Resisting the Urge to Fan the Flame War

An odd change has come over me regarding my writing in the last few days. In the past, a negative comment on one of my articles filled me with elation. Someone had actually read the article, it had affected them enough to elicit a response.

I also saw negative responses as a sort of journalistic antibody. Hearing a “you suck” here and there now will help me deal with the multitude of criticisms (mostly unfounded) I will have to endure when I hit the big time. Dan Shaughnessy has thousands of naysayers, and not one of them has ever changed the way he writes.

Now, I don’t want to be the next Dan Shaughnessy: It’s not in me to write something I don’t believe in (unless I’m trying to be funny). But even Jackie MacMullan has a few idiot Internet flamers putting her down. So at some point I’ll need to get used to people I don’t know saying I’m bad at a job they couldn’t possibly do as well as I.

In the last week, however, something seems to have changed. It started Saturday, when someone criticized me for posting a YouTube video of the Boston Militia practicing less than a week before a playoff game. I had several options at that point:

  • Ignore the comment;
  • Remove the comment and change the comment rules for my videos;
  • Respond that I had gotten express permission from the Militia GM to record practice; or
  • Say that, then tell the guy to “bite me.”

Guess which one I went with? And of course my stupid response resulted in me being called “an ass.” At that point, I deleted all three comments, changed the permission and called it a day. But you readers know me pretty well. Does it seem typical for me to get into a flame war with some random douchebag? Have I ever done that before?

Non-sports matters put me in a terrible mood Saturday night, so I’m willing to chalk that particular incident up to a moment of weakness. As vindication, I notice that the Militia complimented me on both my Patch article and my video.

One incident does not equal a trend, but then it almost happened again Wednesday morning. I recapped Tuesday’s Red Sox game for Sports of Boston, a game that ended when Darnell McDonald threw Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion out at home. A commenter called me “very biased” because I didn’t call out the umpire on an admittedly close play at the plate. And again I felt this incredibly strong urge to defend myself, and not in the logical, balanced way I normally do. Again I just wanted to scream at the guy, in part because I don’t write for; I write for a Boston-based sports blog. So of course there will be some bias.

Jason Varitek blocks Edwin Encarnacion from scoring the tying run with two outs in the ninth on Tuesday. Not calling out the ump got me labeled as "very biased," and for some reason that almost made me go crazy. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Luckily, my editor (thanks KC!) responded for me, and kept a level head doing so. I don’t like to criticize refs because all it does is ether make people angry or cheapen a victory. Home-plate umpire Brian Knight might have missed the call at the plate. He also probably erred in calling shortstop John McDonald’s checked-swing strike two. A 1-1 count probably changes the way Jonathan Papelbon approaches McDonald, and maybe the game ends less controversially either way.

So that’s two times Knight’s mistakes helped the Red Sox. But Knight also called a ball for left fielder Corey Patterson to start the ninth that replay showed caught the inside corner. Patterson stays alive, singles, and Jose Bautista hits a two-run bomb to cut the lead to 3-2. Where I’m going with all of this is that umps make mistakes, but usually both teams benefit from them. The Blue Jays lost because Knight might have made a mistake, but they also came a lot closer than they might have had Knight not made another mistake. Plus, it’s not like calling out the ref will actually change anything.

Of course, there’s no way I could have written that clearly or logically when I first read the reader’s response. I damn near popped a blood vessel in my eye fighting back the urge to respond. Because you have to. Arguing with Internet idiots is like arguing with 3-year-olds, and Louis CK can explain the inherent problems with that far better than I.

In conclusion, I have no idea why I flew off at Idiot A and came pretty freaking close to exploding at Idiot B. I just hope this defensiveness goes away, cause it’s not helping.

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