Deadspin has this amusing recurring feature in which they send Freedom of Information Act requests to the Federal Communications Commission after supposed "controversial" moments in sports television to see how many people -- and, specifically, what kind of people -- complain. It's a terrific idea, because it gives you insight into a specific sort of American personality: The perpetually aggrieved.
It doesn't require much to make someone angry, as anyone who has ever read a comment section or driven through heavy traffic can attest. But one thing to read something you disagree with and type out an angry one-liner in response; it is quite another to decide that you must contact an Official Government Agency in order to assure that a person will be held accountable for this perceived travesty. It takes a special mix of pedant, scold and mule. It's almost impressive.
The target this time was the F-bomb that David Ortiz dropped back in April in the first game at Fenway Park after the Boston bombings. (Really, this was the first game after Boston was essentially shut down; this was for the most part the first time Bostonians had been on the street in 24 hours.) Ortiz said, "this is our f---ing city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom," though it was sort of mumbled. Ortiz's statement was so obviously from the heart that not even the FCC itself could be offended. Then-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski -- he'd actually announced his impending resignation just the month before -- made it clear he had Ortiz's back.
David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today's Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston - Julius- The FCC (@FCC) April 20, 2013
The only sad thing about that was that it needed to be said at all, or at least so one would think. But Deadspin found people angry with both Ortiz and with Genachowski, and compelled to inform the government and/or demand fines. Two fun examples:
[Ortiz] should be fined, apologize [sic], and so should the FCC. Our country is not one of filth and disgusting humans … Clean Up Your Mouth!
Julius should be fired! Glad he feels this doesn't fit the guidelines, you're [sic] organization is like your leader a F---ING joke. F---ing joke!! I hope Julius gets F---ING cancer and dies!! Please understand I'm under a lot of F---ING stress.
That person does seem to be under a lot of stress, difficult to argue with them there.
On one hand, this -- along with any major comment section, particularly those on mass-appeal websites without any sort of comment filter system or sign-in authentication, like Yahoo or ESPN or MLB.com -- could make your feelings about humanity turn foul, worry you that the world is falling apart, that we have not only turned into moralist prigs, we're doing it in real-time, angry fashion. But I do not believe this. Many people in my profession lament comment sections, but I've always loved them, even when I don't always read them. I spent a decade writing things for free that no one cared about and no one read. That someone feels compelled to respond to something I wrote, even if they think I'm a moron? Trust me, that's an upgrade. It is so difficult to grab the attention of anyone in this day and age that the mere notion that someone would even notice feels like a victory. People haven't gotten dumber or smarter than they were before comment sections exist; we can just hear them now. This is a good thing, no matter what they're saying.
In fact, I think people like this are instructive, to anyone, in any field. No matter what you do, no matter what the quality of the work you produce is, someone is going to hate something about it. There is nothing you can do about it. David Ortiz can have a truly honest moment, showing how much he cares about his city and his fanbase. He's a monster. Julius Genachowski can be an example of how a high-level government executive, with all that comes with that job, can still react like a human being and be rational and fair and understanding on a basic personal level. I hope you get cancer and die! These were men acting the way we'd want them to, and of course there are people who think, at least for a fleeting second, they are horrible. And this is surely true of every athletic endeavor. Someone, somewhere, watched David Freese's triple in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and thought, "man, he was really hot-dogging it on that slide into third. What a jerk." (This is also called "Bayless-ing.") It is, in the purest sense, impossible to please everyone.
This can be frustrating for some, but it's probably better to think of it as freeing. If you cannot please everyone -- and you can't -- then you don't have to try anymore. People who dislike your work, whether you're writing or swinging a bat or making an emotional speech at Fenway Park or assessing vulgarity behind a Washington DC desk, are not "haters;" they're just people who are different than you having a reaction, and you can't change their mind. So let them go. You can just do your own thing, to the best of your abilities, using your best judgment, and trust that will be enough. It looks ridiculous to read these FCC responses, and they're certainly easy to mock. But just like how everyone has one vote, they have the same value as everyone else's opinion. They have the same value as yours, and mine. You can't make everyone happy. Everyone counts, so therefore no one does. I sort of like it that way. It's the only thing that seems fair.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write a letter to acting FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn asking her to fine me for this column. Our country is not one of filth and disgusting humans.
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