One of the most overriding of human motivations is, like it or not, selfishness.
As infants, we cry all the time. Why? Because we want our needs to be met, regardless of any other circumstances. Mom is recovering from a broken leg? Well, that’s her problem, damn it. Now get in here and refill my apple juice!
Want a new big screen TV, but there’s not enough money in the budget? Well, screw that credit card company for a few months; I’m buying that flat screen; other debts can wait!
We are, as a race, inherently selfish. Sometimes, as in the case of self-preservation, that’s a good thing (unless it is done at the expense of someone else, which is another story); usually, though, it’s wrong (to a lesser or greater extent) to be selfish.
I know what some of you are thinking: “Okay, Watson—what are you getting at here?”
Here’s why I begin this article with a discussion of human selfishness: everyone wants what they want, because they want it, for the reason they want it. And if it appears that someone else is getting what they desire, while I am not, the selfish tendency is to complain about it, until things take the form that I want.
Now, if I am at Applebee’s, and everyone around me is getting their food, even though I was seated before them, you had better believe that I am going to chew on the manager’s derriere and make certain that my meal is comped, along with the meals of anyone ELSE in my party. That precise scenario has played out before; we ate over $80 worth of food for free.
That is not being selfish; that is standing up for my rights. The implied standards of service were being violated, and had I not said anything, we would have continued to be ignored, and I wasn’t having that nonsense.
But let’s alter the scenario, just a little bit.
Let’s say I waltz into that same Applebee’s, and demand that the hostess seat my party immediately, despite the fact that there are, oh, 30 or so people ahead of us?
Well, that falls back in the realm of selfish (read: wrong) and such actions should neither be tolerated, condoned, nor encouraged.
The author of the article that I am rebutting went to great lengths to indicate that many of the “Top Writers” churn out high volumes of chicken scratch (delicately edited, I trust that the reader gets my meaning) and make lots of comments in order to pad their rankings. Perhaps this is true of a few individuals.
The proposed solutions included changing the current optional “Five Star” rating system into a mandatory “A-E” grading system.
Hold the phone, Louise, we need to talk.
Houston, we have a problem.
That suggestion simply won’t work.
Here’s the first reason that’s an untenable suggestion:
By what criteria will a person be assigned this letter grade? Is poor Zander going to have to sit down with some literary consultants and churn out page after page of standard guidelines?
Because if he doesn’t, and I am expected to submit my work to just anyone for grading, I’m exiting stage left, faster than you can say “Jiminy Cricket.”
Because it is inherently impossible to come up with any set of standards for what is going to be universally accepted as superior writing.
It’s such a subjective thing. I will use my own musical tastes as an example.
One of my favorites is Robert Cray, the inimitable blues vocalist and guitarist. One of my favorite Cray albums is entitled, “A Shame and a Sin.”
The first time I listened to the album, I hated it!
Second time: same thing. I told myself I would never listen to it again.
But I kept reading and hearing how magnificent the disc was; I could not help feeling that somehow I was missing the boat. Two or three years later, I decided to give it another shot.
The third time I listened to it, one verse of one song kept me from chucking the CD into the Mississippi River.
The fourth time, three songs caught my eye. . .but I didn’t even get deep enough into the album to find the one verse and the one song that had saved the album just a few weeks before.
Finally, on my fifth try, I listened to every single minute of every last track and I fell completely in love with the album. And I still am, eight years later.
I have had similar experiences with many other discs by artists across just about any genre: blues man Buddy Guy; Richard Wagner’s classical recordings; Hank Williams, Jr., country; Judas Priest and Slayer in heavy metal; just about anything hip-hop/rap, but especially Jay-Z; Miles Davis, representing jazz; rock’s legendary Pink Floyd; and even Motown’s Marvin Gaye.
All of them had to grow on me, through repeated listening.
My point is, what each of us feels is superior artistry is so arbitrary that we often change our own minds upon further inspection.
So if it is so difficult to even be sure of what it is that we really like, do we mandate that you can only rate an article after reading it three or more times?
Just how far do we go to make the system “fair”?
Another reason why changing the writers’ ranking system won’t work: all it would do is encourage (once again) selfish behavior to cause us to sabotage one another.
Yes, I said it—and I’m not taking it back, either.
You see, I’m not living in a glass house and throwing stones; I’m out here on a bivouac with everyone else. I’m stripping myself naked in an effort to prove a point.
I love many writers here on this site, and I guess a lot of people love me, too. I have 82 writers in my list of favorites, and 141 fans.
Many people show up on both lists; just as many do not. I should have done the math on the crossovers, but it just wasn’t that crucial to me at the time.
But let me tell you something honestly:
If you think for one second I am going to hand out A’s to Bob Warja or Rob York in a strict grading system, while knowing that it will affect our head-to-head competition, you’re absolutely insane.
No offense, Bob and Rob! You guys know I love you, right?
I mean, let’s call a spade a spade here: right now, with the optional “Five Star” system, mingled in with the “Favorites” list that counts toward “Pick of the Day”, we’re all still in competition, but in an entirely different way.
As things are currently structured, I know that comments and fans are equalizers in the race for the rankings. However, in the proposed system, those equalizers would (presumably) go out the window.
That means that the only way to keep someone behind me (or to catch up with anyone ahead of me) would be to withhold voting for them in any way, shape or form!
And speaking strictly for myself, that would mean that I could no longer even read the works of anyone that I considered a threat to my ranking!
Now, don’t get me wrong; I have been accused of having an ego, and that’s not a lie.
I think I write as well as anybody on this site. I think my statistics—total number of fans, number of fans per article, total number of POTDs and POTDs per article—stack up with the elite that B/R has to offer.
But that’s not the point. I don’t think that “entitles” me to be in the top 50—though I sometimes get miffed that I am not.
B/R is a perfect metaphor for life.
The overnight sensation doesn’t become the king. The swift do not win the race. Neither the pretty nor the smart hold a patent on success.
Rather, it takes a unique amalgam of raw talent, consistency, dedication, perseverance, and longevity to claw one’s way up the ladder.
You can be a leader in a single community in short order—I was No. 5 in the golf community after just one article. But if you want to reach for the Holy Grail—top 50 on the entire site—you had better be prepared to put in some work.
And maybe you really don't care about the rankings at all. Maybe you just come here to catch up on sports news, mingle, write a little, and comment. That's fine and dandy, too!
In the end, the entire “overhaul the system” argument is an attempt to substitute the judgment of the few (or perhaps the one) for a well-thought out, time-tested formula that displeases a select few who feel that they are not favored by it, but generally rewards those who deserve it most.
How arrogant and hypocritical is that?
I, for one, can say with great pride, that I have written 43 articles, and there is not a stinker in the bunch. Not a single one of them!
Some of them are, quite naturally, better than others; some are more popular or salacious, and thus more frequently read than others; but none of them are poor literature. I dare anyone to read my entire catalog and argue any differently.
I will go one step further: I think I am the best, most talented writer on this site. I will have the numero uno ranking on the entire site one of these days, if I want it (which I do).
However, I know I won’t get it by whining that the only reason I don’t have the ranking already is because the rules don’t favor me. I won’t get it by disparaging the hard work of others who are ranked ahead of me. I won’t get it by arguing that someone else is unfairly manipulating the system (read: cheating, that’s what is really being said).
I don’t agree with a slideshow of women in bikinis winning a POTD. Yes, I was victimized by that once, and I probably will be again. C’est la vie; it happens. Get over it!
Many recent POTD articles were, in my opinion, inferior to anything I have ever written, and vastly inferior to articles by dozens of other writers on the day in which they were published. Again, it happens. Get...well, you know the rest!
In the end, though, anything worth having is worth working (and waiting) for. As long as I keep producing excellently researched and well-structured articles, the accolades (POTDs) and rankings will follow.
Or perhaps they won’t.
It will still remain in my hands to either rise up the rankings or settle for whatever I get. In the end, as long as I can sleep with the results (no matter which way they might cut), does anything else really matter?
I feel that we all should adopt a similar attitude. And while we’re at it, let’s agree to the following:
Many kudos to Bleacher Report for being, hands-down, the finest, free interactive site on the Internet. Please do not change a thing!