I remember my first day on the job in Louisiana. I started with the company in Fairhope, Alabama, just 15 minutes from my house. But I knew that was only temporary. My hitch in Louisiana would start on a Sunday, at 5:00 A.M. The Sunday after Nick Saban's return to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rogue.
So I had a choice: I could stay home and watch the game in Alabama, among friends, then take a nap and then start my four and a half hour drive to my job around midnight and go straight to work, or leave early and watch the game in a bar among LSU fans.
I chose the former.
Man, was I glad Alabama won. The last thing I wanted to do was roll up into that parking lot with a Roll Tide Alabama decal on my back window and have to put up with the smack talk from the LSU faithful for an entire week (month/year).
I already knew some of the employees from the Fairhope stint, where they set up their operations while dodging Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. But most of the people were new to me.
I busted through the doors with my Alabama cap on, trying to act nonchalant. I was greeted with a chorus of groans and "oh nos" almost immediately. But the groans and "oh nos" were coming out of smiling faces.
We were all having fun discussing the game, commenting on how it was the hardest hitting game any of us could remember in recent memory, the continued woes of Jarrett Lee, and so on.
Then somebody shouted out, "Alabama cheated! Nick Saban couldn't carry Les Miles' jock. He'll leave Alabama in two years. It won't be long before the NCAA deals out a death penalty against the crimson turds!"
What??? Wait a minute...That wasn't in Louisiana. That last part was just two days ago on a fan blog. How'd that get into my story?
These trolls can sure ruin a good conversation.
We've all seen it. We've all been a victim of it. Many of us are guilty of it.
The Internet has generated an all new fan-phenom...The troll.
But the trolls are not the only thing that can ruin a good cyber chat about your favorite sports team. The sins being committed in the comment section of the sports blog are many.
But have no fear, sports fans. I have been to the mountain top, and I now bring you the 10 Commandments For The Internet Sports Fan.
Unfortunately, like the 10 Commandments of the Bible, not everybody will follow them. But if I can reach just one lost soul, one errant fan, then I have made the sports blogs a better place for all.
No. 1: Thou Shalt Not Correct Grammar, Spelling or Punctuation Errors
Now seriously folks, are we sports fans or literary critics? Most people correct these errors because the point being made by the previous poster had some validity. If you can't punch holes in their argument, correcting their command of the English language only makes you look foolish. If you get the gist of person's post, move on. It doesn't matter if they used there in place of they're or spelled ridiculous rediculous. School's out people.
No. 2: Thou Shalt Not Get Off Topic
Neither Barack Obama or Sarah Palin suited up in last night's matchup between the Celtics and the Cavaliers. Nor will they take the ice in tonight's Stanley Cup playoff game. They don't belong in the comment section of a sports blog. The same goes for bail-outs, abortion debates, ponzi schemes, religion, national or local scandals, purses and shoes at a 75 percent savings, and anything that doesn't relate to the story at hand. Want to talk about those things? Find a wire service that allows you to post on their news stories.
No. 3: Thou Shalt Not Take On The Role Of An Impostor
Pretending to be a fan of a team you detest does not make you any less of a troll. If your pseudonym is buckeye2010, and you're a Michigan State fan, your breaking Commandment No. 3. Nobody is fooled by your thinly veiled attempt to slander your rival. You can't hide your bias by wearing sheep's clothing. You just wind up looking like an uninvited, unimaginative guest at a Halloween party. Don't be that guy.
No. 4: Thou Shalt Not Bring Family Into It
Enough with the "Yo' Mamas" already. Incest and adultery are not the least bit funny. And a person cannot have an offspring with a goat anyway, so why bring it up? Attacking innocent by-standers doesn't advance your cause. If you're one of those kind of people, please find an online debate class. Or grow up. Either way, you'll be making the comment section of the blog a friendlier place.
No. 5: Thou Shalt Not Abuse The "Caps Lock" Key
What are you doing, shouting? Drawing attention to your post? Nobody is going to cower or back down because your left pinkie moved over a half inch to the "caps lock" key. Use your words to draw attention to your post. You can paint flames on the front of your Gremlin all you want, but at the end of the day you're still driving around in a Gremlin.
No. 6: Thou Shalt Not Use Foul Language, Even If You Use An (*) In Place Of The Vowels
Let's clean it up people. At the tender age of nine I read and finished my first book that wasn't required reading. It was "The Lou Gehrig Story." I read it because I loved baseball. Not a single cuss word in it. Had that story been on the Internet the comment section would have ruined it for me. Sports fans comes in all ages. Let's make the children feel welcome.
No. 7: Thou Shalt Not Be A Bigot
Race, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or creed has no place in the comment section unless the story is about somebody's race, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or creed. Even then, keep it respectable. It's okay to talk about Tiger Woods practicing Buddhism as long as you don't call it "booty-ism." And never show bigotry towards other fans that have posted, even if they brought up their own race, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or creed. It's just not that interesting.
No. 8: Thou Shalt Not Troll Your Rival's Blog
Wouldn't you rather discuss your team's accomplishments and short-comings with people of like mind? It's a small person who constantly posts on every story that runs on their rival's blog. It's fine if an Auburn fans wants to wander over to the Bama Beat and talk a little smack before the Iron Bowl. But if you find yourself claiming squatter's rights then you have entirely wore out your welcome. Myself, I much prefer discussing my own teams with fellow fans over fending off attacks by rivals because I've wandered into their territory unnecessarily.
No. 9: Thou Shalt Not Chit-Chat
How many of us have seen page after page after page of two or three posters talking about taking their kids to soccer practice and how tough work was today and man, my fantasy team has moved into first place this week! Doesn't every web browser offer a messenger service these days? Take it elsewhere please. We're trying to get opinions on the current story. We could care less about little Suzy placing second in her third grade spelling bee.
No. 10: Thou Shalt Not Feed The Trolls
Face it, they're there for two reasons: to grab some attention and get a rise out of you. This is why you don't feed stray dogs and cats. They never leave. Ignore them, PLEASE! Eventually they'll give up and just go away.
For most people this can be summed up in one commandment: Act as you would if you were physically in the company of everybody posting in the comment section. If we all did that then we would all be much more civil.
But if you find yourself struggling with any of these commandments then a change of attitude is in order.
I know I haven't covered all of the bases here, but it's a pretty good start. Fell free to add your own commandments in the comment section. Just don't break any of my 10 commandments while doing so.