The effect of arguments

A message came in over Twitter from a private feed (I’ll identify him if he likes), asking a good question: “Why on earth do you engage with complete morons?”

This was in response to last night’s Twitter fight, in which I was arguing with two guys with a combined Twitter followership of less than 50 people about the incident at yesterday’s Masters in which Bergen Record columnist Tara Sullivan was denied entry into the locker room.

No one credible is jumping to say Sullivan shouldn’t have been in the locker room. Her male colleagues rallied to share quotes with her. Augusta National very quickly apologized and pinned the blame on a misinformed security guard.

Don’t confuse the Sullivan case with the question of whether the locker room should be open in the first place. That’s a legitimate question, raised recently by Toronto FC’s Aron Winter. The norm in other countries and many smaller-scale U.S. leagues (including Women’s Professional Soccer) is to keep the locker room closed but make athletes available for interviews in a timely fashion. Some sports handle it better than others, of course. But if the powers that be have decided that the most expedient way to handle interviews is to open the locker room, then barring women at the door is an impediment to their jobs.

As my buddy hoover_dam said: “Either you let everyone in or you do a mixed zone where you let nobody in. Get with it, ya jerks.”

With rare exception, women and men have worked together in locker rooms with no issues. But this is apparently news to my newfound Twitter buddies, whose arguments consisted of the following:

1. “I honestly couldn’t give a shit less about a supreme court hearing 30 some years ago..”

2. In several Tweets, I failed to convince someone that men don’t urinate in the middle of a locker room. They go to nearby toilets, and reporters don’t go there. Nor do reporters go into showers. In fact, reporters never see anything in which athletes HAVE to be naked. They can change into their pants while wearing a towel.

3. “And youre hairs still combed.” (He’s aware that my Twitter picture isn’t a live webcam, right?)

Yes, I spent time last night arguing with a couple of kids, one of whom was making fun of me for combing my hair (which actually is rarely as neat as it appears on my Twitter picture) and wearing glasses. I think he’s the second person ever to make fun of me for wearing glasses and the first to make fun of me for combing my hair. I have been teased for not combing my hair. So we’re talking about a guy who acts like a middle school bully but lacks the observational skills to be one.

Harry: Hey I got a whole stack of quarters and I was here first.
Kid: Were not.
Harry: Was too.
Kid: Were not!
Harry: Was too!
Kid: Big jerk!
Harry: Little creep! (To Jess) Where was I?
Jess: You were growing.

So why do I get in arguments like this? Or the Duke lacrosse case argument? Or the Title IX argument? I’m comparing anyone involved in the latter two arguments to the kids in last night’s Twitter argument or the kid in the When Harry Met Sally batting-cage scene quoted above. This is about my issues, not theirs.

I think I’m worried about being too aloof, too detached. When I got 250 or so emails in response to my Manchester United-bashing column of 2002, I responded to nearly all of them and went on a Manchester United message board to chat with my new haters. (To be fair, most of them were funny.)

I know journalists who hardly read a word their critics write. And in some cases, it’s impractical to do so. Political journalists receive so much crap that they can’t spend their whole workweeks sorting through it all. Even in the smaller scale of soccer journalism, Grant Wahl says he eventually has to disengage from people from time to time when they get overbearing and personal.

It’s a pity, though, because most journalists want some sort of interaction. And sometimes, the criticism is constructive.

Academics can be a similar situation, particularly when they’re  pulled into a scandal of some sort. In the Duke lacrosse case, the Group of 88 got a nasty response from a few persistent bands of people. Trying to engage with them would be like trying to drink from a firehose. And so they’ve been pretty quiet since then.

Their critics might see them as aloof, arrogant, etc. The fact is you simply can’t respond to everyone. If some people raise legitimate arguments or have honest questions, it’s easy for those people to get lost in the noise.

In my case, fortunately, I’m a nobody. The Manchester United column was the peak of my ability to be a lightning rod. The Duke lacrosse post was a distant second. That means I can keep up the discussion with people who deserve a fair hearing — such as people with diverse points of view on Title IX.

But should I dial back the engagement with people who think I must have missed the obvious point that women shouldn’t be locker rooms because athletes are urinating, then turn to my hair and glasses when they realize they have nothing on which to base their argument? Yeah, probably. Fun, though, wasn’t it?

Back to the 2012 medal projections, my book, home/lawn maintenance and an inbox full of freelance work.

 

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  1. “I honestly couldn’t give a shit less about a supreme court hearing 30 some years ago..”

    I love this attitude. Yeah, Brown v. the Board of Education, Plessy v. Ferguson, Miranda v. Arizona, what the hell do THOSE things have to do with anything in 2011? Who needs THOSE things?

    As to your original question, Beau, the only thing I can give you is a saying you may have heard, since you spent some time in the south: “If you get into a fight with a pig, y’all both get muddy, and the pig LIKES it.”

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