Thursday, August 11, 2022

Dave Portnoy and I Are Different

By Kevin Beane

Have you seen the viral clip from the Little League World Series playoffs that's been making the rounds? It's here.

In it, a little league pitcher from the "Texas East" region beans a player from the Oklahoma region right in the head.

The Oklahoma player rolls around in pain for a bit, but is ultimately fine.

The pitcher, however, is visibly distressed that he plunked a guy in the head like that. So much so, that the beaned batter, having taken his base, jogs over to the pitchers' mound to comfort and even hug the pitcher. It's all right, man. I'm okay.

It was a moment that downright transcends sportsmanship. It was a spontaneous reaction of deep humanity on the part of the batter. His parents raised him right. The clip literally shows the weeping of a (I presume) little league parent in the stands afterwards. It was a powerful, genuine moment.

Not so to everybody, however.

Are you familiar with Barstool Sports? It's a website of sports columns, podcasts, videos ... shall we say, "content." It's attitude is very bro-y. If a frat was manifested into a sports website, it would be Barstool Sports.

Their founder and leader, Dave Portnoy, as bro-y dudes with power or name recognition often are, is a lightning rod for controversy. And so he was again in his reaction to the above-described moment.

I doubt he will delete the tweet, but in case he does, it says, "This isn't good sportsman ship (sic). It's dumb. You got this kid on the ropes and he's rattled. Trip to Williamsport on the line. You can play pattycakes after. As far as the pitcher goes, that's your plate."

Well, that's certainly thought-provoking take, Mr. Portnoy! And I am indeed provoked into thought about it.

My first thought is this: if you feel so this-is-war about little league, there is nothing competitive — from global powers fighting to global supremacy to a game of Uno — that you don't feel that way about. If there's no place for empathy and sympathy here, there's no place for it anywhere.

Don't think so? Check out his next-to-last sentence. He doesn't say, "you can check on the pitcher after the game" or any such thing, he says "you can pattycakes after." He can't disguise his contempt for the idea of providing comfort to your on-field opponent even after the game.

I'm further provoked to think how Portnoy's comment really crystallizes for me the idea that there of types of people.

The first type — and I like to think I'm among them — finds empathy, sympathy, and brotherhood to be good and appropriate in mostly all situations, and certainly in a little league baseball game. This type — or at least me — rejects the notion that such a display is soft, weak, or leaves you more vulnerable to defeat.

This first type finds that empathy/sympathy/brotherhood as desirable in general, and if kept as a central tenet of living, makes life more peaceful, happier, and more pleasant for everybody. They/we find this an aspiration of great importance.

Not so for the second group of people. For them, life is all about winners and losers. Life, and virtually all aspects of it, should be viewed through the lens of defeating a foe. If you don't look at life that way, you yourself are a prime candidate to be defeated.

In certain limited scenarios, empathy/sympathy/brotherhood are okay-ish, but not when it might interfere with your victory, which is pretty much all the time. So not only should empathy/sympathy/brotherhood be employed sparingly, it should be reserved for the people most like you (although how this type defines "most like you" varies widely).

The more a person is unlike you, by whatever definition, the more they are not simply "people different than you," they are enemies. They are to be fought, they are to be defeated. Life is all about keeping score. Winning and losing. Victors and the vanquished. In-groups and out-groups.

Defeating the out-groups is good. For many of this type, the losers' suffering is fine and good. Those losers are not really like you, not quite as human, not as righteous, not anointed. That's you, the victor. What good is winning unless there are losers? Win or die trying.

Maybe I'm in the wrong group, they wrong type. Maybe Portnoy is right. But it doesn't make him a winner, and I don't think he is one.

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