Hello folks, and welcome to Season's Eve! It's just like Christmas Eve, except the present under the tree is the moment you've been waiting for all summer...the opening of the Portland Trail Blazers 2014-15 season!
The purpose of this post is twofold:
1. You're going to have an exciting day today. Beginning at 8:00 a.m. and continuing into the evening, we'll be bringing you a full-fledged season preview post every hour. Our staff has banded together to tackle the new year from multiple viewpoints, everything from winning the division to the new national perception of the team to the best ways to watch the Blazers on TV...and then some. A little bird told me we might even be announcing this year's Blazer's Edge Night, so stay tuned!
Or, technically...tune in and then come back every hour today to find even more Blazer-filled goodness!
2. With the new year we want to let you know about a new leaf we're turning around here. Actually it's kind of an old leaf that's been slowly turning for a while, but we want you to help us get it all the way over.
You may recall a few weeks ago I put out a call for women readers of Blazer's Edge and its affiliated social media accounts. I needed help with a project I was forming on the voices of women in our sports communities. The response was overwhelming. So many folks took time to share their stories and opinions. I was taken aback, awed, and grateful.
In the course of this project we asked readers to name barriers they perceived between them and participation in sports discussion communities. We also asked them for advice on ways to make communities fairer and less barrier-filled. Responses were diverse but certain themes cropped up repeatedly.
--Don't even think of pandering. No pats on the head. No special sections. No exile to "women's sports" sites. Women play sports. Women coach sports. Some women are alpha personalities who would happily debate you until your typing fingers fall off. So let's all discuss opinions like real human beings, because that's what we're here for.
--Our culture provides mechanisms by which a woman's opinion (on most anything, but especially sports) can be dismissed. Most any gender-based slight will do the trick. Oddly enough, most women don't appreciate that. Not really fair.
--You can accomplish the same thing, just a little more slowly, by only portraying women in certain roles, by promoting certain pictures of them that have nothing to do with sports, or by using "female" as shorthand for "inadequate" or "weak", etc. Again, most women don't like this because again, it has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with your opinion of gender.
There were a couple more things, but you get the idea.
The avalanche of responses caused me to think. I'd like to begin the new year with these affirmations:
1. We realize that a significant portion of readers at this site are women.
2. We are committed to this site being as fair and open of a community for all its members as we can make it. Our community gets poorer when people feel they can't participate.
3. This commitment doesn't require us to change any site rules or enact new policies. We've always said that fair comments talk about basketball and basketball-related opinions rather than talking about each other and hurling ad hominem insults. We want to acknowledge that ad hominem, "against the man" also extends to "against the woman". We'd like all of our readers to help us by avoiding such.
It's not like we deal with these things frequently, but there have got to be better ways to express an opinion than posting scantily-clad pics or making up female-sounding nicknames for players you think are under-performing. We don't always think of those things as damaging, but they can be. More to the point, they don't bring that much benefit or understanding of the subject, so they're not worth the potential harm.
4. That commitment includes our writing. Many respondents said Blazer's Edge was one of the best communities they'd been to. That made me feel good. Even so, I can recall making (what I thought were) humorous gender-based comparisons to describe basketball concepts in the past. That makes me feel bad. Even if those sentences weren't specifically offensive, they were lazy. I can think of better ways to draw a picture than comparing things to female celebrities and such. Having heard your voices, avoiding such will be easy. I don't want Blazer's Edge to be even an infinitesimal part of making people feel like their comments aren't welcome or important. I, personally, will pay attention to that in the words I share with this community.
It doesn't seem like we should have to say stuff like this out loud, but then I hear things like, "Do you know how many women pick nonsensical or gender-neutral screen names so we don't have to deal with these issues and so nobody will slight us for being women?" I can say my name here every day. It's Dave. You all know it. In my mind, everyone who comes here should feel like they have that option. We shouldn't be a community that people have to "deal with", rather a community that people love and enjoy. If you want to say your name here, you should be able to no matter what that name is.
Unless your name is Kobe. But that's a different deal.
Therefore I ask Blazer's Edge readers to join me at the start of this brand new season, acknowledging all the women who make Blazer's Edge part of their day and affirming that this site welcomes all folks, all the time. The only qualification for being here is some connection to the Blazers or NBA basketball and the desire to talk about same. And that's the way it'll always be.
The Super Massive, Double-Digit-Post, Hourly-Updating, Magical Fantastical Blazer's Edge Season Preview starts soon! Enjoy!