Yesterday, a man drove 35 minutes from his home to Temecula, Calif., on Christmas Day, in an attempt to fight another man over an argument about Kobe Bryant the two of them had on Twitter. No one came out clean. But who's less wrong here?
We couldn't settle this in the Deadspin chatroom, so here's a one-two-one between me, Burneko, and Marchman.
OK, look. Don't fight a man you met on Twitter over some shit he said on Twitter. Certainly don't drive 35 minutes to do it. Common ground. Keep it on wax. Fine. Maybe everyone here is a dipshit. But consider this: Twitter is a fucking disaster precisely because no one is driving 35 minutes to fight anyone they met there.
The basic reason for most online communication's status as an open sewer is anonymity—more or less everyone agrees on this. The corollary is that, short of a few celebrities or other Twitter-famous personalities, everyone is also treated like they're some faceless fuck-stick, even if they aren't strictly anonymous. Activist twitter, gaming Twitter, Android Twitter—all Twitters are obnoxious in their own way, flattening all interaction into bigot/ally or real/fake binaries. Basketball Twitter's own particular brand of obnoxiousness involves using a running full-on stream-of-know-it-all-consciousness to bring the word of god as told through SportVU to the savage shithead masses and preaching horsefucker pedant sermons.
Only from the ass-end of a no-account Twitter-strong pedant of a shit-grinning basketblogger can this shit come. Imagine talking to anyone in real life like that! Imagine being compelled to introduce eFG% and defensive impact around the rim with a haughty wave of your hand to every asshole at the bar who wants to talk some mess about Kobe. Imagine 284 million assholes doing this at all times about all things to all comers. The world would end before nightfall. Apparently Snottie has had five separate people try to come find him in real life off of some shit he said on Twitter; he probably isn't pumping the brakes after this. But just keeping it in the back of your mind that some guys in your mentions are ones you shout down with advanced metrics and some are RealAF and will come box you might, in a sensible world, make basketball Twitter a little less shit.
I've come around to a kind of grudging respect for RealAF. If nothing else, his RealAFness has been certified: Here is a man who will put down Christmas dinner, fuel up his car, and drive to Temecula to go fisticuffs on behalf of his—what? honor? rep? whatever—against a total stranger with opposing Kobe Bryant opinions. Hey, everyone! Don't disagree with RealAF. He's not just a toddler online, but also in the real world, and that is real as fuck.
But, seriously: In the abstract, I can get behind the determination that there should be no gap between his online and real-world belligerence. As a sort of code of conduct, "Don't act like a confrontational tool on the internet unless you're willing to behave like a confrontational tool off of it" has much to recommend it. (Note: I frequently am a confrontational tool in both spheres; the great news for everybody else is, I couldn't beat up a wet bag full of mayonnaise, and get weepy and remorseful at the prospect.) But, as a practical thing, that's an argument for not having Twitter fights about Kobe Bryant, not for driving to Temecula to turn those Twitter fights into actual real-world bloodsport. I'm reminded of the conversation between a battered Bill Buford and an aghast Finnish reporter at the end of Among the Thugs. Their shared conclusion? Everything is very stupid. Everything. All of it. The whole thing. All stupid. Forever.
Everyone wants to punch basketbloggers. A simmering background wish to punch basketbloggers is a basic feature of my life. Still, at the point at which some (ahem) snotty internet weenis has goaded you into actual threats of violence over whether the Lakers are better without Kobe Bryant, you've lost. That's a loss. It's a bigger loss if you get in your car. It's a bigger loss if you start the engine. When you get to Temecula, you are the Sixers. If the fight occurs, even if you win, you lose. Everybody loses. RealAF lost. Snottie Drippen lost. Everything is stupid. Never Tweet.
Obviously, there isn't really anything to debate here. The one guy's claim was that he is real as fuck, and driving 35 miles to Temecula to beat someone up because they were acting like a prick on Twitter is unquestionably real as fuck. Anyway, in the context of an argument over whether Kobe Bryant is a shambling corpse or the last remnant of the American West in which effective field goal percentage comes up, being the one who says, "Meet me at the Gold's Gym in Temecula" is actively heroic.
Someone who wanted to gin up a debate, though, might point out that there's at least some nuance here—that while menacing an internet user with aggressively pedantic opinions about sports is honorable, and driving 35 miles to Temecula in service of that menacing is praiseworthy, the heroism here is tied up with there not actually having been any kind of real live Twitter-inspired violence. Keeping it real as fuck by showing up to an empty parking lot, this argument would go, is a different thing from keeping it real as fuck by showing up to a parking lot and actually beating someone's ass and/or getting your ass beaten.
Basically, the question here—an appropriate one, given what started all of this—is about whether you can divorce admirable means from not-entirely-admirable ends. I would say that it's all situational, and dependent on the degrees of actual and intended harm involved. Just as Kobe's conscience-free shooting is glorious rather than horrifying largely because the Lakers suck so badly that it doesn't matter what he does anyway, the one guy driving to Temecula to fight a rando was admirable precisely because the stakes were so low. No one was getting shot here. The worst thing that was going to happen was an ass-beating, and going by the way this all played out, whoever took it would have deserved it.
Image via Getty