on harassment, sports analysis, and perspective

Everyone who talks about sports online should watch this.

Strike that.  Everyone who talks about anything online should watch this.

If you have a heart, it’s going to hurt.  But, it confronts the problem of online harassment more head-on than anything I have seen.

Thank you, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain.  You didn’t have to do this.  You didn’t have to be reminded of these litanies of vitriol, particularly as you confront new ones every single day.

But, you did.  And, as a result, we have something that strips away the virtual distance that being behind a keyboard and a screen provides.  It shows these statements for what they are: threats against your safety and your lives.

The seemingly simple act of making a statement while not male should not open a person up to harassment.

No one deserves to be harassed for countering outdated assumptions that sports (or technology…or politics…) must be a man’s domain.

No one deserves to be harassed for questioning the perfection — much less the decency — of someone’s sports idols.

No one deserves to be harassed for doing their jobs.

And, that’s what they are doing.  At the end of the day, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain and so many other people are here for the same reason I am: to follow, analyse, and discuss sports.

The threats that bite the most, at least to me, are the ones that bring in facts about their personal lives, such as the comment harassing Julie DiCaro for having brought up her rape.  Part of the value of a columnist, an analyst, a radio host comes from their personal experience.

There are a few objective matters in sports, of course: the number of horses loading into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, how many goals the Blackhawks scored last night, the White Sox’s magic number.  But, in descriptions of plays in context, interpretations of a season’s trajectory, profiles of people away from game day or race day, even long-term historical discussions?  Anyone’s reporting, their angles, the questions they ask will be informed by what they have known, seen, and lived both in sports and in other aspects of their lives.

Everyone does this.  Everyone.  It is just harder to discern that subjectivity when it comes from a perspective that people are accustomed to hearing or acknowledging as “default”.  Nowadays, that perspective is still overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly willing to forgive a sports personality because they are so good on game day.

The response to having that “default” questioned, however, should not involve trying to beat those who question it into silence.  At best, it should involve gaining a sense of perspective, and learning that sports may have more layers than it seemed at first blush.

And, at the very least, it should involve having the basic human decency to set that shock aside just enough to let sports reporters and analysts do their jobs in safety and peace.

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