Nuance is hard, and we’re not interested

kneel

This is another late-to-the-party thinkpiece about why your Facebook News Feed has been extra awful lately. If you’re not into that, I thank you for your click and wish you the best with the rest of your life.

For the rest of you, I think you know what I’m talking about.

Everyone you’ve ever met has an opinion about the recent uptick in NFL players protesting during the national anthem, and none of them are any good.

Half of of my feed thinks systemic racism is the bee’s knees, and the other half acts like Francis Scott Key has no bars.

What got lost somewhere between our TVs and Facebook, though was what this protest originally started as.

In 2014, there were a number of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement. It wasn’t anything new in this country, but social media made the news travel faster and further than ever before.

In the subsequent years, any killings of citizens by civil servants have been put under a microscope, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Responses to these deaths have ranged from peaceful protests and the rise of groups like #BlackLivesMatter, to riots and retaliatory killings of police officers.

Before our nation could properly address the issue at hand, camps began to form. Suddenly, the narrative was that you were either pro-black people not getting shot or pro-police safety.

As you can probably tell, this was less than constructive. In fact, I’d argue that the mutual fear shared between law enforcement and black men in this country is what put us in this mess to begin with.

And we really haven’t learned. Enter Colin Kaepernick.

kaep

Kaepernick was (is? I’m not sure at this point) a dynamic young quarterback more than capable of holding a roster spot in the NFL. Now he doesn’t have a job.

Kaepernick began last season by taking a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest the treatment of African Americans and other minorities in this country.

Again, this act wasn’t unprecedented.

There’s a clear history of athletes making statements during the anthem.

It’s important to remember that none of these protests are as offensive as Carl Lewis actually trying to sing.

Derrick Coleman really makes that video something special.

Back to Kaepernick motives, it’s important to understand that they’re not very controversial. “Stop killing black people” is only a hot take if you also enjoy casual cross-burnings in your spare time.

Unfortunately, the narrative was twisted again. Because NFL players were protesting during a ceremony that has become increasingly intertwined with the American military, those who wanted to stifle their message made it about the troops.

And you’ve got to support the troops.

So that’s why all of your casual acquaintances from high school are fighting so passionately on Facebook right now. What should have been a discussion about race in this country has turned into a debate about whether we should care more about the troops or minorities.

If you’re looking for my honest opinion on this matter, I think we need to stop wrapping ourselves in the flag every time the country is criticized.

I think the United States is the greatest country in the world. I have more opportunity here than I would anywhere else, but it doesn’t mean this place is infallible.

If enough people can identify a problem, it costs nothing to explore possible solutions, even if you don’t think the problem exists. Once a situation is fully delved into, then you can take actions toward self improvement.

But that’s hard. It’s much easier to entrench yourself in a camp and argue online.

I only ask that you try it, just this once, before you hit that publish button.

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I’m glad the Patriots lost

peaceFandom is a tricky thing.

I’ve toyed with the idea that it might not even be all that beneficial on this blog before.

Fandom can make you angry at people you genuinely like, just because you’ve arbitrarily tied your emotions to a different team than they have. Or, in this case, the same team.

You see, I’m a New England Patriots fan, and I can tell you right now that this fanbase is toxic.

It’s true that all fandoms have a rogue element, but it feels like ever since “Deflategate” became a part of the public lexicon, Patriots fans have taken it upon themselves to be extra insufferable.

We’re talking about people who actually embraced mantras like, “They hate us ’cause they ain’t us.”

Watch that scene. You’re not supposed to like James Franco, he’s a bad person. Any rational human being would empathize with Seth Rogan, who has to deal with this idiot.

That’s what being a Patriots fan is like, and this offseason made it even worse.

I’m sure you know by now, but the Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to win the Super Bowl last season. Instantly, 28-3 became the premier sports meme, and Patriots fans made sure to incessantly remind the people of Atlanta how badly their team choked.

I know people don’t usually say this outside of the Environmental Protection Agency, but have we not learned from Cleveland? Did we all just forget what happened at the end of that summer of 3-1 jokes?

The Patriots even had the scoreboard read 28-3 during the pregame ceremonies tonight!

And speaking of opening ceremonies, we were treated with an intro by Mark Wahlberg, Boston’s favorite former racist teenage cokehead and current Super Bowl-leaver.

I’m sure Marky Mark’s a lovely guy now, but there’s a certain demographic that reeeeeally likes Mark Wahlberg, and I am not a part of that group.

I think my biggest issue with the current state of Boston sports culture, though, is the media empire it has birthed.

Barstool Sports is a website (mostly) about sports that embraces all of the worst aspects of sports fandom. It combines frat-bro culture with the ignorance of a, well, young Mark Wahlberg.

The founder of this website is a Patriots fan and someone I have no interest in ever meeting.

In that video, Mr. Portnoy mentions an ongoing feud between Patriots fans and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Now, a sane person would tell you that those issues were resolved when the Patriots won the Super Bowl last season. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way.

Mr. Portnoy and his band of numbskulls decided to hand out towels chastising the (in his own way, also terrible) commissioner. It’s like they were begging to lose this game.

I just wonder when Patriots fans stopped believing their own bullshit.

Wasn’t this the team that was so successful because of “The Patriot Way” and other platitudes? What happened to “Do your job?” Shouldn’t the team be “avoiding distractions?”

Objectively, this was poetic justice. Pride cometh before the fall, and all that stuff.

I just hope that maybe we can all calm down before Week 2.

An unhelpful guide to the 2016 election

Well folks, it’s finally time for the 2016 election. I’m going to be spending my Election Day bouncing between panic attacks, so I figure I’d might as well have a little fun on one of my favorite days of the year.

If you’re bored enough to be a regular reader, you probably noticed that I haven’t posted since getting a full-time job. There are various reasons for that, but since it’s Election Day Eve, I’ve never felt like I had more job security/willingness to get fired.

To be safe, though, I should note that the views expressed in this blog do not reflect the views of anyone I work with or for. They also don’t interfere with my ability to do my job professionally, and any assertions to the contrary are silly.

With that out of the way, I’m going to break down my ballot here in Old Orchard Beach and give as much expert analysis as I can muster. Long-time reader Matthew Thomas Lauzon requested that I also look into the Massachusetts ballot, but it’s late and I’m tired and I missed my exit driving home from work, so I won’t be doing that.

Let’s get started.

National

U.S. President/U.S. Vice President

Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine vs. Donald Trump/Mike Pence vs. Gary Johnson/Bill Weld vs. Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka

This is the most important decision on the ballot, but it’s also probably the most straight forward.

I voted for Gary Johnson in 2012, but I was on a Libertarian kick through most of college, and I’m over that now. And speaking of college, I was pretty good with Baraka freshman year, but I don’t think I’d ever vote for Shao Kahn to be President.

That leaves me with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and trust me, I wanted to believe.

I wanted to believe that Donald Trump the candidate was performance art. I wanted to believe that Trump was using his experience from Wrestlemanias 4,5, and 23 to convince the unwashed masses to vote for him.

And I was actually willing to vote for Trump if it meant I could point and laugh at all the marks that were duped by the Donald. Like The Immortal One once said, I worked myself into a shoot.

The only person truly qualified to run the country left in this race is Hillary Clinton.

I know that she’s an unlikable robot try-hard who feels the need to convince us she registers emotions. I didn’t say she was my favorite person, just the one with the credentials to be President.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Hillary Clinton

U.S. Representative

Mark I. Holbrook vs. Chellie Pingree

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know Pingree was up for re-election until last week. And I know nothing about her opponent.

If I do know one thing about U.S. Representative races, though, it’s that the have some of the best commercials. So let’s see what Mr. Holbrook’s got.

Not a good look, dawg.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Chellie Pingree

State

ME State Senator

Justin M. Chenette vs. Timothy N. Sevigny

This race has been marred by some nastiness directed at Chenette’s sexual orientation by the Chairman of the York County Republican Committee. As far as I know, Sevigny had nothing to do with that.

The problem with Sevigny is that he’s an enigma. The dude doesn’t even have a picture on Ballotpedia.

He could be a lizard. I’m not taking any chances.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Justin M. Chenette

ME State Representative

Michael E. Coleman vs. George Hogan

Whenever I head down to the beach, I end up getting food at the place Hogan used to own. These are the stupid rationalizations that lead to critical votes in local elections.

Playa Hater’s Pick: George Hogan

Question 1

Legalizes marijuana for persons over 21 years old, subject to state regulation and taxation.

I was pretty torn on this question. On one side, you have stoners, whom I loathe. On the other side, you have pearl-clutchers and super-hippies afraid of BIG WEED taking their business.

Let me be clear, if you smoke weed, that’s cool. It’s when smoking weed becomes your identity as a human being that you tend to lose me.

Have you ever talked to a hardcore stoner abut weed? I don’t want to give that person any validity.

You don’t need drugs to be cool, you guys.

In the nature of full transparency, I would also outlaw craft beer or anything else that brings others joy.

Playa Hater’s Pick: No

Question 2

Raises taxes by 3% on income over $200,000 to create a fund for K-12 student support.

This is an awesome tax increase because I know it will never affect me. And if it did, that would be an awesome problem to have.

Rich people, it’s time for you to pay for schools, or whatever this says. I don’t care, tax them 900 percent.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Yes

Question 3

Requires background checks on gun sales between non-licensed dealers.

Guns are spooky, and I’m not above voting out of fear.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Yes

Question 4

Raises the minimum wage.

While raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 won’t affect me, this question does allow for “annual cost-of-living increases thereafter.”

My hope is that eventually, minimum wage will exceed what I earn, and I can get a raise without going through the awkward process of asking for one.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Yes

Question 5

Allows ranked-choice voting in federal and state elections.

Now THIS is something to get excited about.

Question 5 would introduce voters to one of earth greatest concepts: power rankings.

It’s deceptively simple. All you have to do is rank your candidates.

  1. Hillary Clinton
  2. Gary Johnson
  3. The other two

It’s that easy! And you can power-rank anything, from NHL teams to Canadians.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Yes

Question 6

Issues a $100 million bond for transportation infrastructure.

I blew a tire yesterday. It’s nice to see the state do something about it.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Yes

Local

York County Register of Probate

Carol J. Lovejoy vs. Allen R. Sicard

I think someone named “Lovejoy” is more than qualified to register probes.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Carol J. Lovejoy

York County Judge of Probate

Bryan M Chabot vs. Bernard J Broder III vs. Robert M. Auclair Nadeau

You may not know this, but Robert Nadeau is the bad boy of probate judges. He’s been reprimanded multiple times, and he’s coming off a 30-day suspension just in time for the election.

This is the kind of local politics that I can get behind. An official who does a job that I don’t understand, and yet I can still point to that official as an example of how corrupt our political system is, man.

Playa Hater’s Pick: Robert M. Auclair Nadeau

Song with a depressingly short shelf life

Get Hype Game of the Night!

Don’t watch sports tonight. Keep your eyes glued to quality election coverage all night long.

I got a promotion!

Hey guys!

This is my obligatory blog post announcing that I’ve climbed the corporate ladder sufficiently enough to start earning a salary. Good for me! And you, I guess, if you’ve supported me in the past. Good for you.

I will now be going by the spiffy new title of Web Content Producer. This position comes with a whole host of benefits and other corporate things that I don’t completely understand. I can’t wait to meet with HR today so I can smile and nod my way through that conversation.

I start as soon as they hire someone to do my current job. I start my normal hours as soon as they hire someone to work weekends. So if you’re looking for a job in news, the least you can do is help me get the ball rolling on this.

Now, I know a lot of you are concerned about what this means for my Pirate’s Cove career. Fear not, as the most talented person on that roster, I will be returning to help whenever they need me.

Well maybe not whenever. I’ll be able to help if they need me during times that aren’t Mon-Fri, 3-11 p.m. It seems like a good compromise to me.

That’s all I’ve really got for you today. Feel free to leave the likes and comments that I’m so desperately fishing for with a post like this.

Song for when things are finally how they’re post to be

Get Hype Game of the Night!

North Carolina vs. Louisville – 7 p.m. – ESPN

The whole downside to this new job situation is that I’m pretty sure there isn’t a TV on the web desk. I’m going to miss watching games on a desk TV.

200 blogs and nothing to say

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you know what this intro paragraph is about. I blog, and then sometimes I don’t blog, and then I write about how I’m going to blog again. I’ve done this so many times that I’m not even sure which comeback gimmicks I’ve already used.

This is despite the fact that my last comeback gimmick was a list of said gimmicks. It’s a great way to knock out 75 words.

Anyway, here’s the part where I tell you why I’m blogging again. It’s not because Matt Lauzon asked me too. It’s not because I like clogging your Facebook feed with my nonsense. It’s not because I secretly hope that someone of importance will discover my writing, like it, and put me on the fast track to never having to work again.

I do this because it makes me feel better. There’s a catharsis in being able to write about whatever I want, whenever I want. And there’s nothing better than when someone reaches out and tells me that my blog wasn’t the worst thing they read that day.

Do your part, people.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve enjoyed all of the ups and downs that have come with 200 posts on the Playa Hater’s Blog. Maybe not enough to shell out the $18 for a domain name, but I’ve enjoyed it enough to type 200 more.

Eventually.

Song for debuting in the Royal Rumble

Get Hype Game of the Night

Spurs vs. Warriors – 10:30 p.m. – NBA TV

The two best basketball teams in the world square off in what will surely be a Western Conference Final preview. San Antonio comes into Oakland riding a 13-game winning streak. Golden State is 20-0 at home this season. Something has to give on a channel you might not have at a time you might not be awake.

College football rankings that will be obsolete within 24 hours

Today is conference championship Saturday, which is a great excuse to stay at home and watch too much football.

Eyes across the nation will be glued to the SEC, ACC and B1G games to see who will make the College Football Playoff. That’s both a good and a bad thing.

The inherent problem with college sports is that the postseason is so subjective. There too many teams competing for too few spots.

One way to fix this would be a universal scheduling system handed down from the NCAA big wigs, but that seems like a pipe dream. In an ideal world, each conference champion could then be seeded into a 10-team playoff.

But for now, we’re stuck with the idea of a committee getting together and trying to determine who the four “best” teams are. There is all sorts of criteria, but it’s still pretty subjective.

So before tonight’s games change everything, I’m going to give you my top four seeds.

1. Alabama

When Alabama lost this season, there was an excitement in the air. Alabama was out. Maybe this was the year we’d see someone else come out of the SEC. Maybe we’d have some variety.

Nope.

Alabama is the best team in the country from the best conference in the country. They deserve the top seed in the College Football Playoff.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma is an incredible offensive powerhouse. Baker Mayfield leads a unit that averages nearly 46 points per game. Even in the Big 12, that’s pretty special.

Oklahoma does the football equivalent of getting buckets, and for that, they get the second seed.

3. Ohio State

This is probably a controversial pick. Ohio State is a long shot to make the playoff since they’re not playing in the B1G Championship Game. The truth is, though, Iowa is the fourth-best team in the conference. I’m pretty sure the Hawkeyes played my high school at some point this season.

Michigan has three losses, so they’re out. That leaves Michigan State and Ohio State. Sparty played a tougher schedule, but Ohio State has better numbers (better than Bama!). In the end, I’m going to go with the team that didn’t lose to Nebraska.

4. Clemson

The ACC is the weakest of the 5 big conferences, but an undefeated Clemson is better than a two-loss Stanford. Clemson’s reward for a perfect season is getting Alabama in the first round.

Song for when tonight’s games ruin your rankings

Get Hype Game of the Night!

Michigan St. vs. Iowa – 8:17 p.m. – Fox

Because life is imperfect and unfair, the winner of this game will got to the College Football Playoff. You might as well watch.

What do I have against Kobe?

Kobe Bryant announced his retirement on Sunday with a terrible poem on a terrible website, and I’ve been through a range of emotions ever since. I’ve smiled with glee at all the hit pieces saying Kobe could never truly reach all-time greatness, and I’ve cringed at anything saying the opposite.

In fact, just this morning, I found myself yelling (internally) at Reggie Miller for suggesting that Kobe was a top-3 guard of all time.

None of this makes sense. Kobe Bryant has never done anything to me personally. He is the 5th-ish best player of his generation, and has had a top-20 NBA career. I readily admit that. Heck, I own a pair of his sneakers.

So what’s my beef with Kobe? I’m not saying this solely to setup the rest of the blog, I’m genuinely asking this question. Maybe if I put my thoughts in writing, we can discover the answer together.

The first, and most obvious answer, would lie somewhere in Eagle County, Colorado. For those of you who are unaware, that’s where Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault over a decade ago. The charges were eventually dropped when the accuser failed to testify in court.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to not like an alleged rapist. Rape is a bad thing to do. The problem I’m having, and I don’t know what this says about me as a person, is that I don’t think this is the reason I dislike Kobe.

There are people (probably too many people) that have done terrible things and I’ve given passes to. There’s some cognitive dissonance that happens when you appreciate someone’s work and ignore their deplorable actions. I mean, does anyone really get on their high horse when “Ignition” starts playing?

If we ignore the sexual assault (not a great phrase to use out of context), there’s the fact that Kobe Bryant is a lifetime Laker. It’s hard to ignore my irrational disdain for the Lakers. And this is where the Derek Jeter comparisons really start to take hold for me.

Other, non-New-Englander, people have compared the two as great players who got a lot more recognition than they deserved. I agree with that, and I’ll get to it a little bit later, but there’s an extra link between the two for me. They are the face of the enemy.

That sounds stupid, and it is. There is nothing objectively right or wrong about rooting for one team over another. I should not dislike any person based on where they go to work, but it’s an idea that’s hard to shake. And Kobe might actually be the last roadblock. I don’t think there’s anyone else on the Yankees or Lakers that I actively dislike, despite irrationally wishing that both organizations fail to achieve success.

If it’s not that, there’s only one thing I can think of. Kobe is Michael Jordan Light. He looks like him, he acts like him, he plays like him, but he’s not Michael Jordan. Kobe was never as good as Michael Jordan.

Full disclosure here, like many kids my age, I grew up worshiping MJ. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player I’ve ever seen. LeBron’s probably close, but Kobe’s way behind.

Even this, though, is stupid. Comparing players is stupid. Comparing eras is stupid. Hatred is stupid.

I don’t know why I have this dislike for Kobe Bryant, but I’m glad he’s retiring so I don’t have to think about it anymore.

Song for when you’re done thinking about Kobe Bryant

Get Hype Game of the Night!

Maryland vs. North Carolina – 9:30 p.m. – ESPN

It’s like an ACC rivalry, but it’s not. Marcus Paige is back for North Carolina after missing their first 5 games.

Pick: Maryland +7