I recently made what I thought would be a harmless comment on Rachel Maddow's Twitter timeline about government agencies being wasteful and ineffectively managed. The responses were immediate, angry and extremely personal. My favorite was this one (the nicest) from a retired teacher: "YOU PUTZ!!!!!"
Engaging others politically has become such a nightmare that Democrats and Republicans have their own separate cable channels. Lively debate and witty banter have been replaced by mean-spirited name calling and angry vitriol which I've come to find extremely tiresome. My skin is fairly thick, as I comment regularly on television, radio and on the Internet about politics, the arts and -- thankfully -- sports.
Yes, sports. Sports fans are too often unfairly portrayed as beer-guzzling maniacs, yet I sincerely enjoy and look forward to hearing their responses to my sports commentaries, especially when they disagree with me. Last week I participated in an ESPN SportsCenter Twitter discussion and commented that I prefer Larry Bird over LeBron James. There were many responses, almost all opposed, but nearly everyone polite. To wit: "Please explain your position, sir." I engaged with numerous tweeters on the topic and some are now following me, and I'm enjoying our ongoing tweets.
I have made many friends and acquaintances as a result of sportswriting, while political punditry has merely helped the range of motion in my neck because when I'm out in public I always need to look over my shoulder.
Unlike politics, where party loyalty has taken on an almost religious fervor, sports allow us not only to revere our heroes, but criticize them as well. Political discussions are for the most part one-sided, and when not, there is a great deal of bullying, arrogance and petulance involved. Debating sports can get intense, and tempers may flare, but more often than not there's plenty of humor in the mix.
While politicians persist on polarizing the country, our athletes continue to inspire and bring us together. Unlike being a politician, playing a professional sport requires talent, discipline and teamwork.