like Yankees fans--where the Twins are EXPECTED to win the World Series, and if they do anything less they are failures. I hate that! It makes watching baseball so much less fun.

I just like watching baseball, and all that goes on around it. I'd watch the Twins win or lose. It always brightens my day. Of course I like wins, but that's not the reason I watch.

Great post!