A few weeks ago, FOX Sports columnist Jon Morosi wrote an especially frustrating piece on the unexpected woes of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was disconcerting not for offering a particularly revealing examination of an ugly and unconsidered truth, but rather because it was the type of column for which the writer very clearly had a narrative-based idea in mind, and then sought out evidence to support it, as opposed to formulating an idea based on the information collected. The result was a column steeped in small sample citations, cherry-picked data and quotations from questionable sources.
It angered me. And so, I wrote a piece in response to the original article in the heat of my righteous indignation.
It was stupid, not because I was wrong in my criticism, but because I was outraged over a column about baseball. Morosi’s writing was an estimated thirty-five times removed from anything resembling importance or relevance, and yet it succeeded in making me feel petulance to the point of expression. This is only made more regrettable by considering that such a reaction was quite possibly the very goal of the author.
I thought of this last night when social media went berserk over the idea of the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard voting for someone other than LeBron James for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
It all started with this:
— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) May 5, 2013
And was fueled by this:
Melo was robbed
— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) May 5, 2013
Le Batard jokingly suggested that he was the one voter out of 121 basketball writers and broadcasters to give a first place vote to Carmelo Anthony instead of James. His responding tweet was an obvious bit of sarcasm given that a) he is based out of Miami, b) he has a well-earned reputation for praising James and the Heat; c) this article was published mere hours before everything erupted, and d) he doesn’t even have a vote in the NBA MVP award process.
Nonetheless, Le Batard spent the three hours following his reply re-tweeting a barrage of personal insults directed at him for his supposedly wrong-headed voting. The rounds of social media unpleasantry included derision for his physical appearance, questioning of his mental fortitude and perhaps worst of all, comparisons to Skip Bayless.
The conspiracy theorists among us, unable to reconcile Le Batard’s reputation with his reported actions began hypothesizing that the newspaper columnist and radio host was attempting to make some sort of statement with his vote, that it was simultaneously the greatest troll job of all-time and a statement on the stupidity of sports award balloting. Deadspin was the first to officially post criticism for Le Batard’s obvious grab at attention.
Through it all, Le Batard did nothing to clear up the assumptions to which everyone was jumping. He merely proceeded to re-tweet the typhoon of outrage spilling over his feed.
Sports fans tend to get angry at opinions and those who hold notions contrary to their own. Let me correct that. People tend to get angry at opinions and those who hold notions contrary to their own. However, disputes over religion which represent an ideology for one’s entire existence, or even disagreements over property lines which govern one’s degree of ownership are seemingly far more important than disputes over who the most valuable basketball player was during the regular season. And yet, we, as sports fans, argue all of these things with similar ferocity.
Sports, if we’re honest with ourselves, are largely unimportant. There are certainly positive elements that can be derived from being a sports fan. We’ve discussed this before in other columns. However, sports are largely not impactful on our lives outside of the vicarious outlet that it provides us. And even then, it’s not as if this provision isn’t replaceable, as when our favorite sport has a work stoppage because of a labor dispute. We pick up other interests, and typically move on until it’s settled. From here, how much less important is the winner of an award within the confines of a sport? Then, how much less important are the trivialities of making a subjective vote based on one’s opinion of whom the best was at a game?
And yet, we react. We react with vitriol more common to something that matters. We do this in a fashion that makes it abundantly clear how effective sports are at blurring the lines to which a vicarious outlet for our emotions should extend.
In reality, the writer who actually gave a first-place vote in MVP balloting to Carmelo Anthony was Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. He articulated an excellent justification for his vote, essentially stating that in his mind, James may have been the better and more productive player, but Anthony was the more valuable by the writer’s definition of the term. It’s fair. It’s not accurate in my mind, just as Miguel Cabrera being awarded the Most Valuable Player in the American League this past winter wasn’t accurate, but I understand that different perspectives exist, and it’s important the multiple ways of looking at things be considered, so that we, in coming to decisions, might contemplate everything that’s relevant.
It’s humorous to me that Le Batard would act as something of a distractive fullback creating space for Washburn’s eventual justifying run because the qualities championed by the Globe writer and his dissenting vote are similar to the ones I recognize and appreciate in the original and mistaken target of so much scorn. I like Le Batard because he seems to get it. Through his written and spoken commentary, I infer that he understands not just the relative unimportance of sports, but also the merits that the most absurd seeming arguments possess.
If it’s silly to get angry about sports, it’s exceedingly more absurd to get upset by the opinions of others on sports. Sometimes, it takes someone being silly and absurd to prompt a realization of our own silliness and absurdity. The type of reflection that Le Batard’s joking around combined with Washburn’s differing perspective actually holds a mirror to our own foolish behavior, and gives us the opportunity to improve. That’s not such a bad thing for sports, and especially sports writers, to do.