I heard Kevin Durant on the podcast of Bill Simmons (my fav sports writer) about a month ago. KD and Bill seem to have a good friendship; KD’s been on the show at least 4 times. Simmons sometimes asks KD about his opinions on things people say about KD in the media, and KD is game to respond, which makes it fun: A famous athlete replying to questions and comments on the spot, unrehearsed, without a PR flack in the way? Most athletes of KD’s stature would never even consider it — which is why this doesn’t happen often.
In this last interview, though, I felt that KD was being a bit sensitive about stuff.
Whenever Durant made a point, and Simmons counter-pointed with something an analyst or TV/Internet/Blog talking head has said, KD continually defaulted to some form of, “they didn’t play the game, so they don’t really know — so, to hell with anything they say.”
I myself played the game at the professional level, so I respect this tactic; many current and former players use it. I hear Shaquille O’Neal using it all the time at his TNT job (Shaq even goes as far as overruling Hall-Of-Famer-but-ringless Charles Barkley with, you didn’t win a championship, so my opinion beats yours— and really means it).
But I don’t like using this tactic, and I cringe every time I hear it used. Because –
- It’s a cop-out. It’s the “last word” a person can use to “win” an argument, since the I-know-more-than-you point is, at least in the mind of the user, unchallengeable.
- It’s cheap and easy. If you think about it, anyone who’s achieved anything can live his whole life behind this premise and never agree or even consider that he may be wrong. This is set-in-your-ways thinking — even when you’re 100% right. You’re choosing to not hear what the other person is saying due to your self-perceived superiority.
- It works as a cover-all for any (possibly weak) opinion you have. Well, I played the game and you didn’t, so everything I say must be right and must be accepted, without challenge. You’re shielding yourself from being challenged. Challenges force us to think. Any form of, I’m THIS, so whatever I say is correct and cannot possibly be wrong!! Is cowardly and lazy.
KD came to brand all basketball analysts (those who are not themselves ex-pros) as the “Blog Boys” — people who talk about stuff that they never did, giving themselves free reign to criticize a person who’s in a position they have never been in.
Blog Boys do exist, especially in professional athletics: An athlete’s entire job is in the pubic forum. Win or lose, everyone knows about it. Win, they praise you. Lose, they trash you. You can’t hide. That’s the job you signed up for. So, while listening to KD brand and repeat the Blog Boys phrase over and over in this interview, I wondered why he felt the need to go there.
A brief tweet exchange the other night helped me understand.
After their Game 3 win in Miami, I tweeted about the Philadelphia Sixers’ good chance to make the NBA Finals this year. Dev, a guy who I know, replied to say something negative about the entire Eastern Conference.
Whether you agree or not is not the point. Basically, the guy was preemptively diminishing the accomplishment of making the Finals… before the Sixers had even gotten out of the first round. Don’t ask me why he cares to diminish the Eastern Conference, because I don’t know. Maybe he’s a Knicks fan.
I replied, as did he…
[As you can see, that was about an hour ago. I’m 99% sure this conversation will continue, so follow my Twitter to see what happened.]
Here’s what I know for sure re this exchange:
- Dev (we have worked together in the past) has not played sports on the college or pro level, and is literally a Blog Boy (see his Twitter bio and who he works for) — but I refuse to stoop to the KD/Shaq method. I like healthy discussion, as long as it stays healthy.
- My original point, as you can see, was about the Sixers — he found a way to diss LeBron James. Ugh. LBJ is the most famous basketball player alive, a guy who has lost very publicly many times (and also won publicly many times), and, most importantly for the context of this post, an easy target for… Blog Boys. Why was LeBron even brought up?
- Sports, basketball in particular, is the one profession in the world where people who have never been anywhere close to having the job would swear on their first born child that they know exactly how the job should be done. No other line of work can say this (well, maybe politics).
- Kevin Durant has received his share of Blog Boy nastiness — even when he won a championship with the Golden State Warriors, many Blog Boys (which includes fans; you don’t have to have a blog to be a Blog Boy) verbally invalidated his achievement, as he had joined an already-successful Warriors team to win.
Now, I understand KD: How many Blog Boys like Dev in this Twitter exchange, are floating around right now just waiting to trash someone?
For Your Game
- Putting yourself in a position to win — or lose — publicly takes a lot of heart (and probably a lot of skill). If you’ve never been in that space yourself, be careful talking shit about the people who have. The loser of the game still has higher status than the spectators.
- Imagine having thousands of people watching your every minute while you’re at work, looking for something, any little thing, to criticize you about — all while they hide comfortably behind their smartphones and laptops, hidden from public scrutiny. Have you ever had a bad day at work, or a job situation in which you just plain fucked up? How many people knew about it? Imagine all your followers, multiplied by 10,000, ALL knew and were discussing it… EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. How would YOU handle that?
- Everyone is entitled to an opinion (or many opinions), regardless of background or achievement. Bill Simmons, my favorite sports writer, never played college or pro sports, and I love his stuff. Bill Simmons also can get guys like Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh and many other athletes to come on his show — because even when he does criticize players, he does it fairly, and says things as if he was talking directly to that person, in person. There are many other writers — actually publications/companies (it’s very much a culture thing more than the specific person) — who I feel the same way about. Criticize, but give context as to why and how, and be respectful — even though the person you’re writing about may never even read what you wrote. I hold myself to the same standard: Don’t say things about a person online that you wouldn’t say directly to them. Yeah, it’s “just social media.” It’s also this: A man/woman of respect handles themselves the same way all the time, regardless of the perceived possibility of retribution.
Have you ever dealt with this spectator shit talk? How did you handle it? Are YOU a Blog Boy? Reply and let me know.