The Cerebral Vortex
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Ever sit up late at night on FanNation, roaming through the dead message boards and throwdown screens, streaming through the archives of obscure blogs on long-forgotten topics? What does one think to himself as insomnia keeps him creeping through the assembled detritus, fishing for those nuggets of wisdom to sustain the lust for intelligent thought? Here's one... what am I doing here?

 

People have become introspective lately, looking at why they are here and what the future holds for the place we call FanNation. A lot of ire has been flung at the moderators, at the site administrators, at Sports Illustrated and STI and the powers that be. Certainly, there are glitches that are truly maddening and deserve some constructive criticism from the community which best knows what it seeks from the site. However, that community must know its goals for the advancement of that site as well... 

 

What attracts people to this site? Most of us here found this site happenstance, clicking along through the Sports Illustrated website, when a link brought us here. I can't quite remember what it was that brought me here... perhaps it was the throwdowns, or one of those football-pick challenges or something of that nature. I can't really remember anymore. Whatever it was, it came to pass that I stayed here. First the throwdowns sucked me in, and later I discovered that this could be a useful outlet for my burgeoning writing career. As I became familiarized with the site a broad world of like-minded potential readers appeared splayed before me, ready and willing to absorb what I had to offer...

 

Another thing revealed itself to me. Invites began to pour into my FanMail inbox -- friend invites, links, funny comments... but most of all, invites to join fan-created groups on the site... 

 

Every society has its controversies. No congregation, large or small, can exist without petty enmities amongst some of its members. Cliques invariably form when many people converge upon one site... whether physical or virtual. No community can be immune from such formations occurring, and indeed no society should wish to be immune from the creation of such factions...

 

Any free society is inherently founded on the principle that people can band together and find common voice toward a cause. Political parties, non-profit organizaitons, weekly poker games and yes, even our sports allegiances, all serve to bind disparate peoples together in a common interest and enrich our public discourse as these disparate parties work toward a goal. However, these same parties can quickly devolve into petty infighting, factional disputes, sectarian strife... leading toward the dissolution of order within the societal structure...

 

Is this the direction in which FanNation is turning? This site, this subsidiary of the Sports Illustrated empire, was bought from STI to serve as a vehicle through which sports fans across the country and globe could congregate and converse about sports with like-minded individuals. It gives people the power to write and be read by other fans. It even allows, in a novel debate forum, the ability for fans to civilly argue controversial issues surrounding sports...

 

Groups can be valuable resources. They allow fans of a certain team or sport to have a place where like-minded fans can be found. They can take themselves seriously or be a place of levity to escape from the real world. They can provide a sounding board for people to chat with one another, they can help people find information and create throwdown tournaments, they can allow strong writers on a given topic to come together to pool their resources. They can, though, become a source of overarching pride for some...

 

It is far too commonplace that I find myself entering a throwdown or a blog and reading comments by one person, attacking the author or another commentator based on nothing save a predisposed notion. For some, the HaterNation, if you will, stems from antagonisms between groups or an individual versus a group. The group can far too often also be used as a cheap flood-mailer, sucking in voters to vote for the name above the avatar rather than the arguments under the topic sentence. Indeed, in a democracy (and especially our present democracy) explanation is neither requisite nor solicited in order to vote. One can rest comfortably knowing that they can vote without being scrutinized for that vote...

 

Or can they?

 

People get called out for voting based on group allegiances despite there being no requirement for voting. While I stress intelligent voting principles based on sound debate analysis -- as a former competitive debater in both high school and college, the arguments indeed DO matter to me more than my own opinions on the issue -- it is not a requirement. However, collusion in voting is both underhanded and uncouth. It is akin to backstabbing an opponent. Throwdowns are meant to be "a structured debate between two Fans." They are not meant to be popularity contests; they are not meant to be lessons in self-promotion. The arguments SHOULD speak louder than words... but not at the behest of people's right to privacy in voting...

 

I see a lot of polls sprouting lately, pronouncing their top 25 this or that. Hell, I've seen my own name show up on a fair share of them, and that is all good and well. I am flattered that so many people enjoy reading my work, and hopefully I'll one day use the leverage of a dedicated audience to get paid for doing this. However, as any sports fan ought to know these polls are subjective as can be. Names, however, do appear frequently on multiple lists because these are the posts which are consistently read by the widest audience. This has nothing to do with an attempt to undercut one group's membership over another's... rather, this is merely the way polls work. Some feel neglected, others appear overrated, et cetera. As with just about anything posted here or elsewhere in this cerebral vortex we call the internet, take what you read and see with a beautiful pink chunk of rock salt. There's no perfect formula...

 

So do what you will. Strife and tension can be a necessary function of society... after all, nothing gets advanced when everyone is of one mind. Differences of opinion are what broaden our discourse. But we must strive to broaden that discourse, rather than use our clique status to continue factioning our virtual society and hurling invective in the name of some artificial construct. Lest we all end up idiots, it is time everyone on this site -- myself included at times, as I'll be the first to cast in self-flaggelation -- take a deep look inside and realize what brought us here and what keeps us staying. We can use this site as a force for enmity... or we can advance our common bonds as sports fans and as humans... the choice is within each of us. 

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