Sports has a habit of bringing out the worst in people. Case in point: I once got slapped by a drunk girl because I insinuated that Michigan’s birth in the 2012 Sugar Bowl was, in fact, not based on merit but rather on historical accomplishments and merchandise sales.
I’m always intrigued by people who are willing to literally fight over any actual or perceived slights made against their favored athletes or teams. So, naturally, after Chael Sonnen was defeated by Anderson Silva on Saturday night at UFC 148, I immediately took to Twitter to bask in/cringe at the backlash. And that’s when my night got interesting.
Yes, I’m fully aware of how pathetic that last sentence makes my life sound.
It started with this innocuously inflammatory series of tweets from Sean Gentille, who covers hockey for The Sporting News.
Gentille has a legitimate critique of the culture that surrounds UFC: It is often brutish, with a largely unquenchable thirst for brutality with healthy doses misogyny thrown in for good measure. Many UFC fans seem to have taken the mantle that WWF fans carried in the 90′s. Not all UFC fans are bad, nor is the sport itself, but for many, the sport is ruined by the extremely vocal segment of the fanbase described above.
Gentille’s tweet seemingly brought out the worst in UFC fans on Twitter, including one, who immediately fired back at Gentille.
Gentille had his rhetorical guns loaded, and rather than engage in a pissing contest with his new adversary, he began to rebut him quite cunningly, managing to both get under Scott’s skin and drive home the point that started this war of words. Both men soldered on.
That last tweet is really the crux of Gentille’s argument, summed up in less then 140 characters.
At this point, others began to chime in. Many were pointing out the validity of Gentille’s statements while admonishing the behavior of Scott that served to further validate Gentille’s words. Gentille was convincingly winning this battle of wits, an unsurprising outcome given that he is a writer for a living. They continued.
It’s right here where the discourse starts to take an interesting turn.
Gentille sees an opportunity to diffuse the situation and gain some insight into his foe’s mindset. And, surprisingly (given that this happened on the Internet), the appeal to logic works.
When both Gentille and Scott take the time to think about the ridiculousness that is occurring at that moment, and the actual cause of it, both sides diffuse the conflict. Not only is the war over, but, almost shockingly, common ground is uncovered beneath the seething rage that was flowing just moments before.
Why am I regurgitating a seemingly meaningless conflict that took place over what is (arguably) the lowest level of human communication? Because I, like many others who witnessed it in real time, were borderline inspired by it. Two guys were the Twitter equivalent of Wolverine and Sabertooth one minute, and the next were offering to buy each other beers. That doesn’t happen. Especially not on the internet.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is, the world would probably be a better place if more people were like Sean Gentille and Scott Shecter. They disagreed. It took some time to get to the point where they could settle their disagreement, but when they did, all ill will was washed away. Because at the end of the day, it’s just sports. Pro UFC/Anti UFC, Yankees/Red Sox, Michigan/Ohio State, sporting allegiances are, at the end of the day, meaningless, and life is short. Rather than kicking each other’s asses over who’s right or wrong, maybe we should all just agree to disagree, then travel across international borders to knock back a few beers. It worked out well for these guys.
I’m not naive enough to believe that no two sports fans or political opponents or rival convenience store owners will ever come to blows again. But I do hope that at some point, someone sees this and is able to realize that if two strangers can settle their differences when there is literally no reason for them to do so, maybe they can too.
I’m talking to you, Israel and Iran.
For anyone who was wondering, the kinship that blossomed during this incident is legitimate. After both men saw this article, they spoke again for the first time since the night of UFC 148.
Gentille also pointed out that I left out what was arguably the best thing that came out of this newfound friendship.
If anyone wanted to follow Sean or Scott, but for some reason couldn’t figure out how, you can find Sean Gentille here and Scott Shecter here. They’re both good dudes, so just follow them. Also, big thanks to Sean for promoting this thing like it was his own and big props to Scott for being being cool about this.