Saturday, August 16, 2008


I’m now officially fascinated by the blogger phenomenon. Not the people that actually write stuff, posting their opinions, experiences, social commentary for others to read. Rather those that choose to comment on what those who actually write stuff write. Comment is probably the wrong word in many instances. Belittle, malign, skewer, accost. These come closer.

Sure there’s the whole line of reasoning about anonymity allowing one’s mean streak to come out. It seems that 9 times out of 10 the meanies don’t use their real names so I suppose this is part of it.

But where is all the anger coming from? And why so much anger over things that are so seemingly silly and meaningless?

I wrote a piece for Salon recently about how I can be a real jerk because sports fans irritate me. As a former athlete, it sometimes seems as though the armchair fan demonstrates little true understanding of the travails of professional and Olympic level athletes when said fans sit in their living rooms, screaming at the television about some athlete or other choking or letting the team down. Or how it's worth it to compete in the Olympics with a broken ankle, not a big deal really.

To me, it comes across a little bit like: I could’ve done better. Or: I could've done that.

I realize I’m most definitely projecting here. I guess I’m a bit sensitive and defensive of the athletes.

Anyway, I write this silly little piece that is intended to be kind of a joke – a little bit snarky, a little bit confessional. A little bit just to encourage deep down honest awe for the athletes who sacrifice their lives for gold.

There were over 300 comments back in less than a day. Many of these people I think might like to take my head off if they had the chance. I’m expecting a mail bomb any minute now.

My favorite variety of comment was in the realm of: you’re just a loser gymnast who never made it, you have no right to comment. Now you’re a wanna be athlete turned sucky writer. You need mental help because you can't get over your failures as a gymnast.

In parsing this statement, I find quite a few points I’d like to challenge. And don’t get me wrong. My dissection is not some coldhearted, unemotional response. These comments stung. But if I try to be rational, I find the following faulty:

1) I 100% acknowledge that I was not a gymnast on par with Liukin or Johnson. I don’t even have to acknowledge it. I didn’t go to the Olympics. I didn’t win a medal. I know this. I don’t deserve to hold their hand grips. But that doesn’t make me a loser either. I don’t consider the Olympics the only measure of having succeeded in one’s sport of choice. If not going to the Olympics were THE measure of loser-dom, we’d all pretty much be losers.

2) I have some insight into the training regimens of high level athletes regardless of whether I went to the Olympics or not.

3) I’m an adult with an education that has nothing to do with the fact that I was an athlete. I can be a writer just like anyone else. I wouldn’t call myself a writer yet. I’m not sure what the line is when you cross over and are officially a writer. I suppose its when you make your living at it full time. Which I do not. I’m not a writer any more than my kids who like to draw are artists. But I’d like to be one day.

4) If I’m not qualified to offer insight into the world of gymnastics training having trained 40 hours a week for almost 10 years as a child, how are you, Mr. Blogger, qualified to tell me I need mental help? Are you a psychiatrist?

I recognize that the things I wrote were perhaps a tad provocative. Perhaps a tad self-indulgent. Admittedly I was sharing something shameful about myself, I thought with a bit of embarrassment and humor. I guess I was wrong.

But I’m astounded at why it made people SO angry. Get mad about the Americans still dying in Iraq not to mention the Iraqis, get mad about the earth heating up and killing our future grandchildren, get mad about the fact that too many children don’t have enough to eat in this, one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Don’t use up all your energetic vitriol on some loser former gymnast who thinks she’s a writer and needs to be institutionalized for being a narcissistic egomaniacal, delusional asshole.