Monday, October 29, 2007

Satire can result in a swing and a miss

Part of my mission is to try and educate. Part of my job is to model activity -- in this case writing a column with a strong opinion. Perhaps, I failed in that mission. At least that's how it appears if you read the comments to my previous blog (below). Nearly every single writer said they did not get the satire, which either means that readers failed to understand it, or that I failed to present it properly. Since no one is defending the post, I can only assume I struck out.

I had thought the reasons I offered in the column would clearly shine through as ridiculous. But I guess there are many ridiculous notions presented on the Internet. I had assumed everybody thought like me -- that binge drinking in college is stupid, that missing class is a losing proposition, that athletes should be held accountable, and that drinking and driving is as deadly and stupid as it gets. That's why, for example, I made the statement below. Who else but the student would be to blame?

After all, it wasn’t the player’s fault that he had inadvertently been arrested twice for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Based upon comments, though, I found most readers do agree with me on this, thus the comments. What happened is they did not connect with me, a relationship that requires more time. The regular readers of this blog understood what I wrote; first-timers did not. Part of a columnist's success is this connection with readers. Those who know me understand that I believe in accountability and that drunk drivers should be sentenced harshly. They appreciated the posting. Many others, though, did not. That, of course, is not always the reader's fault.

I also assumed readers would see through the rather shallow argument below, where I cited alcohol stats to reveal how deadly DUII can be. I had hoped people would understand that driving while intoxicated is a deadly, stupid thing. That's why I did the research.

It’s not like Luke was one of the 16,885 people who died in alcohol-related driving fatalities in 2005. He had not slammed into anyone, thus he had not added to the 254,000 people who get injured from crashes involving alcohol. One person may be injured every two minutes, and killed another 31, but that’s not Luke’s fault. He would have arrived home safely. So why would a columnist, a person who is supposed to comfort the afflicted, attack this young man? A person with a blood alcohol level of .08 is 11 times more likely to get in an accident than someone who is sober, but that number can’t possibly include athletes with lightning-quick reflexes like Luke. Give this kid a friggin’ break.

Again, this must have been a swing and a whiff.

Finally, I believe the media's role is to vigilantly watch public institutions, not allow them to blindly do as they please.

I can’t imagine why journalists go to the trouble of writing about misappropriation of funds, illegal defense contracts, rapes that go unreported, and alcohol infractions from young men. It’s not like it will make a difference. People will only get angry.

A columnist's role is also to get people to react to an issue so some change of mind or policy or action will take place. In this case, I wrote to change perceptions about two things -- a tacit approval for drinking while intoxicated and continued attacks on journalists who are trying to reveal illegal, unethical behavior. I had thought satire would be the best manner in which to do this. Apparently, I was incorrect. I had sent a note to John Canzano last night, linking to this story, and to thank him for his excellent work. He understood my column (even seemed to appreciate it), so I felt good about posting it here.

I learned a great deal from writing this column, something I can use to help teach others. One lesson: we can all swing and miss once in a while.

The other lesson: Decorum is gone when one can post comments anonymously. Forget about decorum and forget about disclosure. Instead, many people prefer to call names, wish for the worst, and offer other mean-spirited suggestions without citing their names. It's easy to attack when nobody knows your name. I appreciated the comments where someone offered more reasoned, careful explanations, pointing out where I had failed. That's something I can learn from. But I guess this vitriol is something sports columnists face every day. This is yet another reason why I appreciate and respect those that carry on each day despite such attacks. That's another reason I respect John Canzano.


David said...

You're right, it was a swing and a miss.

What is even more frightening, though, is the one commenter who agreed with what you said without realizing it was satire!

Drew said...

Well, that you attempted satire is welcome news. That notion was rattling around in the back of my head, but, perhaps the tone was too difficult to discern online.

I thought that you might be one of those college football nuts who actually does think like this. I guess you now have another example to use in class. I bet that you are a pretty good professor, after all, even if your audience doesn't recognize your attempts at conveying online satire...

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Tyrone Bobby Joe Hill said...

I love sports satire stories! They always make me laugh. I think reading sports satire will become a new hobby for me. They definitely make me laugh, especially when they involve football players and sarcasm. Great post!

Tyrone |