Words Will Never Hurt Me, Maybe

The very first post on this blog was of a youtube clip of a classic game where the players on the bench were yelling at a guy from the opposing as he lined up for a face off. The language they were using was… salty. It was an entire salt lick worth of salty. It’s was kind of hacky to start that way, but this was five years ago, and I had no idea what hockey blogging looked like (still don’t). In fact, here is the long version of it (NSFW language, so there):

Yep, those were the days. Maybe it’s better to say that these are the days, since there is video of Wayne Simmonds yelling a slur at Sean Avery that rhymes with maggot and is a homophobic slur. Alright, he is alleged to have called Avery a ‘faggot.’ If you want to hear it what that word sounds like, it’s about 5 seconds into the video above. And at 52 seconds. And a bunch of other stuff.

And the Simmonds video? Sure looks like he called someone (Sean Avery, supposedly) a ‘faggot.’ (oh no, I typed it again)

That’s right, looks like. Because while you can see Simmonds say something that looks like ‘faggot,’ you can’t hear what he says. Right now, it’s he said, he said, and I doubt it will be much more than that. The league could make a stink about it, but unless someone else (like the linesman that was right there) corroborates Sean Avery’s story, the league will probably let this go, with maybe a phone call to say, off the record, watch the language.

Am I giving Simmonds a pass? Obviously not. “Faggot” is one of those words that still gives people fits about its usage. For a smart conversation about the word, listen to this conversation with Louis CK about using it in his comedy on Fresh Air. Go to the 11:35 mark for the talk.

Here is Louis CK using the word in his comedy, and talking about what it means to him. NSFW language, but if you didn’t know that by now, you probably don’t know what NSFW means.

My question is whether this would be getting as much attention if not for this past week’s banana throwing incident at a Flyers preseason game. If Wayne Simmonds hadn’t been the target of a racist act, would he be as scrutinized as he is here? With as much as the denizens of the internet love irony and bringing people down a peg, I’m guessing not. While Simmonds did a mature thing in turning the other cheek at a stupid act in London, Ont, it’s foolish of us to expect him to be a saint for it. He is just a man, and one who plays hockey at that.

I think I summed up my feelings last night rather succinctly:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/tapeleg/status/118556679045513217″]

Using Twitter this Hockey Season

I’ve been talking on twitter lately about some of the ways I feel people are misusing twitter when talking about hockey games, and ways to correct it.  I don’t believe there are any real Social Media Guru’s out there, just like there aren’t that many real SEO “Experts.” It’s mostly just trial and error, and eventually, you figure out what works for you and your followers.

But there are some things that don’t work, that are worth talking about. As every, most of this is my opinion, but it’s worth taking into consideration.

The Problem with Twitter –

Twitter shares some of the same problems that make email a pain.  It’s easy, fast and free.  It’s easy to type anything in to twitter, it’s so fast you can speak your mind right away, and it’s free so it costs nothing to use.  These same three qualities hinder the medium as well.  It’s easy to type anything, so people type nothing of real value.  It’s fast, so you can just keep sending and sending more and more messages, filling someone’s timeline with garbage.  And it’s free, so anyone has access to it, including spammers (and idiots).

The Reading Experience –

It’s easy to think that everyone reads your twitter feed just like you write it, but that isn’t the case.  Just like websites often are used in the way a user thinks they should be used, twitter feeds aren’t read in the context of the person who wrote the tweets, it’s in the context of the reader.  So when a player roofs a one-timer after your favorite team’s blown coverage, and you type:

“Saw that coming a mile away.”

your readers have no idea what you are talking about.  Even if they are watching the same game you are, some twitter clients don’t update very often, so the context of your tweet is lost.  For people not watching the same game you are, there was never any context in the first place.

It isn’t just about adding context to your tweets, but also having a reason for tweeting it. Having something to say to your followers is more important that saying nothing just for the sake of tweeting.  Take the time to do it right.

Stop the Play By Play –

This will be my gospel this season: Please, stop giving play by play on your twitter stream.  You can see the section above for why, but I also would say that it’s just way too much tweeting about one game.  Play by play just becomes noise in your follower’s regular twitter feed.  We know, you have opinions and thoughts, but on every play?  All the time?  Even coaches and GMs aren’t as microscopic as some of the twitter users I’ve read.  Come on, folks.

If you really want to do massive amounts of in-game tweets, get a separate account.  I have one (@tapegame) that I rarely use, but I don’t do a lot of in-game tweets.

This doesn’t mean don’t tweet from your seat at the game.  But it does mean tweet something that is interesting outside the environment of the specific game you are at, or a small moment that only you are going to understand.  If it doesn’t make sense to someone not watching the game at the same time as you, then it doesn’t need to be said.

You may notice that you don’t get as many followers to your new in-game account.  Rather than take that as a blow to your ego, think about it like free Google Analytics.  It’s tells you exactly how many people are interested in what.  Would you rather get the tweets people want to the right people, or annoy and minimize your voice to the rest of your followers?
I’m the Mayor of Not Giving a Damn –

I have hated foursquare for as long as it’s been invading my twitter timeline.  It’s nothing but noise for people who aren’t playing the same game you are.  And it is nothing more than a game, like a scavenger hunt of a massive multiplayer version of tag.

We don’t care what TV show you are watching.  We don’t care that you are shopping at Wal-Mart.  We aren’t interested that you used DeliSquare to check-in at Frank’s Meat Market while buying the special sausage of the day, and now you earned the Salami Commander badge.  Sure, it’s fun for you, but please, untie these silly games from your twitter feed.  We get it, you like fresh meat.  That doesn’t mean you have to share it all the time.

I will point out that I tend to take pictures of the beers I drink in various places around the country.  You could make the argument that I am doing exactly what I am complaining about.  The difference is, I wind up having conversations with the people who follow me about the beer I (and they) drink.  That’s social.  Talking with people is social.  “I’m watching Dr. Who with 1,258 other people” is not social.  You aren’t watching the show with them.  You are home alone, with your scarf and signed photo of Tom Baker.  We all know it.  We don’t need to be reminded all the time.

Lowering the Noise –

I don’t follow that many people.  Right now, I’m following under 100 twitter accounts.  Two of those may be dogs.  No, really, dogs.  The reason I follow that few accounts is because I read almost every tweet in my feed.  Rather than live the lie that I follow hundreds or thousands of twitter feeds, I keep my main feed shortened to things that I will find interesting all the time, and put other accounts in to lists.

This actually works well, as I can live in my main twitter timeline, but when I want something that I may be more interested in at specific times, I can go to my lists.  I have lots of lists, and will probably make more soon.  I have a list for the Avs fans, professional hockey writers, public radio people, NPR specific accounts, and will probably add a few for other interests I have.  I know that it isn’t all that social, but what it really does is keep the expectation of how much of your twitter feed I read.  If I follow you, I read every tweet, and keep that number manageable so I can read them all.  If I don’t follow you, I may still be reading your tweets, but not every one all the time.

I also tend to unfollow fairly quickly when a twitter feed becomes a negative experience.  I’ve unfollowed friends, bloggers I respect, people I like, and plenty of media people.  If I still find them interesting, they go into a list.  But if they are bringing my twitter experience down, off they go.  It isn’t mean.  There are plenty of people whom I like, but don’t care for their twitter streams.  That’s just how it works.  If I were to do anything else, I’d be lying to the people I follow, and I’m not interested in doing that.

Twitter Fights –

I hate them.  I’ve been in a few, and didn’t care for it at all.  Every so often, I still get roped into them (it’s hard to see a twitter fight until you are 2/3 of the way through it).  These days, I tend to end the fights quickly and walk away from them.  I’ve found that some people don’t like that.  To them I say, whatever.

It’s hard to get the intended tone across in 140 character chunks, much less a point about something we feel passionately about.  That’s fairly obvious, but it’s also hard to get across that we have heard the other person, or really understood what they are saying.  Worse, we may not have really heard what they are saying at all.  Twitter fights aren’t for rational discussion.

If someone wants to drop out of a twitter fight, let them.  If you want to drop out of a twitter fight, and the other person doesn’t want to leave you be, block them.  You can always unblock them later.

On Blocking –

I don’t like to do it, but when it’s time, it’s time.  I tend to take the two-blocks-you’re-out tactic.  If I need to block someone, I will do it when necessary.  If I wonder if they have said anything interesting, after a while, I will unblock them.  If I block them a second time, that’s it, I’m done with them.  I don’t unblock that often.  If someone has pissed you off or messed with you twice, they aren’t likely to change, so there is no reason to go back.

Blocking someone is the only tool we have.  There isn’t another way to get someone to either leave us alone, or at least take them out of our perception.  You get to choose who you hang out with in the physical world, and you should get to do so online.  Facebook at least allows for a mutual relationship.  You and I can’t be Facebook friends without both of us agreeing.  Twitter is different.

Set a personal policy, and stick to it.  Don’t tell someone you are going to unfollow or block them.  That is meaningless.  It’s like the bad guy saying something stupid to his victim before killing them.  It doesn’t change the outcome, the guy is still dead.  It’s nothing more than bad dialogue.  Do the deed, and move on with your life.

For more reading about blocking, I always recommend this post from Derek Powazek on pushing the magic button.

We Are ALL in This Together –

Social media is not about just us.  It’s about everyone who participates.  I don’t get to write all the rules, and neither do you.  Individuals who participate write the rules for what works for them.  It’s like improv comedy.  There is no wrong way to do it, but there are ways that work.

Whenever you do something online that you want to put in front of other people, be it blogging, podcasting, selling art, tweeting or anything else, you have to take your readers and active participants into some consideration.  That doesn’t mean pandering, but it does mean you acknowledge that they are there, and they have wants and needs that may not be completely in line with yours.

Is this a list of rules? Sure, we could call it that.  I could just be old man Tapeleg, yelling at you to get off his lawn.  What do I know?  I know what works for me, and I don’t think I’m alone.

The comments are open.  Add anything you want.  Tell me I’m wrong (without being a jerk about it), or whatever you think about this stuff.  We need to have the conversation, to make it better for everyone.

The Message was Lost in Translation

You should really go read Ryan Lambert’s ‘What We Learned” post for this week on Puck Daddy.  No, really, you should.  At least, the first part about the Drew Doughty contract negotiations, because it’s really good. I mean, it’s one of the more well thought out posts I’ve read about what the Kings are doing with this contract that is becoming more drama than business.

Like this:

What does he hope to accomplish by making these very public declarations? Is Doughty going to all of a sudden jump up and say, “Well heck Don Meehan, I really wanted that 25 grand!” and immediately fly to Los Angeles and, like Bobby Ryan before him, negotiate his own cap-friendly deal?

Short answer: No. This isn’t An Offer He Can’t Refuse. As of this writing Doughty’s missed two days of camp, so he’s currently looking at a paltry salary of $6.75 million a year. How horrible.

The only thing Doughty will likely care about at the end of the day is that Lombardi didn’t demur and say, “We’re not going to discuss the details of ongoing negotiations at this time.” By throwing out scraps here and there — what the team has already offered, what the player is looking for, how much each missed day of work will cost him, etc. — the only thing Lombardi can do is piss off his best player, not muscle him into finding a deal he or his representatives find unacceptable.

There’s more to read, and it’s worth your time.  But skip the headline:

What We Learned: Dean Lombardi’s lucky sports fans are idiots

I’m not a regular reader of Lambert, and it’s because of stuff like this.  It’s frustrating to read something like his take on the Doughty contract and see it underscored with name-calling and vitriol.  As smart as his take is, it’s undercut by the confrontational headline (and more in the post itself).

If you were to go to your boss, or your co-workers and tell them that you have a great idea, one that would make the company millions, and they would be pure morons if they didn’t listen and take your advice, you would be considered a fool.  You would have cut your own throat, and I can almost guarantee that you would be ignored.  You could take your idea and do what you wanted with it, but you would do it alone, because you turned off the people you were trying to communicate with, and ultimately influence.

Which is what Lambert does over and over.  And perhaps it’s in the name of style, and it’s a style that he likes.  But what it does is hurt his message.  What is the point of writing a well-considered post like this, only to shoot it dead before it is put on display?

I had an interesting chat with Ryan on twitter (@twolinepass), and he said a few things that I found interesting:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/twolinepass/status/115804263397072898″]

Unfortunately, if that’s the goal, it’s presented poorly.  It’s going to be ignored from the get go, as the lead is buried behind a confrontational headline.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/twolinepass/status/115804966224011264″]

I don’t know what’s so irrational about being upset at being called names.  I do think it’s irrational to stop reading Puck Daddy over one writer two tries to get people’s goat (and I don’t completely buy every fan that says they don’t read it).  If you don’t like something, skip that post and move on.  Sure, it’s an editorial decision to have Lambert write for the site, but having several voices on a site generally strengthens a site.  But to blame the readers for reacting poorly to a confrontational style is putting the blame in the wrong place.

So I responded:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Tapeleg/status/115805146033819648″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/twolinepass/status/115805796192878592″]

And there lies the rub.  I don’t believe for a moment that Lambert doesn’t care.  As the Shakespeare quote goes, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  (And no, I’m not calling Lambert a lady)  If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t write his posts, he wouldn’t try to spread his opinion, and he wouldn’t engage with hockey fans.  He would simply shake his head at we, the fans – the idiots – and keep to himself.

None of this is to tear Ryan Lambert a new one.  He has his style.  It’s his voice that informs his writing, and as caustic as that voice can be at times, it also makes him an interesting hockey writer.  Unfortunately, that style can be a huge barrier to entry.  This is more a plea, or a request for consideration – from both sides – that it isn’t necessarily the message that’s the issue, but the way it’s presented.


Hockey Podcast Poll

The hockey podcasting season is getting underway, and the field, just like the field of hockey blogging, podcasts are seeing some changes, like the end of Puck Daddy Radio, or the start of Smashville 24/7.  But podcasting, much like pimpin’, ain’t easy.  It’s hard to get good feedback about your show, since there isn’t an easy way to quickly comment on a podcast from an mp3 player, or your car.

Over at The Rink Podcast (making its return this season), I put up a poll for people who listen to hockey podcasts.  Ten questions designed to give hockey podcasters a better understanding of how their audience listens to their shows, and what they like and don’t like about the podcasts they listen to.

The poll is anonymous, and I plan on sharing a the data with any hockey podcaster who wants it.  Taking the poll will only help to improve hockey podcasting as a whole.

You can find the post with the poll at The Rink Podcast, or just go directly to the poll after the jump.  Thanks for helping.

(As I mentioned, the Rink Podcast returns this season after a way too long break.  I have a few guests lined up from hockey blogs around the NHL, and hopefully one co-host, but I’m still looking for another co-host to come on every third week or so to discuss the NHL, as well as other guests.  If you’re interested, hit me up in the comments, or send me a message here.)


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Another Tragedy

I have nothing but sadness over today’s plane crash that claimed the lives of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team.  Two former Avalanche players were on that plane, along with other former NHL players.  There is much better coverage of this tragedy elsewhere.

I was wearing the last practice jersey Karlis Skrastins wore with the Avalanche yesterday.  It’s an honor to have it.


Skrastins Jersey

The Battle

When we look at the death of a celebrity, of someone we don’t know but know of, we don’t look at their life so much as we look at ourselves. We measure the choices they made and the small sliver of their lives we know about in comparison to ours. We take the few things we guess about what it must be like to be them, and toss out the hard choices and experiences they had to endure to get to that place.

Derek Boogaard was the one that hit me the most. I didn’t know much about Rick Rypien, other than what I had read. But Boogaard was a guy I loved to watch, the few minutes he was on the ice. There was something about him that seemed so fun, but at the same time so real. He didn’t look or act like a character on the ice. He looked like someone who was having fun, even if it meant dominating someone in a fight.

And then, Wade Belak. At first, it was just another weird circumstance. But then, I saw this tweet (which I hope isn’t true):

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/simmonssteve/status/109041340146401280″]

We see in the stars, the celebrities, the people we cheer for and boo at, something about ourselves. We see a grander reflection when we watch the shining stars, or we see how we want to be. We condemn the villains, and ask how they could ever behave the way they do, because we would never do that.

And in the tragedy, in the people we see fall too soon, the ones who cause their own demise, we see ourselves as well. Perhaps even more clearly.

Depression is difficult. It’s difficult because you don’t see a way out of it when you are in it. You don’t feel like there is any solution. You feel like you should be able to take care of it on your own. Those times when you look around at your peers, your friends, and you wonder why you can’t pull it together. Even if you recognize it for what it is, depression never seems that unbeatable, until you can’t take it anymore. That is the most insidious part of depression, the part that makes you think it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, at the same time that it has it’s claws in you.

I’ve dealt with it. I still deal with it from time to time. I wonder what is wrong with me, why I’m so mad, or sad, or disconnected from the world. Those times you don’t see a way out, and you don’t know what to do next. When you see the happy people around you and wonder why you can’t connect with that same feeling. Or you don’t know why you’re here. At all.

I remember sitting on the corner of my bed when I was a teenager, with a knife in my hand. I was crying, because I didn’t know if I could take another day of the loneliness, or the anger, or the pain. I didn’t know if I could keep going. No one knew, and until now, no one ever knew. I sat there with that knife more than once. I looked at my wrists and said to myself, ‘do it.’ For some reason, I didn’t do it. Somehow, I went on another day, and then another. I don’t know why, but I did. And somehow, I made it this far.

Imagine how it is for an adult. You want to do things with your life, have a relationship, be with friends, do good work. Show your weakness, and you will never be looked at the same. Everyone will wonder when you will break. Some people will try to make it happen sooner. Some people are just like that. People with depression don’t want to be treated different, they want the tools to deal with how they feel. They don’t want sympathy, they want a solution.

Depression is easy to hide, but it’s also easy to ignore. It looks like a lot of things. Anger, loneliness, fear, even happiness. Yeah, we put a smile on our face to show that we aren’t weak, that we aren’t sad. People who are depressed hide it all the time. I hid mine for years, and I still do. I keep it from my co-workers, my friends and my family. I keep it locked away, and wait for the tool to surface that will some day make it all seem like it was worth it, that will let me walk away from it. I keep it away from the people closest to me. I try to keep it away from everyone. I’ve become an expert at hiding it.

I remember how people used to say – and maybe they still do – that suicide is the coward’s way out. There is no cowardice in those people. It took unbelievable strength to make it as far as they did. It’s more cowardly to turn your back on someone who is hurting. But first, you have to recognize it. And the person who is hurting has to let you know that they hurt that much. I wish it were easier than that, but it isn’t.

Where does that leave us today? With people saying you should hug a friend? With little tribute icons and status updates? What would it take to really fix the problem? What would it take to end the pain for someone?

Rypien, Belak, Boogaard. Those were some incredibly powerful people. They weren’t taken from us. We let them slip away. We’re all just slipping away.

UPDATE: I feel like, from the comments I’ve gotten, I should clarify something.

I’m more than 20 years removed from that teenager who didn’t know if he could go on.  Sometimes it feels like that was someone else.  I still have depression, but it isn’t all the time.  I feel good, and I feel bad.  I am functional, and can manage it sometimes.  Sometimes, I have a really hard time managing it.  But I don’t feel like doing myself in.  Somewhere out there, there is a solution.  That I know.  Until I find it, it’s still a struggle sometimes.  Not all the time, but often enough.