FanPost

A Plea for Compassion

 

I've been around the BEdge for a while now, and I've pretty much come to know what to expect - lots of brilliant, passionate conjecture on (usually) one topic, the Blazers. I can honestly say that I've cited Blazer's Edge as a high point of internet conversation, period - not Blazers talk, not even sports talk, just the best of what the web's all about.

I've also noticed an undercurrent of, well, self-righteousness. I wasn't around during the JailBlazer era - in fact, I only really became a Blazer fan because of this site (there's a feather in your cap, Dave and Ben!) and while I know that those of you who were around and passionate during that time are still smarting, your expressions in this era can sometimes smack of puritanical hand-wringing or even disingenuous piety. Not everyone, and not to everyone, but it's something that I, personally, have picked up on, and something that I, personally, have found less than inviting.

 

A Case in Point

A lightning rod over the past year has definitely been Chris "Birdman" Andersen. From his garish tattoos to his unconscionable block on Rudy (oh, the nerve!) to his potential signing via free agency this summer, Chris has been on the lips of many a BEdger, and oftentimes those lips are sneered. I can see the general gyst of where some may be coming from: "The JailBlazers made me feel really bad to be a fan, now I don't feel bad to be a fan, let's never, ever have mean players again." And, to an extent, I agree. A lot has been made over character on this team, and, insofar as it works, it makes a lot of sense.

What doesn't make sense to me, however, is the straight-up ugliness with which some BEdgers - presumably operating from a position of sound morals above all else - will attack somebody they know next to nothing about. It's really tantamount to going to a strip club or a dive bar or even a homeless shelter and, pointing your finger at someone, calling them a piece of trash. I know how easy it is to become somebody on the other end of that pointed finger, and I can only hope that, were my number called, I was met with more compassion than a lot of what's been going on around here lately.

 

If You've Skipped Everything So Far, Please Read This

I've been a fan of Chris Andersen since he re-entered the league. Admittedly, I was at first intrigued just by the weirdness - "Drugs of abuse? What kind of NBA player would be smoking crack?" As I continued to follow him, however, I noticed a remarkably charismatic man who'd done an amazing job of pulling his life together. I honestly would have long, dark doubts about my own chances were I in his situation. That all changed this weekend when I read a year-old article on ESPN.com:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?page=Andersen-080511

It's a stunning article; literally the most profound human interest story I've ever read about an athlete, ever. Literally. I STRONGLY suggest you read it, but if you don't, please take a look at these facts:

  • Father deserted family as a child
  • Lived in a barn, extreme poverty for much of childhood
  • Mother suffered from depression, gave him up to group home
  • Returned home, at times lived off of wildlife killed on property
  • Excelled at sports, was denied by many colleges because of grades
  • Missed draft eligibility due to unfamiliarity with the process
  • First player ever called up from D-League
  • Reckless lifestyle and hangers-on contributed to high-powered cycle of self-destruction and substance abuse

Is this something you really want to laugh at? Is this person so easily discarded as a thug and a lowlife, as many here have called him? I wonder if those who are so judgmental have taken interest in looking beyond the tattoos and preening and sordid history and, before casting stones on his character, looked at his character.

 

Maybe I'm Wrong

This could all be bunk. Some might see his appearance and have all the information they need to know - "Nope. This guy's no good. I don't want anything to do with him." I could be a real sucker, here, sticking up for a guy I don't even know. Because, really, I don't know him. I've seen him play a few times, watched a few of his YouTube highlights, read a few articles. None of them gave me a real, first-person take on the man himself.

Then again, that's pretty much my entire point, here. Nobody else here has, either. While he's a public face and certainly up for critique in a basketball capacity, why do so many here feel free to slam him outside of that? There aren't any stats on someone's humanity, just the impressions one makes on another as we walk through this world. He seems to have never wronged anyone moreso than himself, and his return and maturation would, I think, be met with applause by those here rather than vitriol.

In the case of Birdman, I honestly feel bad when people here slander him the way they do. It's not because I don't think he can take it - I can pretty much guarantee a) He's not sitting around reading comments on Blazer's Edge and b) obviously has the constitution to handle some pretty devastating blows. I feel bad because this is the behavior of a group to which I belong, and I'd like my associations to say something a little better about me.

 

Parting Questions

First off, what do you think? Am I being duplicitous in my thesis, grandstanding on a moral issue that people shouldn't.. grandstand on moral issues? Am I right, in that people should reserve passing judgment on someone's character until experiencing it firsthand?

Second, does anyone else see a trend regarding this sort of high-ground mentality? Though Dave has done an excellent, excellent job balancing his on and off-blog persona, and I've never seen him go anywhere near crossing the line of character in that regard, it seems to be kind of the elephant in the room that this is a "faith-based sports site" (as I've seen it described by outside sources*) with a presumably more "faith-based" membership. Does a religious aspect come into play, despite the obviously diverse populous? Are those religious principles at odds with the actions I've described above?

Lastly, why does Birdman garner such scorn to begin with? Is it his outlandish nature, or perhaps his block on Rudy? Would he be reviled or beloved if he played for Portland? Are many of the 'digs' on Birdman solely the razzing of a competitor's player? Is that fair?

I've got a lot of questions, my fellow BEdgers, and I'd love for this to be a conversation, not a soap-box rant. Please keep comments above the belt, but punches unpulled, below. Thanks.

 

* Upon further review, their reference is kind of ambiguous. They could just be talking about 'preaching to the choir' of basketball fans. Then again, the author then continues to make note of Dave's pastorhood(?). I'm honestly not sure if this is a play on words or saying "BEdge : sports blogs as Christian rock : music".

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