Thursday, January 6, 2011

See - even in the blogosphere there are thoughtful people, sincere apologies and reasoned disagreement

As almost anyone who might be reading this knows, I am a pretty big baseball fan. In addition to just loving the game, I also love baseball writing, and reading a few baseball blogs has become a great time-waster pastime of mine. Well, if you follow baseball at all, you know that steroids are a big topic, and there's a whole lot of controversy out there about them - not so much "do they belong in the sport?" but more of "what do we do about users?" Well, even more specifically, "Do we let steroid users into the Hall of Fame? What about suspected users?"
The debate is getting pretty heated (baseball fans, and writers, are nothing if not passionate). Some people feel that it's a fools errand to try to sort out who used, how much they benefitted, etc., and therefore we should, more or less, drop the whole thing. Some people think that those people are burying their heads in the sand, and condoning cheating. Some people feel that those people are histrionic and unreasonable, and in some cases involved in a McCarthy-esque witch-hunt. It's all getting rather dramatic.
Now, one of the things I hate most about the Internet is the tendency it engenders towards nastiness. The anonymity, coupled with the speed of it all (it's so easy to fire off an angry missive before you even have time to think about it), coupled* with the difficulty in reading tone, which leads to more angry responses...well, it's a perfect storm for mean spirited, over-the-top screeds. Even some of the writers whom I love have been guilty of it (for instance, the blogger to whom I'm about to refer has, in the same post, I believe, accused anti-Steroid people of being McCarthyists while also reminding everyone that, really, the Hall of Fame is just a museum and, in the end, not that important. Those two things are, if not contradictory, somewhat in opposition, but it's easy to forget that when you're churning out posts!).
* I know - after two things, it's really not "coupled" anymore. Sue me.
So, that blogger I just mentioned - Craig Calcaterra - was recently referred to, by another blogger, Jeff Pearlman, as having minions. Calcaterra took some (mostly) good natured shots at this, pointing out that having "minions" generally implies "being evil."
Well, Pearlman responded, and frankly, I want to find a way to use his response in a lesson some day. Rather than defend what he said, or attack Calcaterra, he simply apologises:
[My new blogging software is acting up; pardon me if the formatting is weird]
I don’t know Craig, I’ve never met Craig and, until a few days ago, I never even heard of Craig. But his recent criticisms irked me, so I fired back. Why? Because of an impulsive and immature need to defend. So childish. So stupid.
This is not who I want to be. I write because I love writing and I love reporting. I love digging into a subject, then digging into a subject about that subject, then digging even more. Books complete me in a way magazine stories or newspaper columns or (certainly) blog posts never have. They are what I love to do, and if you choose to judge me as a journalist, I can only hope those are the barometers.
I hate much of what’s going on out there—the 140-word top-of-the-brain spewage of Twitter; the blog-for-the-sake-of-saying-something blog post; the eagerness to point out the mistakes committed by others; the sheer loudness of it all. I don’t want to be loud, and—in many respects—the recent Jeff Bagwell posts I wrote (the ones that were slammed by so many) were stuffed with more screaming than intellectual discourse (I believe, strongly, in my takes. But the writing was [expletive deleted]). This stuff becomes addictive, however, and before you know it you’re insulting someone because he dared insult you. It’s second grade all over again.
So, first, I want to apologize to Craig.
He doesn't explain what he did with "I was so passionate that I let my emotions get in the way," which is one of the ways in which we often apologize without really apologizing - I mean, who can blame us for being passionate, right? It's like when a job interviewer asks what your weaknesses are and you say, "I sometimes work too hard." None of that here. Just a simple: I got caught up in the junk, and I let myself be dragged down into it. I shouldn't have. But, then it gets even better (for me):
I don’t agree with many of Craig’s points, especially on PED. But his passion is clear in his work, and that’s invaluable.
If there is a running theme on this blog, and in my Rabbinate, sure it's this: the other guy is probably right, too. Even if you disagree with someone, their thoughts, their opinions, usually have merit. Arguments are rarely about right vs. wrong but, more often, about different views with different merits. I've probably said exactly this before, but how much more pleasant and, ultimately, how much more interesting would our world be if we started our responses not with, "You're an idiot," but rather with, "That's interesting, but on the other hand..."?
As the Talmud teaches us: elu v'elu devarim elohim chayim...these and these are the words of the Living God. Ultimate truth is never simple or simplistic. It's rarely linear and absolute. It's probably never fully contained in straightforward statements.
A moment of honest teshuva (repentance) and open-mindedness. All in a baseball blog. What a great thing the Internet is, huh?

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