Mick Jagger, 1978
This picture will be relevant by the time you reach the end of this posting, I promise.
One of the finest attributes of SportsBlogs Nation is the sense of community that is fostered here . . . not just between one weblogger and another, but between webloggers and their readers.
We try to engage in a dialogue. We try to invite expressions of opinion. We encourage challenges to our assertions and assumptions.
This is a virtue that the Founding Fathers considered fundamental to American liberty, which is why weblogs like The M Zone have been at the forefront of the net neutrality movement. I learned the importance and value of freewheeling and open discussion as a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society and I try to foster it today here at Dawg Sports.
This is why I post poll questions. This is why I regularly invite reader comments. This is why I respond to HornsFan, 34hawk, and L.D. when they take issue with my contentions, because their reflective (rather than reflexive) rebuttals foster discussion and help to illuminate issues.
You don't walk out of this building with a law degree and not enjoy a good verbal sparring match.
I don't mind genuine disagreement; the honest expression of principled differences is how we sharpen our minds and refine our thinking. Accordingly, when Card Chronicle makes a good argument on behalf of Louisville, it affects the rankings on my BlogPoll ballot. While it is no fun to be told that you are wrong, Ray Bradbury was right when he wrote:
All that I ask is that rejoinders be kept within the realm of the reasonable. If you think I'm arrogant, all right, fine, I'll give you that one. Questioning my legitimacy, calling me an idiot (not twice, but three times), and slinging worse animadversions than those, however, do nothing to advance the conversation. (Also among those missing the point are these fans at an Allman Brothers Band forum, of all places! Shouldn't they be my natural constituency?)
Not raising the level of discourse.
Fortunately, even the most hypersensitive fan bases contain a few boosters who are bright and mature enough to get it, but, regrettably, a familiar refrain always is sounded in such circumstances, and, frankly, it is time we put this particular prejudice to rest, once and for all.
Someone who thinks I am overly wordy, but who has found the time to post almost 1,100 comments at an Oklahoma State message board, had this to say:
Do you think the Big 10 cares what happens in Austin? Or Lexington? Or Lumpoc? No. Neither does a Georgia fan. He only knows Dawgs and those that either fall to or kick his.
I would be able to dismiss this guy as one lone ignorant soul who saved himself a little time by forming a firm opinion of me without actually bothering to learn the first thing about me, were it not for the fact that his lament is one I have heard over and over again.
If I make a joke about Oklahoma State, the Cowboy fans complain that Georgia fans only respect S.E.C. football, despite the fact that I have tried to get Texas on the Bulldogs' schedule. If I make a joke about Purdue, the Boilermaker fans complain that Georgia fans only respect S.E.C. football, despite the fact that I have two Big Ten teams at the top of my BlogPoll ballot, I have three Big Ten players in the top four on my MaxwellPundit ballot, and I have tried to get Michigan on the Bulldogs' schedule. When Pac-10 fans express a similar gripe, I do what I can to provide a response.
S.E.C. fans like other conferences! We really, really like other conferences!
Every fan base has its yahoos. Every conference has adherents who are so singleminded in their devotion to their league that they disparage the rest of college football as inherently inferior. The S.E.C. has its share of such boosters, as does every other major conference. Would any honest person sincerely suggest that there are not narrowminded Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10 fans who look down upon the rest of the leagues with condescension and disdain?
I may be wrong about a great many things. (I'm not sure how I could be wrong about the thing the Oklahoma State faithful are mad at me about, since it was a joke, but, at this stage of the game, that probably is beside the point.) However, while I am an S.E.C. homer, I openly admit my biases and I do not believe I might fairly be accused of belittling other conferences. (The one time I did, I apologized.)
Don't take my word for it, though; ask the fans of other conferences whose games I touted, whose webloggers I interviewed, and whose teams I highlighted. If I believed the only college football that mattered was played in the Southeastern United States, why would I bother picking national games of interest in the first place?
Because every fan base has its yahoos, there will always be those who do not let the facts interfere with their (as opposed to there) opinions and who mistake schoolyard insults for reasoned discourse. If you want to disagree with me, fine. I welcome that. I encourage it.
Here at Dawg Sports, as elsewhere in SportsBlogs Nation, we are trying to lift the quality of the conversation above that heard on sports talk radio. I subscribe to the view taken by Leo McGarry in one of my favorite episodes of "The West Wing":
If that sounds all right to you, stick around, because you're in the right place.
The folks from the Oklahoma State message boards, on the other hand, can go on about their business and delight in casting ignorant aspersions my way. While they're busy calling me an idiot for the umpteenth time, though, they should take a moment to read a little literature so that they'll understand some of my references the next time they return to this idiot's weblog.
Might I recommend that the Oklahoma State fans start with this one?
In order to end this posting on a positive note, I would like to thank the Texas fans at Burnt Orange Nation, not only for the leadership they provide in the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere, but for the attitude they bring to this enterprise. When I made a joke about Texas, Burnt Orange Nation responded in the spirit in which my good-natured joshing was intended. We could all learn from the example of the authors of B.O.N. and their readers, who know how to take a joke.