A Reply to Beekers and Some Comments About Comments

After I wrote this comment and sparked the subsequent discussion, including Beekers' frank and self-deprecating response, I wanted to add a few more points and reply to a few other comments in the following subthread. I began composing a comment, but it got pretty long, so I thought I'd extend it to its own FanPost and include more of an exposition of my recent thoughts on the matter.

I thought about making this a direct personal response to Beekers, in the form of an email or something like that, but I thought I'd post it publicly, as I'd like to see what sort of meta conversation I can spark regarding the current and future state of the Field Gulls.

Disclaimer: In the interest of clarity, or of drawing relevant comparisons, I may refer to specific people, specific comments, or specific blogs. My purpose is not to call anyone out or crucify anyone, so please don't take anything personally. This sort of meta discussion can unintentionally come across as a proverbial pantsing at times, and I don't intend it that way. It was for that reason I chose to make this a FanPost rather than a story, and why I think it may be best if this stays off the front page. I want to generate discussion, but I'd rather keep that discussion in the living room, if you will.

A point-by-point response to Beekers' reply to me.

You, me, any writer here, we all put in our time for free. That should certainly be appreciated, but it doesn’t exempt us from criticism. People should not just feel free to be critical of content, it should be encouraged, because the interactive process between community and writers is the lifeblood of any blog. As long as you’re not an asshole about it, and Ninjahawk was not.

You're very right, it doesn't exempt us from criticism. In fact, if anything, we should be the most criticized contributors on the site, if for no other reason than relative volume of content produced. But there's a difference between constructive criticism and completely nonconstructive, passive-aggressive snipes angled directly at anybody, including writers and mods. In my opinion, the comment that sparked this discussion was one of the latter.

Besides, it has been made abundantly clear to me before that my brusque tone of commentary is pretty unwelcome here on this incarnation of Field Gulls, and try as I might I never seem to be able to change it for any extended period of times. I think it’s an outlet thing, since I’m too much of a nice guy in real life (Yeah, I know. “What?” It’s true though).

I often disagree with you, but I appreciate your analysis and commitment to the site, so I don't feel it necessary or appropriate to express my disagreement with "God you're an asshole," or anything more or less direct. You aren't petty, you aren't mean, and you don't go about fault-finding. Your tone can be brusque and you don't sugar-coat your messages, but there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

We keep going over this so it’s becoming a bit of a broken record, but again; Field Gulls is a different entity now. Most of the story content is commentary (humorous or otherwise) or filler, rather than analysis, and the vast majority of it is highly positive and fan-emotion-based. Since that is the content, that is the level of commentary you encourage, and the new commentators you draw in. And that, in turn, means that blunt and “boring” analysis becomes unwelcome, both in comments and, inevitably, in stories. You can add as many writers as you like, but a blog will inevitably get a tone, a tenor, a dominant narrative that welcomes one level of discourse and discourages another.

You've said this a number of times, and I've gotta say I disagree. I mean, I understand your point and I agree that that can and will be a reality. But I disagree with your conclusion- just because that may be a trend doesn't mean it should welcomed, accepted, or tolerated. Emotion driven fan discourse and straightforward objective analysis can and should coexist.

The fact of the matter is, you know more than a lot of us and sometimes you act like it -- and that is completely acceptable. Imagine Pete Carroll joined our discussion. At some point in our conversation, I stated as fact something I erroneously believed to be true about, heck I dunno, the relationship between Marshawn Lynch and Tom Cable or something like that. If Pete said, "No, you're wrong, it's actually this way," would we jump all over him for being petty, nit-picking, or an asshole? No, because he's an established authority on that subject. He knows Marshawn and Cable personally and interacts with them regularly.

Just the same, you've demonstrated repeatedly, through analysis and tape-watching, that you are well-studied and well-versed in many of the intricacies of NFL defensive and offensive theory and practice. That doesn't mean you're infallible or the ultimate authority, but I'd say you're unarguably one of the most knowledgeable and informed contributors on Field Gulls, and perhaps in all of SBN's football blogs. And don't argue with that assertion. ;)

So this is my long and verbose way of saying you've earned your stripes and we accordingly owe you the appropriate deference and respect. Now, don't confuse this to mean I'm saying we need to place you on a pedestal. Not at all. What it means is, in discussions when you clearly know a lot, if not more than us, you have every right to speak as an authority. And personally, I'd rather you just state your observations and analysis bluntly and objectively, rather than tiptoeing around our delicate sensibilities and wasting our time.

I don’t think I’ll ever pitter-patter around the issue or be circumspect in politeness, or say anything other than “you’re wrong” when someone is wrong. And I think part of it is cultural differences. But I’m not really making excuses. Just saying, it’s not intentional, and feel free to nudge me whenever I seem out of line.

Yes, I do think culture differences may play a part in the misunderstandings. I spent three months in Europe and I saw pretty explicitly that Europeans and Americans communicate differently. If you were to arrange all manner of communication on a spectrum, with internet troll or the average BBV, BTSC, or NN commenter on one end (ZING!), and the stereotypical 19th-century British gentleman at the other, we Americans often range toward the classless end and Europeans in general (from my experience) tend more in the opposite direction. Obviously this isn't a rule.

As jacobstevens so eloquently put it,

I sometimes then realize my offense is more pride than that the tone was inappropriate. I would rather a straightforward blunt tone than a sugar-coated one, for the community. There are tactful ways of countering that, and respect is a critical part of really good discourse. But pleasantries over honesty is not.

We're all big boys on here, whether you're 12 or 72. If you don't like being told you're wrong, don't be wrong! But no, seriously, I'd rather be told I'm wrong than continue to believe something that is, in fact, wrong. And honestly, if you're reading this and thinking, "No, I'd rather him be nice to me and pat me on the back and gradually coddle me into realizing I just didn't quite have it right"--I can't think of anything to say but "Grow up and enter the real world."

See how much agreement Ninjahawk has, in the form of the encouraged reccing. That’s not new or surprising, it just is what it is.

I don't really care that four people anonymously rec'd it (the fifth, amusingly, was Beekers himself). The other four people didn't care to partake in the thread. Not that the lurkers don't matter, they do and we love you, lurkers! But a number of people (all regular contributors, mind you) stood up and vocally and passionately disagreed. This is a pattern that I've noticed.

A decent majority of the people that tend to get all bent out of shape about you, Beeks, are often folks who rarely contribute anything of substance anyways. I know that sounds harsh and judgmental, but it's true. There have certainly been regular and enjoyable contributors who've taken umbrage with your tone at times, but I've definitely seen plenty of people come and take passing shots at you, people who I'd just as soon not read comments from again. So just because some people anonymously rec'd that post, please don't take that to be a microcosm of the entire community.

And if I'm the odd guy out here, and the majority of the community disagrees with this entire post, well I suppose the "rec"ord may demonstrate that. Then I can know the direction we truly are headed as a community and I'll just go sulk in a corner with Beekers and the rest of us objective folk. :)

* * * * *

In summary, I suppose I'll say this: let's not lose our objectivity. We don't need to be so hardcore and fundamentalist that we develop an elitist reputation like Lookout Landing (a blog I also love, but one whose comment sections often have an undeniably marginalizing tone).

But if we cease to be rational and objective, I don't see much that sets us apart from the drivel that comprises much of the rest of the Internet. And I want to be proud of Field Gulls. I am proud of Field Gulls. Immensely so. Let's continue to hold ourselves to a high standard of civility and intelligent discourse, and couple that with the natural warmth of emotional fandom.

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