Damon Bruce, a sports radio host for KNBR 1050 in San Francisco, is a troll. There are many acceptable responses to trolls, but the most common online seems to be, "Don't feed them."
While starving idiots of attention is not a bad strategy, it has two shortcomings. One, it doesn't work when the rest of sports media is already calling them a jackass of the first order. Two, it leaves odious troll opinions unchallenged in the discourse.
In the process of defending (!) violent sociopathic stooge Richie Incognito, Bruce expressed his belief that women and woman-think have progressively wussified sports. Now, anyone riffing on sports for four hours every day will slip up. But Bruce's nine minutes of consistent argument were not an accident. Nor was his issuing a non-apology apology that changed the terms of his argument while doubling down on it and cackling that all his critics walked into an argumentative puppetmaster trap.
That's trolling. Bruce is about 24 hours away from showing up on Twitter and saying, "Wow. Amazing to see you still talking to me after I got back from the club." More importantly, it's a signal that someone is clinging desperately to the bottom rung of mass relevancy and slipping downward.
Talking like this is easy. If the only thing needed to deal with the Damon Bruces of the world was to call them flatulent eruptions of tedious intellectual vacancy, any existing blog post about his Nine Minutes' Hate would do. But people like Bruce cling to that: they need to be so objectively offensive and stupid that their critics never bother to engage their points, because then they can claim that they're just being silenced by the Political Correctness police. The unified consensus against them only proves their point.
A lot of sports has lost its way, and I'm gonna tell you, part of the reason is because we've got women giving us directions. For some of you, this is going to come across as very misogynistic. I don't care, because I'm very right.
This is the "I'm not racist, but..." of intellectual rigor. Any statement prefaced by "I'm not racist, but..." is almost guaranteed to be racist. Any statement prefaced by, "I am right..." is guaranteed to be riddled with more logical holes than you'd get firing both barrels of a shotgun into a colander filled with swiss cheese. If your best argument is tautology, go home.
There are very few -- a small handful -- of women who are any good at this at all. That's the truth. The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I've ever seen in my life.
Let's be generous and admit that this isn't incorrect; it's just the first half of a valid point. Until the second half arrives, it's sexist trash. The broader point is that there is only a handful of anybody who has something to say about sports. (And mediocrity isn't unique to sports, as those of us sneering at chair-moistening coworkers waiting out the clock on retirement can attest to.) That's why sites like Awful Announcing, Fire Joe Morgan and Deadspin were created in the first place, to cope with the great dead mass of sports punditry under the tiny peak of excellence we actively pursue. You can turn on a sports station right now and encounter yet another man whose face obscures a howling mental void, yet another body whose intellectual dead weight could provide forgettable ballast for a supertanker. The NFL Primetime Crew. John Kruk. Damon Bruce.
But here's a message for all of them...All of this, all of this world of sports, especially the sport of football, has a setting. It's set to men.
And here's where Bruce's bog-standard "chicks! grrrr!" argument fails. Most institutions in the United States were "set" to men not because of any innate benefit to men's insights but merely due to sexism, exclusion and social injustice. Saying sports is "set to men" is akin to saying liberty is set to the white and indenture is set to the negro: these statements only have a basis in fact under the lights of perverted science. "Thus it ever was" is invariably a lazy and moronic justification for "thus it shall ever be," because it relies on the prejudice and non-academic rigor of the past to justify a future in which the metrics have long since changed. More to the point, this is an argument you can make about anything, which means it's a point about nothing. As women make inroads into all areas of society previously closed to them by men, we can make a hacky "correlation equals causation" argument that their presence is responsible for any institutional decay we perceive. ("We've lost the ideals of the founding fathers? Well, that's what happen when Vagina-Americans get to vote.") Worst of all, if we want to talk about the p***ification -- and make no mistake, that's the specific anatomical allusion Bruce wishes he could make on air -- of sport and football in particular, we have men to blame.
Football used to literally kill people. On the field. Often. It was manly man Theodore Roosevelt who demanded from that male institution of the White House that we begin progressive reform of the sport to make it safer. Any woman who doesn't want to clock Bruce upside the head can just concede male dominance in football while advocating for safety with a few magic words: "You, all right? I learned it by watching you."
This is guy's stuff. This is men's stuff. And I don't expect women to understand men's stuff anymore than they should expect me to be able to relate to labor pains.
It's kind of grand to see someone proudly declare their absence of imagination or empathy and just assume that the rest of the world operates via incurious, disconnected sociopathy. Grand, but stupid. Because it's also a self-sabotaging argument. Bruce attributes sports to "guy's stuff," because that's how broadly he has to define sport to include himself in it and exclude others.
If experience dictates expertise, it's tough to see how he has anything more substantive to say than some lowly sports-watching broad. He began his broadcasting career in his early twenties, which suggests he's never been tackled at a full run by an NFL linebacker, been given a forearm shiver by an NBA player or been plunked with an MLB fastball. Which probably explains why he goes to great hardass bro lengths to suggest he "took bullies' manhood" and likens himself, via Jim Croce songs, to Superman. This is the man-cred you desperately grasp at when you're just some guy not on the field, but sitting behind a desk, physically indistinguishable from anyone sitting at home. Hell, you could be wearing a skirt under that desk.
Bruce's follow-up the next day offered nothing better. It's a dog's breakfast of broken thinking, as if written by going to the Wikipedia page for "Argumentative Fallacies" and ticking them off one by one. Straw (wo)men get knocked down like dozens of Dorothys when the cyclone hits. He conflates football's on-field violence with off-the-field, universalizing the violence. It's a desperately broad argument, supported and mandated by absolutely nothing, but he has to make it, because if he doesn't, he can't justify pardoning Richie Incognito's emotional torture of another human being. Which, hey: great ambition to have, champ.
Then he moves the goalposts from "women" to "people who are offended," and begs the question that people were offended because they are just habitually upset. Thus he "proves" his point while avoiding all legitimate criticism of it. His ideas weren't lazy, misogynistic and fundamentally flawed: The real problem is that there are some people out there who are almost professionally outraged, and all he did was lure them out. You made his point about over-sensitivity for him. Wow. Amazing to see you still talking to me after I got back from crushing it at the gym.
Arguments like this are a cheap-heat option with diminishing returns, especially as each new generation of dads sees a new generation of daughters with more societally endorsed sports options. Like trying to get white people to the polls by insinuating that government is just going to steal from them to give to minorities, telling crusted old dudes that chicks are going to storm the entrances to their man-caves and ruin everything gets the phones to ring in the studio. It generates passion not from enthusiasm for something like sports but from fear of a lurking, ever-strengthening "other." It's the shallowest form of "kick down to boost me up" argument. You are part of sports because the only criterion for being just as good as the dudes on the field is that you're a dude too. Demeaning women has nothing to do with their fandom or value, it just vaults you into a sad little club distinctive only by the tiniest bit of exclusivity.
When you hear it, what you're hearing is someone slowly being challenged in the demographic marketplace and failing, trying to fend off a democracy of opinions and criticism by claiming some special hard-nosed insight. This is a manhood-taking Superman whose only super power is having some semblance of a wang. When engineering outrage is the highest you can climb on the rung of cultural buzz and when basic anatomy is the only justification you have for elevating your opinions above 50 percent of humanity and anyone who might side with it, you've already conceded the point. Whatever it was.
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