Cruel To Be KindS

To keep the comments as fresh and outstanding as they've been up to this point, we've commissioned Commenting Guru Rob Iracane, co-editor of Walk Off Walk, to write a bi-weekly Comment Ombudsman column. It runs every other week. This is that week.

Mr. Iracane is the guy who approves and deletes comments around here, and the fellow to whom you should address any comment account requests, and he will explore issues involved in commenting, what makes a great comment thread, what's working, what isn't, answer your questions, so on. We want the place to continue to be as much fun as it is every day, and it's not an execution thread like our friends at Gawker do. We like to be inclusive here, because if we're not, we'd be forced to rely on our own wit and knowledge, and that's a scary thought indeed.

So here's this week's column, on whether or not comments are "cruel," after the jump. Of course, don't be afraid to let him have it in the comments.

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Hey, remember when Will closed out all that Buzz Bissinger business? Yeah, me neither, so I have no shame keeping the lines of discussion wide open on Buzz and his rantings; I want to specifically discuss how what he said pertains to the comments we make here at Deadspin. After all, the comments are what enables the community of readers to give feedback to the editors and to make hilarious jokes about dead horses and sexually aggressive sportscasters. But do we have to be so goddamned cruel?

Bissinger lists three main criticisms of sports blogs: cruelty, dishonesty, and speed. I want to focus on the most important of those three, so let's ignore dishonesty and speed. When we comment, we are making jokes so there is no expectation of honesty. Also, speed has always been vital in comedy. Just ask Chris Farley's amphetamine-riddled corpse.

This leaves cruelty. What is it about anonymous commenting that allows someone to feel so safe about making brutal and horrifically vicious jokes about athletes they've never met? Oh yeah, it's the anonymity. Hundreds upon hundreds of us are hiding behind fake commenter names, thus protecting our precious reputations from the same slander we so freely sling at public figures like Bissinger, or Bob Costas. We don't hesitate to use curse words that would make our mothers blush, or to reference sexual acts that would make even Big Daddy Balls blush.

But isn't our right, as spelled out in the Deadspin commenting FAQ, to be anonymous? Sure, but that gives us no right to be cruel without being funny. Yes, we're just commenters, we're not reporters, we're not journalists, and, despite all the spinoff blogs, while we are in the Deadspin commenting box, we're not even bloggers. We're mostly here to be funny, and if Buzz Bissinger thinks that humor and cruelty are separate concepts, I'd like for him to name one polite (and funny) comedian in the history of the world.

Still, being cruel without being funny is wrong. Unfortunately, Bissinger had a ton of ammunition by just taking a cursory glance at the comments here. Sometimes, we post mean-spirited and quite unfunny garbage. That violates one of the ONLY two rules of Deadspin: do not not be funny. Every time I read through the pending comments of people who are auditioning to become commenters, I am very quick to deny people who are slinging insults without using humor. Why should the existing commenters be allowed to pull that crap? We shouldn't. No, we don't regularly execute commenters around here. But maybe we should stop giving people like Bob Costas the impression that we are cruel and unfunny assholes! I really LIKE Bob Costas! I don't want him to think I'm a dickhead!

Here are my two challenges to Deadspin commenters:

1. Don't be cruel without also being funny.
2. Try being funny without being cruel for just one day.

These commenters, however, don't need to work blue to be funny and thusly earned themselves Comments of the Fortnight:

Re: The Clemens-McCready affair
Jerkwheat: Koby Clemens is sneaking off with Abigail Breslin on the weekends

Re: Rick Ankiel's super-awesome center field throws
PenskeMaterial: There's a guy on my softball team who can fire a strike from the straightaway center field wall to the plate, every time. But like Ankiel, he does tons and tons of HGH.

Re: Lenny Dykstra's magazine missteps
Gourmet Spud: Athletes already have their own magazines. The weapons don't load themselves.