Tuesday, May 10, 2016

No joy in Mudville

Part 1

I wanted to write something about baseball but I'm sort of out of words for it. But I'll try.

I started this blog when I was still in my twenties and as I was going back through some of the old posts looking for a particular one on Bonds, I thought how fun I had maintaining it and what unbridled passion I felt. That's your twenties, though. If you do it right, anyway.

I remember our after work happy hours, arguing about politics and world affairs and thinking we all could save the world with our own naive ideas. They were naive, but they were informed, at least. You can't really say the same for some of the people who open their mouths today. I mean, there are people who think that you can just print money and your country will be ok. Ever heard of Weimer Republic? Probably not. Look it up to find out why you can't just print money.

Anyway, when blogging first started, there was a community and people wrote on blogs because they were passionate about whatever they were writing about. Your blog was ranked based on links to it and there wasn't money involved. It wasn't who paid the most that got the readers; it was who wrote the best. Because you needed links, you visited others' sites and formed communities where you conversed about your shared interests. This was fun, back when people who knew how to write were the ones on the internet and the mouthbreathers were trying to find the computer's on switch. Hard to believe it was a decade ago, but time flies when you throw a clock through a window.

The Reds were awful at that time, but not so often that you couldn't muster hope until about August each year. The offense was good. Home runs were sailing into the incandescent summer evenings under the ballpark lights and we had yet to raise a generation that had not known a Reds World Series championship.

I didn't watch many Reds games last year because my internet didn't work correctly and I was stuck in a Comcast contract and they refused to acknowledge that it didn't work. Oh, and the team was so awful and I was so disappointed that I think that my heart would have ripped to shreds. I think back to only ten years ago and no corporation would have been able to get away with robbing someone like that, but that was before Citizens United and United States citizens decided it was ok to give control of their lives to corporations. Granted, the internet was not as fast and MLB.TV was not in HD but you know what? It worked. (It took us almost a year and Comcast finally fixed the problem so I can watch this year.) There was no Facebook to control what content we see and Google was giving out email addresses by invitation only and the internet was enjoyable. We had fun. I made stupid photoshops like this:

We were civil to each other. We had blogger "roundtables." We had something called "blogrolls," and they were as important as the blog itself. No one got paid to do anything. No one put ads on their blogs.

What happened was this: Google. It got to be that you had to spend more time promoting your blog, focusing on search engine optimization, paying for social media ads, and using analytics than you did actually writing the content. Oh, and Americans' attention spans dropped four seconds in the span of a decade thanks to social media and they couldn't read anymore. And the incivility. Oh, the incivility.

Bryce Harper has the unbridled passion of a twenty-something. Worse, a young twenty-something who has grown up knowing only one thing in life: baseball. He's the youngest guy to every win an MVP. And when his mouth is shut, he's fun to watch.

But then it opens.

Tonight he may have done the worst thing he's ever done, worse than even blowing the kiss at the pitcher after he hit a minor league home run. While his team was celebrating a walk off home run, he was yelling "fuck you" at the ump for throwing him out of the game a batter earlier. He wasn't even batting. He was in the dugout. Getting thrown out of a tie game for yelling at the ump is bad enough, but your team is celebrating a walk off win and you have to seek out the ump to yell profanities at him?

This is the Bryce Harper that is not fun to watch, the one that people hate.

Worse? Watching people defend this behavior or get their Bryce Harper Underoos in bunches when they hear criticism of it, incapable of comprehending why what he did was wrong.

Your team just won. You don't go seeking out vengeance. You overshadowed the heroics of a teammate who doesn't get much of a spotlight. It was a classless act, absolute garbage. It wasn't passion. It was narcissism. He's too full of himself to even celebrate with his teammates.

He'll make a perfect Yankee.

But in our narcissistic age, I guess being a dick of a teammate is A-OK. It's "fun." Concepts as professionalism or sportsmanship are outdated, amirite? Let's just drag every bit of decency through the mud.

There is a reason people are supporting a politician (yes, he's a politician despite beliefs to the contrary) who runs on a slogan "Make America Great Again." Because we have lost something (though not the things he stands for, not at all, but the message resonates for a reason.) People don't quite understand what has been lost, but they sense it is something big. The loss of civility is "huge," and decency, and respect. It's not kids these days. It's everyone. Talking about baseball online is not fun anymore. We can't talk to each other without dragging our opponents through the mud.

There is no joy in Mudville.

So right back at you, Harper. Grow up. And grow up, internet.

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