Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bloggolalia: I Like the Cavs...and General Howe was a Sexually Reckless Fool who Lost the War

Weird beginning, right? You come here to read my takes on sports, and all of a sudden, you get a dose of my take on something totally different. But it's really not that unusual for sports bloggers to go on a tangent. By our very nature, we're sharing our perspective on the story. With luck, my perspective is a little different than yours in ways that amuse and intrigue, but also similar to yours in ways that reassure and lead to a common understanding. The goal is to be different from the reader and pique curiosity, but not in such a way that drives the reader away from the site.

However, sometimes, the problem is that when I write my story, my biases become the story. I write a post in such a way that it is uniquely for me, by me. Because I'm in a rush, I use shorthand, and just assume that everyone knows that Shaq is a childish bully (whoops, can't say that anymore, he's on the Cavs!), or that my views on, say, women, gays, or the Philadelphia Eagles are how my audience thinks. Problem is, that's probably not true. And at times, that can be quite unfair to my reader. I've certainly seen other bloggers quietly drive away audience segments with their ignorance about how other types of people think--whether it be city vs. country, Democrat vs. Republican, or even racism.

This brings me to the inspiration for this blog--a bit of a disagreement a post by Bethlehem Shoals of Free Darko and SportingNews. It's too bad I have to use this as an example, because other bloggers are much worse than Shoals. Quite honestly, it's because of the respect I have for his writing, perhaps, that I pick on his article. I bought his book and generally liked his stuff, although I haven't followed it too closely lately. While reading Twitter, I saw a tweet of his that said "Allan Houston among the Christ-killers?!". It pricked my interest, and I went over and read the article.

I'll spare you the specifics; you can read my serious, strained comments and Shoal's attempts at witty one-liners at your leisure. My objection was mainly how Shoals' writing seemed like a sneaky generalization.

The first part of Shoals' post was a recounting of a sad misunderstanding where, essentially, some Christians on the Knicks were embarrassingly aggressive in trying to convert a Jewish reporter. It was quite a mess, but settled down after Ward backed down. As one of the last articles on it, by Josh Ozersky, said,

"Language such as Ward used naturally gives Jewish people the willies, conjuring as it does historical memories of pogroms and massacres…But how many Jews can say that they really understand evangelical Christians?"

However, I was annoyed at Bethlehem's attempted comedic take on Allan Houston's visit to Israel. I felt that Shoals was being deliberately short with the truth to make Allan Houston and his visit look bad. Nothing Shoals said was quite false...but it wasn't the whole truth, either.

Shoals is Jewish. I understand that he no doubt has strong opinions on Christians based on common experiences and many years of often miserable, tragic evil that Christians have caused Jews. But I don't see why Allan Houston has to pay the price for the Spanish Inquisition, or the ranting pastor on 78th and Broadway who may have hollered at Shoals to repent when he was 7. I don't see why I, as a Christian reader who was a fan of Shoals, have to put up with random bias when all I'm looking for is a funny, interesting take on sports. It's funny how bloggers writing about bias inevitably end up including their own. The last words of Ozerky's article certainly apply to Shoals; he doesn't get evangelical Christians, and his attempt at witticism was insulting to me.

Yeah, I'm being a punk about this. I do my best never to play the "I'm offended" card on here about other bloggers, but I am getting annoyed. More and more, I'm seeing an assumption among sports bloggers that all their readers share their views, and that's just not true at all. I don't go to Deadspin to read up on Democratic politics. I don't visit The Big Lead's morning round-up to find out who the latest hot reality TV star is (ok, well maybe that one Tuesday, but I was bored!). And I don't read NBA blogs to breathlessly find out that you do/do not like Christianity (circle one). If you agree with my religion, sweet, but I hope you also can tell me how in the world Lebron is getting through the season without smacking Shaq upside his arrogant head. If you don't, that's fine, there's millions like you, and we can still get long as you don't make it an issue. And if you can't deal with a known controversial topic like Christianity, or race, or homosexuality straight on, in a balanced, mature manner, then don't touch it at all, ok? The world can do without one more stereotype.


  1. For hell's sake, it wasn't sneaky. Some Christians have weird feelings about Israel. I was merely wondering if, given Houston's track record of rather questionable attitudes toward Jews, if his visit to Israel wasn't a little, well, fraught. Fine, take his trip at sincere face value. As a Christian wanting to see where Jesus walked. That's great. I'm a little skepticial. And having fun with the most prominent bit of sports anti-Semitism EVER.

    And if anyone clicks on the link, they'll see you're taking issue with my phrase "certain non-Jewish," which you took to mean "all Christians," when it didn't. It meant "some Christians."

    Plus nothing is more boring than being super-serious about religion.

  2. I think this is a "slippery slope" disagreement. Shoals made a statement about a subsection of christianity and you've taken it as representative of all christians. Allow the language he used stand on its own and there's no controversy.

    I think its common nature for people with outside experience of some sort of offensive rhetoric (i.e. "All Christians suck" or "Jews Killed my Messiah!" or whatever) to become attuned to possible future examples of that. So when they see someone argue TOWARDS that offensive rhetoric, they miss the nuances of what's being said that differentiates it from the offensive rhetoric. Thus the slippery slope where someone starts arguing against a point the other person never actually meant. This happens to everybody on all sides of all arguments. I've done it, I'm guessing Shoals has done it. That's my take on what's happened here.

    Though it may also be a general disagreement you have with thte fact that Shoals generally doesn't limit himself to basketball alone. Its a blog, though, and he is obviously not afraid of alienating people.

    So yeah, that's my take.

  3. And for heaven's sake, Shoals, all you had to say was something like "some Christians" in the post, without the implication that everyone knows Christians like Jews, if at all, only because Christians think helping Jews will help get them a free ride to heaven. That's my frustration.

    The whole "non-Jewish element" line was just odd. I mean, you obviously mean Christians, so why not just say so, or call them "Bible-huggers" or "Kris(t) Kross fans" if you want to get the humor aspect in?

    I'm like to think I'm not opposed to humor about bad religion, I'm opposed to bad humor about religion.

  4. Yes, this is a fairly ridiculous take on the comments made by Shoals. The idea of working fervently to not alienate readers, except in some extreme cases, really just discounts any reader's ability to read opinion as part of text. And the writing on Freedarko and the Baseline presents plenty of opportunity for subversion of any opinion(s) therein.

  5. jd, I agree with you, to a point. I certainly admit I was frustrated already with how some sports bloggers have covered minority issues in their blogs. There's certainly a chance I'm seeing something that's not there, based on past experience. I'd be a fool to deny that possibility.

    Background to clarify: I wrote for for a while, because I agreed so strongly with many of their complaints on how racial minorities and female athletes were being treated in the press. So for the record, I'm not a one-issue guy on this topic.

    However, in a time where audiences are more global and diverse, writers can't be using odd, coded, and/or easily misunderstood phrases to describe ethnic or religious groups. Is that really so much to ask? Let's try Shoals comment in some other contexts--"certain non-white elements" "certan non-heterosexual elements" "certain non-male elements". To me, it sounds wrong each time.

  6. jd, as to the second topic--I do believe sports bloggers should transcend sports. There's a post in my drafts file about how many of my favorite posts by sports bloggers aren't on sports at all.

    But I think that when doing so, sports bloggers can't write the same ways they would write about sports. Your Giants fan base may be fine with calling Eagles fans "idiots", but just wait until you try applying that term to Obama's fiscal policy without explanation, ha. That's my secondary point--in retrospect, I should have written two separate blogs, as the two points I was trying to make aren't a clean match.

  7. Also, you saying that my being prickly about Allan Houston and Israel is like The Big Lead's love of reality show babes. . . reminds me of the time I was told that I need to be more sympathetic to Dave Berri, since both of us pursue non-traditional ways of looking at basketball.

  8. Ooh. Given the Berri analogy, I feel kind of ashamed of myself now. :-( To all: Shoals has never participated in anything quite so nonsensical as TBL's round-up babe pictures, and I apologize profusely if you thought I was implying so.

  9. tangents are good for the soul~!~ nice one by the way, although I wanted to see more about the Cavs in here LMAO!

    do your thing McBias! next time gimme sum LeBron ;0

    for anyone thinking i might be making fun of anything, i'm not....i don't get into religion & politics on the net.....ya dig!