The Internet is a strange place. It is, at the same time, a conduit allowing diverse peoples with even more diverse ideas to challenge one another and a hyperbaric chamber for likeminded zealots to feed one another’s similar delusions. Although this rings true for any obsession, from politics to poodle grooming, it is perhaps most true for sports fandom. And most most true for college football fandom.
Since about the latter half of last season, when Mark Ingram’s Heisman campaign really, pardon the pun, grew legs, an obstinate corner of the Alabama fan base proposed that, even though Ingram was an exceptional player, his back-up, Trent Richardson, might be even better.
Of course, if we lived in a reasonable and ordered world, such people would be provided thorough psychiatric evaluations and prescribed some elixir that might prevent them from consistently kneecapping any joy they find in life. Instead, we live in our world and such people take to the Internet.
Predictably, when news came out this week that Ingram would miss at least this week’s game against San Jose State with a knee injury, those same voices decried Alabama’s chances against its schedule with an unproven starter at tailback. The Internet is a strange place.
But this sad condition is not restricted to Alabama fans. I have encountered heretics from the Sunshine State who have convinced themselves that Tim Tebow, who just this time last year was discussed as potentially the greatest football player ever, was, in truth, holding the Gator offense back. Now, the lad may be our favorite Christian, but this seems taking charity a bit too far.
Further evidence comes in the erosion of our belief in caveat emptor. A fellow I know placed items for sale on Craigslist, expecting that his postings would be seen as the impetus of gentlemanly negotiation. Instead, he awoke to an inbox filled with missives questioning his ethics, sanity, and the chaste intentions of his elderly mother.
Bartering, as any Middle Easterner could tell you, requires confidence and mutual respect. That this fellow could not find either on a website where student meal plans are swapped for hand jobs is no mystery. His offer was not seen as real communication from a real person to another real person, but a trifle. A transient jumble of text and numbers. An instant to be read, assessed, and discarded.
It’s not all bad news. In the pre-Internet days, gullible and desperate know-nothings ended up in religious cults, which seemed to pop up anew every couple of weeks. Nowadays, they just show up in DC for the one weekend, dry each other’s tears with pages from Atlas Shrugged, and decry their imaginary bugaboos.
I’ve no time for such fantasy. Tomorrow, the virtual will be replaced by the literal. It’s football season.