I get a fair amount of hate mail. It comes with the territory and part of me enjoys actually reading and responding to it. But there isn't really hate mail quite like Alabama hate mail.
The first salvo came with a throwaway joke about the 2008 PapaJohn's.com Bowl, objectively the worst bowl of all time. (No one denies this.) I took a backhanded swipe at the city of Birmingham, they took some swipes back, I (childishly) responded in kind. All in the name of good fun and quality pizza. But as time went on, I noticed a trend. Of all the emails I got from people who missed the point—and there were a lot—the ones about stories from Alabama seemed to miss it by the widest margin.
What many readers don't get is that I enjoy arguing about sports and almost never take it personally. Debate is what makes the games interesting. I don't care if people call me names or don't realize that I'm a white guy. I don't even care if they think I'm stupid. But what infuriates me to no end, is people who think I'm stupid because they completely misunderstood what I wrote. I will go to great, unreasonable lengths to convince these people that they are the ones in the wrong. Unfortunately, these are the people that are hardest to reach.
Last year I wrote a post about the Tennessee Volunteers hostess program and threw in a couple of lines about U of A that were neither accusatory or slanderous. Yet I got an email from the actual Director of Graduate Admissions—a Ph.D.!—calling me a liar and demanding that I prove to him a fact that I had not asserted. When I pointed out that I was not specifically talking about Alabama when I said that some hostess groups were attached to school admissions offices, making his point of contention meaningless, his response was, "I really don't have time to deal with you." But he started it! Gah!!
Shortly thereafter, I began a correspondence with an individual named Stacey that I feel perfectly encapsulates everything I find maddening about readers, complainers, Alabama and the internet. It's not the angriest email I've ever received, or the most insulting, but it contains all the rhetorical tricks that most flummox me—misrepresentation of ideas; calling someone a liar for something they didn't say; inability to follow linear argument; insults, followed by mocking someone for their anger over being insulted; references to relatives in law enforcement; declaring attempts to defend oneself as "being defensive"; and then calling someone a "lady" because they got upset. I fell for every one of them.
I am not at all proud of my behavior here, but some people just inadvertently know how to make me insane. Just like when a driver who nearly causes an accident honks their horn and speeds away believing they're the ones who have somehow been wronged, I will never know if Stacey eventually realized her error or was simply fucking with me the entire time. In any case, I reprint the entire exchange to prove a maxim I've long held dear, yet too often ignored: "Never argue with a fool, because bystanders might not be able to tell you apart."
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From Stacey G.
Coming from a long line of Alabama graduates and being proudly enrolled in the graduate school myself, I am well-schooled in the history of the University. Your post about "Bear's Angels" is not only untrue, but irresponsible. Do your homework.
Dash to Stacey:
Ok, so school me. What part is not true? (Or irresponsible?) I cited more than one independent reference to Bear's Angels, so are you saying they didn't exist?
Stacey to Dash:
That is comical. What credible reference did you cite? Yes, irresponsible is the EXACT word to describe your post. Alleging that at UA, female hostesses are "attached to the school's admissions office, but operated in a shady netherworld"? You school me in how that is credible or accurate reporting.
Dash to Stacey:
Look, I know the word "Alabama" appeared elsewhere in that paragraph, but if you read it again you might notice the punctuation mark known as a period that signals the end of one thought and the beginning of another. In the sentence you just selectively and incompletely quoted, I actually used a different set of nouns, adjectives and qualifiers (groups [plural], usually, often?) none of which are synonyms for the "University of Alabama." I never claimed that UA's recruiting groups were part of the admissions office, which ironically would have made them less suspect as an organization.
You are now the second person affiliated with Alabama who has expressed confusion about this point and that really has me concerned. Now if you have any real factual errors to discuss and not simply imagined slights, I would be happy to discuss those with you further.
P.S. However, you are absolutely right that Sports Illustrated is not a credible journalistic reference.
Wow, Dash, you are arrogant and condescending, but then again, you grew up in Michigan, so you have successfully lived down to expectations. While I realize you like to poke fun at the South, and admittedly we are easy sources for material, I am well aware of grammar and punctuation.
Plenty of schools have Belles, Ambassadors, Hostesses, etc. However, UT sends their girls to prospective athletes' high school games and hometowns to woo them. As a former Division I athlete, I know recruitment regulations and how many contacts or visits are allowed. The violation is the location, frequency, and timing of the contact if the NCAA deems the girls official representatives of the University.
[This] is libel. You imply that Alabama's Admissions Office pimps out young women. You patronizingly said my interpretation of your writing "concerns" you; your loose semantics should concern you. It is not an "imagined slight."
I guess they don't teach libel at Alabama either. I implied no such thing and your reading of this is pure fantasy.
How do you still not get that the third sentence has nothing to do with the first two? Should I break it down for you? "Groups" — plural, meaning other groups at other schools that may or may not be the ones previously mentioned. "Often" — meaning not "always or "every." At no point did I even hint that Alabama's recruiting group was affiliated with the school admissions office and I never accused (implied or otherwise) anyone at the school of any wrongdoing. The sentence that you're so worked up over is not even about Alabama and I'm not suggesting that anyone, at any school, is a pimp. If fact, had you managed to get past this particular paragraph, I specifically stated later in the piece that these girls are not under orders from anyone and that the Alabama group doesn't even exist anymore. This isn't semantics, it's basic reading comprehension.
You, on the other hand, know for a fact that the UT's girls were operating under orders from the school. THAT would be libel, were I stupid enough to print it. But unlike you, I try not to make accusations that I can't back up.
And yes, I am condescending and arrogant, but only to people to call me a liar without actually pointing out any of my lies. I eagerly await your newest trumped up charge (sexism? bribery? halitosis?) against me.
Nice retort. "The lady doth protest too much methinks" You being the lady.
I've pointed out your inaccuracies, and yet you attempt to insult me instead of answering me. I've read your entire piece. I've never called you a liar. Resorting to personal attacks and insults does not reflect upon my intelligence but the lack of yours and the lack of your ability to simply be able to back up what you write.
With a dad and brother who are FBI agents as well as a brother who is an attorney, I know exactly what constitutes libel. I claimed no "facts" about UT. Check your own reading comprehension. I told you the alleged violation and why UT is being investigated.
This is actually my fault. I can't ask you to do your homework when I didn't do mine before writing you. Had I been aware that your credibility rating is a mere 51%, I would not have taken your piece seriously. It seems a better use of your time would be to actually do your job and research your topics instead of trying to get in a pissing match.
You have still failed to point out a single statement I've made that is factually inaccurate. Everything that you've accused me of being wrong about so far are things that I didn't actually say (Or imply, suggest, hint, nudge or wink at.) You inferred them, through a willful misreading of my words. The irony is that I thought Alabama actually came out quite favorably in piece, but then I don't get insanely defensive whenever someone mentions my alma mater.
However, I would like to take a moment to point out a few more of your inaccuracies. (Remember, you started this pissing match and while I'm flattered that you think otherwise, my time is not that valuable.)
Stacey: "I've never called you a liar."
Stacey's first email: "Your post about "Bear's Angels" is not only untrue." Saying things that are untrue, makes one a liar doesn't it?
Stacey: "Resorting to personal attacks and insults does not reflect upon my intelligence but the lack of yours."
Stacey's previous paragraph: "You being the lady." Previous email: "You grew up in Michigan, so you have successfully lived down to expectations." Okay, that one was a whole state, so maybe that doesn't count as "personal."
Stacey: "I claimed no "facts"
Stacey's last email: "However, UT sends their girls to prospective athletes' high school games and hometowns to woo them." No qualifiers (alleged? might? maybe? possibly?) makes this a statement of fact.
Stacey: "Had I been aware that your credibility rating is a mere 51%"
My last blogger credibility score was 54%, thank you very much. (Made up statistic courtesy of Internet Credibility Clearinghouse, Oct. 2009.) Now who's not doing their research?
You tickle me.
I don't think you are in a position to accuse anyone of being insanely defensive. Look how much time you've spent on one complaint. I'm amused and flattered you took time to attempt a point by point run down of my emails. Futile, but still flattering. I'm telling you, though, you are wasting precious time — 54% (sorry, you're correct — I must have looked at a diff't poll than you — there is more than one, you do know that, right? And regardless, gosh, 54 is so different from 51) is not something to be proud of. Would you trust a doctor who was accurate only 54% of the time? Would you use birth control that works only 54% of the time? Your garrulous nonsense is Palin-ish and irrelevant. Run along now and copy and paste more articles from Sports Illustrated.
Happy Holidays, Dash — say, are your parents Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl?
Dearest Stace (no Y, because I think we're reached that level in our relationship):
"Futile" is definitely the word to describe any attempt to reason with you.
P.S. It has just now occurred to me that Stacey is probably a dude. That information might have helped me.