I don't know what to do about Damon Bruce. I never know what to do about the Damon Bruces. I'm not even sure typing his name isn't a mistake.
Last week, Damon Bruce, some radio dope from San Francisco, got himself some run in the media jungle by having the expert take that the Jonathan Martin scenario happened because of women covering sports or something like that. Here's a representative quote: I enjoy many of the women's contributions to the sports -- well that's a lie. I can't even pretend that's true. There are very few -- a small handful -- of women who are any good at this at all. That's the truth.
There was some more stupidity in there, but that's all I have the stomach for. Now, nevermind that whatever Bruce is trying to say has nothing to do with Jonathan Martin whatsoever -- how the leap from "I am talking about Jonathan Martin" to "I think women are bad at 'contributing' to sports" happened I have no idea -- it is impossible for me to understand how any thinking person could listen to what Bruce said and go, "Hey, he's right." Now, I don't mean a smart person: I mean a thinking person. I mean I don't understand how you would be able to agree with Bruce and still be able to walk upright or write your name in the ground with a stick. It has no contribution to actual discourse; it has the transformative value of a monkey digging in its ear for a tick. It is so idiotic it is barely words.
So when I came across Bruce's rant -- and calling it a rant is being kind; it's more "syllables using a mouth as an escape hatch from an abandoned brain" -- I ignored it. I didn't think about it much longer than it took to read the transcript. I saw it, recognized it as moronic prattle that no thinking human could possibly take seriously, and moved on with my life. I didn't mock him on Twitter; I didn't string him up for public ridicule; I didn't post his rant on Facebook imploring my friends to dial his radio station and call for his head. I forgot about it. Why bring more attention to someone so obviously pleading for it? If you haven't heard about Bruce's comments, you know, good for you. You have a few more brain cells now than those of us who have.
But I think I'm wrong. But I'm not sure. I can't figure it out.
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In the wake of Bruce's Cro-Magnon sputterings, Megan Greenwell, a senior editor at ESPN: The Magazine, pointed out: I laughed out loud every time another man on my Twitter timeline expressed quelle horreur! at the idea that anyone would say s--- like that in 2013. I'm not sure I had quelle hooreur, but she's right: It is very easy for me to sit back and say, "That's too asinine for any person to take seriously" when I'm a white guy who has never had to deal with any of these concepts outside of the theoretical. The reason I think nobody would think this way, the reason I think Bruce's comments are so slackjawed that one should simply ignore them, is because I'm not a female sports journalist. I don't know anyone who thinks things like that, so I assume they're not thought, or are only thought by cretins who don't matter. But they do matter. This is something I think about occasionally; this is something journalists like Greenwell have to think about every day. This doesn't feel like an aberration to them, and why would it?
The overarching point of Greenwell's piece was the lack of women in positions of power, one that Amy K. Nelson, formerly of ESPN and SB Nation, took up in a piece for The Hairpin yesterday. Greenwell points out all the white guys opining on the issue as if they understand it best (in large part because so few of their news organizations have women to turn to on the issue); Nelson notes how difficult it is for female sports journalists to gain traction in the industry, in ways that are both overt and invisible. These are two smart columns by two smart people, and they make you look at the situation differently than you did before. It's impossible to read either piece and not come away with a greater understanding of the world that they -- and the rest of us -- inhabit. This is the point of journalism. This is the point of an exchange of ideas.
And neither column would exist had it not been for Bruce's prattle. The problems would have existed, but Bruce's numbnuttery served as the peg to discuss them. We saw stupidity and we fought it with thoughtfulness and enlightenment. This is a pretty strong argument against ignoring Bruce.
This is, I hope, what Rob Neyer was trying to get at in his weird pseudo-"defense" of Bruce, in which he argued, "To counter the thoughts, to change minds, the people doing God's work need foils." (Neyer torpedoed any chance anyone would listen to anything he was saying with that "a relatively small number of women grow up wanting to be sportswriters" line, which makes me worry he has the same editor as Richard Cohen.) In order to point out injustice to those who refuse -- willfully or subconsciously -- to see it, someone who actively champions that injustice must be pointed out and destroyed. The average reader understands the obstacles that female sports journalists face better because people rose up to knock Bruce down, to spotlight his awfulness.
But is this a net positive? Are we better off because Bruce is a moron? This is what I can't wrap my head around. Because while maybe we're all off having this high-minded discussion of sunlight being the best disinfectant and what-not, you just know Bruce is loving this. Any mind capable of coming up with such drivel, and then dispensing it as a way of promoting his own brand (which, I remind you, is the very definition of sports radio), is going to be eating this up. He is now spokesperson for bigots and imbeciles; he will likely be rewarded for this. We call the sun shone on him "disinfectant;" he thinks it's a spotlight. He's not going to see the subtleties of this conversation. He's only going to see us talking about him. Which is incentive for him -- and others -- to say dumb stuff like that again. We can't bat down them all, can we? Aren't we just encouraging a--holes to say a--hole things, just so people will look at them?
This is what I can't decide. This is what I can't figure out. These people should be called out and quartered in the public square; their vivisection can lead to heightened discussions like the ones that Greenwell and Nelson were leading. But this is exactly what these people want. Should we ignore them? Or give them what they want, with the hope that something positive will come out of it? I've been working on the Internet for 15 years now. I still haven't come up with an answer.
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