Body language police

With today's woke scolds and the Moral Majority of yesteryear, the tactics and motivation are the same.

On Tuesday, a running observer named Chris Chavez seemed to ask a question, though punctuation fatigue or some other factor turned it into more of a Hey, look at this dick! tweet:

When will announcers learn that comments like this contribute nothing to the sport and are meaningless…just inappropriate

— Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) September 8, 2020

Chris has a checkmark next to his name because he's written for ESPN and Sports Illustrated, and is the cofounder of the website Citius Mag, which is sort of an ensemble blog that offers some insightful and funny writing, rich in self-deprecating humor and light-hearted tongue-in-cheek jabs (last I checked, anyway). As someone who goes straight to self-condemnation and chainsaw-style sarcasm, I appreciate the ability of some people to exercise gradations in this area.

In this case, though, Mr. Chavez was displaying all of the cognitive powers of a young child. If you watch the half-minute video clip, you'll notice that it, like the tweet embedding it, contains no information about the event or people it shows. It also doesn't name the announcer, but I'll quote that bloke in full:

"There you see in the pink....(you) can actually tell by looking at the way they're built that -- heh -- they're the pacemakers...much more muscle mass on our two pacemakers."

That's it. If you know anything about track, you recognize that the guy's chuckling is over the differences in physique between the sprinter types who serve as pacesetters for a 1,500 meters (Chavez is of no help here, but you can tell it's a 1,500 from the position of the starting line) and the actual entrants in those events. It would be easy to point out various examples that blow apart this idea as an absolutist one -- Maria Mutola, one of my favorite 800-meter specialists ever, ran 4:01.50 for 1,500 meters despite being extremely muscular at a time when that was a far better performance; Paul McMullen was practically a Clydesdale when he won a U.S. 1,500-meter title -- but in general, the announcer is right. And it may "contribute nothing to the sport" in Chavez's opinion to point out the fairly obvious, but to me this is no worse than a proud member of the media failing to identify the race, the setting, the athletes, or anything else here and simply inviting a pile-on instead. 

Oh, and about that: You should have noticed by now that the announcer's comment could just as easily been observed of a male field, as I've seen happen many times in my 35 years of sitting slack-faced in front of screens showing people running in circles proficiently enough to earn money and recognition for their trouble. Women announcers across different sports -- what few there are for now in most sports, anyway -- also freely comment in some way on the relative physiques of athletes. Frankly, it's absurd to imagine anyone being an announcer for long while keeping people like Chavez, who saw the comment as sexist, happy. (His tweet only implies he believes this, but he clears up any confusion here, saying that he was "disgusted.")

Chavez wasn't looking to sound reasonable here, though. He's capable of it, but not in this mode. This was a quest for validation. And soon enough, this happened:

Hire more women as announcers and you'll certainly have fewer announcers laughing at the women's bodies.

— Lindsay Crouse (@lindsaycrouse) September 8, 2020

Reasonable people who accurately report what their senses tell them heard no evidence in the clip of "laughing at the women's bodies." But on the matter of women allegedly being inclined to obey the unwritten rule that women's bodies are off-limits for discussion -- even in comments limited to "muscle mass" -- I wonder how these accusers and language cops feel about 2:29 marathoner Allie Kieffer discussing her own weight at some length -- in Sports Illustrated, no less, in an article contrasting Kieffer's body with Steph Rothstein Bruce's? Or about this review by a woman in Women's Health Magazine of Maggie Vessey's novel racing 2014 kits?

Lindsay Crouse, which also sports a blue checkmark, is a name that will come up here again. Her limited body of work to date is maybe three or four tons of bullshit somehow stuffed into a 100-pound bag. Not so long ago, it would have been impossible to believe that she's not being secretly and handsomely paid by shadow figures to make progressive feminists look sloppy, clueless and self-sabotaging, although perhaps she's a robot constructed by the Russians to serve the same disruptive purpose. 

Concerning this next one, I'd like to be able to truthfully tell you that "Unnecessary, inappropriate, harmful" all refer to the car threatening to run over the field, since that would make some sense. A lot more than the way these words are being applied here. 

The next one is significant for who retweeted it.

Unnecessary, inappropriate, and harmful

— Fast Women (@fast_women) September 8, 2020

Et tu, Lauren? What happened to "keeping it real"? (Oh.)  Better yet, in what world is it simultaneously acceptable for a high-profile (blue checkmark: Check) elite runner to go on about her own "cottage cheese thighs" while tsk-tsking, via retweet, comments that pacesetters who happen to be women are muscular?

Astonishingly, or not, many of the respondents to these three clownish tweets insisted that the announcer was calling the women "fat." No one bothered to correct this.

Why not? Well, factual correctness isn't the point in displays such as these. All of this nonsense is explicable on the basis of moral grandstanding (ya, everything has a label now, and more and more of them are getting what used to be derisively called Conservative Caps). Basically, as one of the speakers in the podcast explains, this takes two forms, both of which are aimed at achieving status while flying the flag of a moral cause or otherwise evincing "goodness." An archetypal example is the person who tells you on Instagram to donate to a given cause even though that person doesn't and in fact mooches off others as a way of life, or anyone wanting to self-identify as responsible at this juncture in history by stressing that they have masks sewn across their faces and haven't exhaled fully in public for over six months. 

More often, moral grandstanding involves trying to score points with a team on a social platform, pointing out examples of stuff that people should just quit saying by now because it's wrong, even if they haven't actually said the stuff and when others nominally within the same tribe are saying precisely such stuff and "worse." The examples here fall firmly within the "score points" category. I believe that Chris Chavez normally operates in good faith, and, based on comments on Letsrun when he was first getting started, that he really wants his work to be liked. That's admirable and, because it seems to mean that he himself wants to be widely liked, completely incompatible with serious reporting, especially these days. In his Citius Mag follow-up, he offers, not getting it at all, "The snicker right before he says it was the absolute worst part." It's possible that he doesn't understand what the announcer was laughing at; he clearly has no idea why people some people reacted as they did. It's not that he's "soft" or " a snowflake"; it's that he's just wrong, and the fact that he's focusing on such terms shows you that his head's not in the right place here.

My favorite part is his complaint about the announcer failing to provide context or names. I have a feeling that we're up against a learning curve with a grade of at least 80 or 90 percent here.

The other two are not to be trusted as stewards of legitimacy, and both have shown that they will say whatever's most convenient at any time, much like Donald Trump; both have often stepped in sizable piles of shit as a result. They're unaware of how obvious these missteps are to people who have been around a while and aren't unthinking, unconditional fanboys or fangirls.

If none of the foregoing seems like the kind of collective dishonest shit-mobbery that is more damaging than any comments about muscular pacemakers could be, consider it from this angle: A stringer for the Daily Caller or Breitbart Sports posts a video clip of a running race, wherein an African-American commentator says that one of the leaders, a Finn believed to be returning from a bout of anemia, looks "a little too pale to hang on." Also imagine that most of the runners in the lead pack are East African. It would be easy to see conservative outlets running with this and screaming about reverse racism, or bellyaching that everything with "some people" has to be about skin color, et cetera. After watching this game of dipshit Twitter-tag unfold, you'd be shaking your head at how far some people will go to identify moral injustices as long as at makes them look better to the right crowd.

Finally, try to imagine what track and field will look like if this element gets its apparent wish. Very few people regularly watch track and field or road running anyway, and you can't blame them -- it's boring to most people, especially distance races. If all descriptive language is stripped away for fear of upsetting someone, even fewer people will be likely to tune in because even running fans won't bother. I guess it would be possible to just use numbers and other codes to convey everything required during a broadcast or webcast.

If checkmark people in the running world continue to shit where they eat, and they will, they're going to cause a lot more headaches than they already have, because their eagerness to spread lies and half-truths, the contrived moral outrage, the cherry picking and the hypocrisy here all smack of right-wing religious movements, as do the censorious demands. I'm tempted to say. "We're better than this," but really, that's unproven. "We" are good at making a lot of noise over nothing because it's easier to get a louder ring from the community bell that way; how likely is some Australian rando to even hear about his phantom sexism?

Just since I started this post, I've found even more pronounced examples of deception, misunderstanding and startling levels of ignorance from the same basic pool of voices. More on that come mid-week, probably.