I learned this the hard way. You do not have to. Praise Jebus.
If you write about sports, and you exist somewhere where people know that you write about sports, they will parrot their cockamemie ideas to you whenever they have them. That trope about sports bloggers living in their mothers’ basements? Shit, that’s the best place to be. Mom doesn’t know Manny Ramirez from Handy Manny and if she figures out the difference, at least it’s cute.
I stayed out of the whole Jim Joyce/Armando Galaragga thing at work because I couldn’t stand to hear what my boss had to say about it. I just heard him spouting off to someone else in the office about how to fix instant replay, etc. It was excrutiating, but at least I could put on headphones.
That’s why I disagree with the estimable William F. Leitch (whose name is stuck in the Tag Cloud That Never Updates, below), who’s pointing fingers all over the Internet today at the Twitterati for ruining what he saw as a genuinely inspiring baseball moment. A mistake was made, the victim took it with grace… and yet here “we” were, ripping apart the umpire and the sport for allowing it to happen. I agree that the whole on-field reaction could scarcely have been handled better, nor the postgame reaction amongst the players and ump, all things considered, but to condemn the early accusers? If you’re trying to stop that tide, you might as well try to ask the sun to, you know, just cool it tomorrow morning because you’ve got some extra sleeping to do.
It’s understandable that Leitch would notice—he is, after all, a professional sportswriter. One of the few. Which means he can’t afford to just turn off the background noise to an event. He needs ideas, and sportswriting is as much about striking down bad ones as it is about coming up with good ones on your own. He needs to listen, but none of the rest of us need to. If I don’t like some of the reactions I hear, I can always unfollow someone or ignore what I read. So can 99 percent of America. If you think making an example out of the loudest is the best point you can make—I would counter that the number of voices, and their breadth, speaks positively to baseball’s strong connection to our increasingly connected world, and allows any single baseball game in real time to match the exposure of any one football game (which is, by any measure, a incredible feat)—you’re Sisyphus with a keyboard. If you think you’re going to stop people from having ill-informed opinions on things, you’re wrong.
But if you look at it the other way—people are going to have ill-informed opinions about something, and they have it them about baseball—now you’re getting somewhere. To his credit, Leitch goes through the four “memes” that popped up in the aftermath of the call and evaluates them, but not before admonishing “us,” whoever that is, for “our” conduct. I don’t suppose he’d prefer we were talking about The Real Housewives of New Jersey, because if we were, I do suppose he’d be out of a job. Let’s not miss what baseball has done right here.
Also, let’s not forget that Leitch is a really, really good writer; we’ll just leave the last word to Galarraga, who summed up the call with a smirk and one of the best in-context sports quotes of all-time: