Saturday, September 03, 2011

Baseball, hazing rituals, and Poe's law

What with the beginning of September being the part of the baseball season when rosters expand and teams are flooded with younger players, a bunch of news outlets are running their annual 'rookie players are forced to do embarrassing things' stories. (A Toronto Star story published today talks about how the youngest pitcher in the Blue Jays' bullpen is tasked with carrying all of the relief pitchers' snacks across the field in a kids' backpack, but I couldn't actually find it on the site.)

Of course, aside from mentioning that the juxtaposition of professional male athlete and Dora the Explorer is funny because it's unmanly, there's little by way of critical reflection. Which is why it was nice to see
a piece from Jezebel, where the author points out, of course, that there's certainly a sexist element to some of the choices. (Jason Isringhausen, for example, is explicit about wanting to find pink, flowery bags.) But Jezebel makes another point that's likely to be missed - that it also has to do with embracing childhood, especially in a number of examples (like Heath Bell's, who collects Star Wars bags that are shaped like the characters) where the older players are clearly not trying to emasculate their teammates.

Naturally, some people will take umbrage at any suggestion of impropriety, and so both a) the reply thread on Jezebel's site and b) the Jezebel Facebook page are loaded with people who think that the authors are taking things too seriously/seeing things that aren't there. (Because sexism is just good clean fun, am I right?) Here's one of the Facebook responses:
"Why do liberals have to ruin everything? It's baseball. LEAVE IT ALONE. Who gives a flying **** about gender politics in the game. Next you'll be saying how they should provide an equal opportunity for women to play."
To go off on a bit of a tangent (although "tangent" implies that I have a single, focused point, and I don't...): I think it's hilarious that I can't tell whether this guy is being sincere or ironic. The caps, the ***, the 'next you'll be asking for equal rights' rhetoric... this guy could be remarkably dense OR sarcastically clever, and one seems just as possible as the other. It's a great example of Poe's law - less a rule than an observation, it says that internet extremism and parody of that extremism are impossible to tell apart.

(It also behaves a lot like
Godwin's law, I'm realizing, insofar as every internet discussion eventually reaches a point where you can no longer tell whether what you're reading is an actual argument or the mockery of that argument.)

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