Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Recap: The Shirley Witchhunt

There was so much news this week, it inspired even a lazy blogger like myself to type a few comments. Between Greg Oden's ill-advised naked photographs and Paul Shirley's ill-advised naked ramblings, it was an amusing week in sports.

First, Paul Shirley's column on Haiti caused a tornado of controversy. I was comment 53 or so...and at this point there are 1,689 comments on that post! Yes, I've sunk to the level of bragging about being "first" to comment, +/- 50 comments or so. Surprisingly to me, he was thoroughly gutted even on sports blogs who once published his work.

I find it both amusing and tragic to watch a blogger witch hunt. I've participated in a few in my time, and been on the receiving end a time or two. Blogging is a solitary experience. We write our columns and tweets in a vacuum. Right now I am sitting alone in a room with the door half-closed. I have no feedback except my own conscience and some feeble estimation of what the audience may or may not want. However, once this article escapes on the web, it is completely out of control, and strangers have no reservations about forcing themselves into my space. You are more than able to lift any sentence from this blog to make me seem like a complete fool (or, once in a blue moon, an idiot-savant who finally got something right).

To be honest, I intentionally avoid hot-button quotes in my posts most of the time, because I know how such things spin out of control on the web. This is how many blogging witch hunts work: over-moralizing web commenters find yet another target that they can feel superior to and try to beat him up in his own comment section. It's a brutal business, recalling the lynch mobs of a previous century. Often good people go down to satisfy the ego of strangers and the Internet hate machine. I usually only like to participate in blogger witch hunts if absolutely no one is criticizing someone worthy of criticism, which is why occasionally I'm so tough on Deadspin and other popular sports blogs.

So poor Paul Shirley, right? He unfortunately is being punished for daring to confront the bias of popular culture? Railroaded and forced to ride his own petard until it exploded and got him fired from ESPN? Nah. He's smart, handsome, and talented...and also not afraid to look down on those who aren't blessed in the same way. There was a smug "Well at least I don't listen to rap" feel to his recollection of his basketball career that I tried to ignore but which bothered me. Paul sounded like that frat guy you know who goes around proclaiming things like "Why doesn't everyone walk around naked?" that sound smart and oh so EDGY at first, until you grow out of college and get your god complex beaten out of you at your first job when you realize that special snowflakes melt like every other type of snowflake. Then of course you end up behind the white picket fence like everyone else with 3 kids and get horrified when you meet the 20-year-old version of yourself. Ayn Rand's philosophies work fine as long as you're 10 feet tall and bulletproof; but when the first bullet hits, Rand disciples cry for their mommy. Yawn. Paul gets to figure out if he really is bulletproof now. Good luck to him, and I'm slightly sad that ESPN fired him, but I can't muster up as much pity as I expected. Blogger witch hunts are fair game when a blogger makes other bloggers look bad, when they make a bad argument poorly, when he/she breaks basic principles of Internet community (ah, unwritten rules), or when I have nothing else to write about on a Friday and the alternative is work and...ok, maybe not the last one. But otherwise, Shirley was fair game.