Good job, good effort, and sincerity
The Kansas City Star
The internet is one of our world’s greatest creations, right up there with Boulevard Tank 7 and Kate Upton. You agree with that, right? We buy everything from groceries to houses on the internet, find everything from lost dogs to lost love on the internet, and run everything from fantasy football leagues to charities on the internet.
Now, we have something even better on the internet. Click here, and you can see what sports innocence looks and sounds like, what I assume is a pre-teen boy shouting encouragement to his heroes.
Click here, and you can see it used as one more way to swing at the easiest punching bag in sports.
Which is the point here. To most people – if the, ahem, internet is any indication – this looks like either a product of our everybody-gets-a-ribbon youth sports culture, an out of touch bumpkin or even a cynical and insincere prepubescent mocking multimillionaire athletes.
To whatever extent that perception exists, it’s a shame. Specifically: it’s a shame on those who hold the perception, and a shame on the ugly side of our sports culture.
“We don’t accept failure unless it’s our own,” says Dan Lebowitz, director of Northeastern’s Study of Sport in Society.
Dan might have a point, you know?
Maybe my perception on this is dead wrong. That’s definitely a possibility. Maybe my perception on this doesn’t apply to you. If it doesn’t, move along here, nothing to see.
But it sure feels like a lot of you see the good-job-good-effort kid as a vehicle to make fun of something, whether it’s LeBron’s fourth quarter or Dwayne Wade’s ridiculous glasses or Erik Spoelstra’s struggle to fight the human condition.
And, sure. I have to admit that the first time I saw the video I laughed hysterically. The juxtaposition of the whole thing just seemed so…odd. Multimillion-dollar celebrity athletes making the walk of shame back to the locker room, an entire nation of sports writers and bloggers and Twitter users stretching out their fingers about to unleash all hell…and instead what we hear first is a pre-pubescent voice offering encouragement.
I mean, honestly. The only things missing were orange slices and Capri-Suns.
I actually think it’s pretty cool.
Because we all used to be that kid once, didn’t we? We all used to be innocent sports fans, unburdened by the requisite cynicism it takes now in a world of fake Twitter handles, anonymous cyber tough guys and talk radio shouting.
If you open your mind, there’s something much better than a laugh in that video. There’s something more special, something much more rare, something worth treasuring.
That’s innocence. Optimism. Empathy. A reluctance to judge, restraint from belittlement.
That’s what I see in that video, anyway. And I’m happy for a kid able to see his favorite athletes and favorite games in such a pure and free prism. I have little doubt that if we could find this kid in 10 years, he’d be all grown up and firing off snark through Twitter or whatever better vehicle we’ll have by then. If I’m lucky enough to have this job in 10 years, maybe he’ll even write in to call me a floppy-haired asshat.
I tell Lebowitz all of this, that in that video I see what amounts to a “before” picture of a young sports fan about to grow up in a harsh world.
“Maybe, but maybe that sincerity will last,” he says. “Maybe that sincerity is imbedded in him. Maybe despite the number of influences, the tidal wave of visceral judgment and negativity that’s about to come at him he can stand up to that. Maybe he’s in that group.”
Maybe, I say back to Lebowitz.
But that probably wasn’t sincere. I don’t think the kid stands a chance.
I live in that sometimes cruel world.