Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What was I writing about again? Big data? Sabermetrics? Irony?

I've been trying to listen to the Reds games at work since they began, but I'm finding them tough to follow. I usually have three or four Word docs open, an Excel sheet, Outlook, Photoshop, and ten to fifteen browser tabs. My attention span is shot. I can barely listen to Marty call a strike before my mind wanders to something else. I tune back in and realize I've missed whole innings.

I have always been prone to a meandering mind, even before the internet went public and invaded our lives. I'm probably the last person who should be working in social media, but that's what I'm doing for a living these days. I started this blog before Facebook was invented; as more and more social media conquered the web, it became difficult to focus on one page long enough to write an entire post. Then the plebes joined the net and civility took a nosedive. Seriously. The truth is that it took awhile for the masses to realize there was more to the internet than email and when enough people realized how cool it was, things took a turn for the worst.

Of course that would be considered elitist by some. But it used to be you could have discussions - real discussions - on things called "forums." You had to put in a lot of effort to converse with people and build communities, and this required writing at length and reading what other people wrote, no matter how long. Next people started their own blogs where they actually wrote well-constructed (and not so well-constructed) posts about the various aspects of life and actively read the blogs of others. You wrote a one or two page document. Now everything is in 140 characters, video clips, memes, or tl;dr. Good writing got lost in the gaggle of it all. So did our minds! There is too much out there! Now our attention spans - not just mine, but enough people for tl;dr to become a thing. Now we're left with a bunch of SCREAMERS WHO HAVE AN OPINION BUT CAN'T BE BOTHERED TO READ SOMETHING LONG ENOUGH TO INFORM THEMSELVES!!!!111!!!1

Easier access without any need to put any thought into anything you posted on the web resulted in civility's free fall. Mean-spirited demons armed with no tact or analytical capacity made comment monitoring a necessity. In baseball, these loud teeth gnashers are often the same people who still think a pitcher's win total matters. What's happening today is that one segment of our society is getting more scientific in its discourse while another segment, one that doesn't have the interest or capability to understand advanced data, continues to cling to guns and religion RBI and ERA.

I work for a political research firm these days. They're numbers people. It has given me the opportunity to revisit an idea I had a few years ago - the idea that sabermetrics changed my life. Sounds stupid, doesn't it? Well, I grew up reading the backs of baseball cards, and in the eighties, batting average and wins mattered. I should add that I grew up in Ohio, near Dayton, not exactly a thriving metropolis, not exactly a hotbed for academic research and analysis. We built automobiles and cash registers and notebook paper. We didn't crunch numbers unless they involved dollars. Nothing wrong with that, just saying I wasn't exposed to the idea that there were intellectual endeavors beyond getting good grades. I didn't even know what I was going to do when I went to college. I just went because it's what I was supposed to do. I graduated before I had ever heard the term sabermetrics.

But then the internet taught me it made more sense that higher on base percentages were more valuable to offense and that pitchers could have great years on shitty teams and only win twelve games. I looked around at all I knew - not only in baseball but in life - and realized that what I knew I only knew because that's what I had been taught. That didn't mean it was true or correct; it's just how things were. I started learning after college. I sought friends from whom I could learn. I bought books I would have never read. I started reading about other cultures and religions and histories to which I had never been exposed (and why had I NOT been?) All because of BABIP, WAR, OPS, and ERA+.

My work with social media forces me to be exposed to uninformed opinions on all kinds of issues. It's maddening at times and shocking that so many people are oblivious to reality. I mean REALITY, like the sky-is-blue kind of reality which so many people seem to deny. I wish more people would realize that they know what they think they know because that's all they've been exposed to. It could be wrong. There's more to life, more to reality. I mean, SERIOUSLY, people, ADAM DUNN WOULD HAVE BEEN A HALL OF FAMER HAD HE PLAYED ON BETTER REDS TEAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!111!!1!11

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