Happy Thursday, WFNY. How’s it going? Because we only have one active Cleveland sport in progress now, and I’m too depressed to talk about Kevin Love’s knee injury, we’re abandoning the pleasantries today, self-imposed and arbitrary “While We’re Waiting…” protocols be damned! On to the important stuff.
We (Cleveland, the sports community, the country, the homo sapiens species) have a problem. We can’t seem to agree on what the truth is; or — the “truth” being ever so elusive and hard to pin down — what’s a “good” opinion and what’s a “bad” opinion.
I suppose assessing the truth and evaluating opinion has been a problem since the dawn of man — at least since man moved from the purely instinctive “see rock, eat rock” to abstract thought. But our modern mode of living has made such determinations an essential part of daily life, maybe at the expense of our happiness. Written communication, then the printing press, and more recently the internet have exposed us to rapidly accelerating amounts of information, and with it infinite opportunities to accept or challenge declarations of fact.
I don’t mean “truth” in the philosophical or metaphysical sense; but in the practical sense. An “opinion” is a stance on potentially verifiable fact: pro, con, and all the shades in between. In modern parlance, opinions have pejoratively and cynically been rebranded as “takes.” “Truth”1 is an opinion so sound and reasoned based on the available body of evidence that it’s basically factual. In sports, this range from the trivial (Tony Bernazard struck out against the Boston Red Sox’ Bruce Hurst in the bottom of the 8th inning on May 22, 1984) to the significant (the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals after the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead). Was I at Fenway Park on Tuesday, May 22, 1984? No. But all the evidence I have, from a reliable source no less, suggests to me that Tony Bernazard struck out in the bottom that eigth inning. Could I refuse to believe this evidence, and instead exercise my right to go to the grave convinced that Bernazard hit a grand slam to tie the ballgame? Would I be correct? No more than a fan who swears the Warriors beat the Cavs in five games last season.
My point is that while we’re all entitled to our opinions, some opinions are better than others. When we have disagreements of fact (read: “truth”), it doesn’t always matter that who is “right” and who is “wrong,” as long as we’re both acting within the bounds of reason and rational thought. What matters is that we’re both in the ballpark. If I bring my dossier in favor of “Kyrie Irving is a superb point guard” (filled with his career accolades, true shooting percentage, clutch statistics, video of his dribbling, finishing at the rim, and game-winning shots) and you bring your dossier of “Kyrie Irving is ‘overrated’” (with DRPM and some other opaque, proprietary stats), then we’re having an argument — but both viewpoints are valid. If you’re going to argue that E’Twaun Moore or Shelvin Mack have had better careers than Kyrie Irving, then I’m going to ask if you’ve had a lobotomy.
Because what’s important is not necessarily that people are in agreement, but that their disagreements occur in the same area. What matters is that we’re in the same ballpark.
But the democratization of information and increasing individualization have led each person to believe that he or she has a valid viewpoint. Wasn’t it Descartes who said, “I tweet, therefore I am.”?
But that prioritization of the individual can reinforce bad ideas.2 Some opinions are better than others. Some viewpoints are invalid. You can argue until your dying breath that the 2016 Cleveland Browns were a good football team … but you would be fucking wrong. The 2016 Cleveland Browns went 1-15. They were a bad football team. No amount of sincerity; no earnest, heartfelt, genuinely experienced conviction will save you from the fact that the 2016 Cleveland Browns sucked at football. Believing otherwise is to endorse an utter falsehood. To mentally contort yourself into believing as much is no different than convincing yourself 2+2=5.3
This is why I’ve introduced a way to chart and qualitatively evaluate the validity of certain opinions versus others. The goal with any arguable opinion: Be in the ballpark. I call the qualitative metric “Ballpark Opinion Nearness Estimate Rating,” or BONER. I have chosen Progressive Field to serve as the ballpark for this demonstration, mostly because of its proximity to a lake, and the fact that I am an Indians fan from Cleveland, Ohio. Below, I have shown a wide spectrum of opinions on the Cleveland Browns, classified by their proximity to “being in the ballpark.” Think of it as a geographical map of bull shit. Explanations follow.
Note: The picture below may not translate well to mobile or some browsers. High-resolution satellite photos of Cleveland and Progressive Field via Zoom Earth on February 14, 2017.
Out of the Ballpark
Anyone to participate in an 0-16 parade should have been mowed down by a car
Rating: Not even in the ballpark; in Lake Erie
Remember when a prominent Cleveland radio personality suggested that he would run over people for participating in a joke-parade. This is an invalid opinion. To think this is to be provocative for the sake of attention, or to be a raging psychopath. In any event, you should be disregarded.4 Talk radio and Skip Bayless make careers trafficking such facially invalid opinions.
The 2016 Cleveland Browns were a good football team
Rating: Out of the ballpark; on the Shoreway
I feel I covered this adequately above. On top of being bad, the Browns went 4-12 against the spread, which is almost impossible. If you think the Browns were any good, you’re standing on Lakeshore Drive in BONER terms. This would be an objectively bad opinion, and be careful because there’s an Audi coming your way right now.
The Cleveland Browns will win Super Bowl LII
Rating: Out of the ballpark; on top of the Terminal Tower
We’re getting closer to actual reason … but you’re still delusional if you think the Browns are going to win the Super Bowl. If you’re wondering, “Who thinks the Browns will win the Super Bowl?” the answer is “thousands of people every year.” Is it worth putting $1 on the Browns with ridiculous odds? Sure, why not. But watch your step … it’s windy up there on the Terminal Tower.
Trade Joe Thomas
Rating: Out of the ballpark; in Erie Street Cemetery
Wait, the Browns are trying to build a winning culture, and you want to trade the only player who knows what he’s doing, and the only redeemable feature of the franchise over the last 17 seasons? You may talk about Thomas’ age, the lack of comparative value of offensive linemen (especially on bad teams), and the potential return (we’re getting close to the ballpark, after all). But … no. Your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. Please stay away from my football team.
In the Ballpark
It’s “too early” to evaluate the front office picks and coaching staff; Passing on Julio Jones is still defensible
Rating: In the ballpark, but foul
I’m not suggesting the organization should reboot again by canning Hue Jackson and the HBT. A complete assessment of the organization won’t be possible for years. Nevertheless, the rookies they did draft did [ital] underperform, and supposed quarterback whisperer couldn’t make Robert Griffin complete any more passes than previous coaches. This opinion, while fair, continue to enable a poorly managed franchise. The same could be said for failing to pull the trigger on a generational talent. While a nice haul to trade down, it had the potential for a huge mistake at the time, and it was.
Draft Mitch Trubisky No. 1 overall
Rating: In the ballpark, routine groundball
I get it. He’s a Northeast Ohio kid … maybe you have some Big Ben comparison or something. But it’s a reach. It’s a lovely opinion, but it’s a routine ground ball for Francisco Lindor or whoever’s playing shortstop in this elaborate analogy.
Trade No. 12 for Jimmy Garoppolo
Rating: In the ballpark, line drive out
The Browns need a quarterback. This guy may have osmosed some greatness from Tom Brady by standing close enough to huff his B.O. for three seasons. Awesome. Twelve seems a little high for a guy who’s started two more NFL games than I have though, no? Okay, well can we all agree trading both first rounders is too steep?
Trade a second-rounder or less for Jimmy G
Rating: In the ballpark, line drive to the gap
Sure? Last time I checked, the Browns still needed a quarterback, and Jimmy was highly rated coming out of college. Belichick views talent as disposable as a car towel, and he doesn’t have a ton of leverage. The Browns should be able to pull this off, right? This opinion’s a single, and may even roll for a double.
Draft Myles Garrett No. 1 overall
Rating: In the ballpark, home run
Everyone seems to believe Garrett is a sure thing, and there aren’t many red flags (or, as was the case of Manziel, white flags). If this pick fails, it will likely be the result of a freak occurrence. If we’re looking back on this pick in eight years saying, “We should have known that was going to fail” it will only be for persistent general Browns-related doom. This is a home run opinion. It doesn’t have to be yours, [ital] but surely you can see the merit in it, no?
Joe Thomas is good
Rating: In the ballpark, but then out of the ballpark via home run
Want to quibble about Joe Thomas’ Hall of Fame credentials or complain about that random false start against the Baltimore Ravens that you took a little too personally? Fine. Go crazy. But Joe Thomas is a damn good football player. This is hardly opinion, but more unassailable fact. This is Mike Napoli in batting practice after a full night’s sleep and a complete and balanced breakfast.
So there you have it. One of the reasons I appreciate the WFNY community so much is its general reasonableness. Let us continue to elevate discourse by being able to separate fact from fiction, in sports and otherwise. Was all this a long-winded way to tout the merit of my own opinions? No. I have some admittedly lousy opinions about the Browns (they infuriate me), Indians (I’m the least educated about baseball of all the major sports), contemporary pop music (most of it’s bad), the impending relevance e-sports (I don’t get it), and other drivers (they’re all dumb but me). But I have some good opinions about the Cavaliers, movies, Led Zeppelin songs, and burritos.
How do we take back takes from the bottom of Lake Erie? Vigilance, skepticism (not to be confused with incredulity), disqualification of the baldly wrong, accountability, civility, respect for the truth, appreciation for evidence, identification of our own biases, intellectual honesty, consistency with the primary source, and deference to reporting. Does this mean retweet people you disagree with telling them to fornicate with themselves? No. But please disengage from the irrational, ignore the delusional, or politely correct in a civic fashion. I’m wrong and I don’t know everything. Another underrated ingredient to productive argument? Humility.5 Because I’m often wrong and I don’t know everything. I endeavor to only be thoughtful, reasonable, and discerning. Which I hope I am.
Are we all ever going to agree on everything? No. But we should collectively agree on what’s in the ballpark. Down with #BadOpinions. Maybe you disagree with me and think the prevailing state of discourse is fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. But that doesn’t mean your opinion’s any good.
Your Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. As was to be expected, Calvin has already touched on the topic of today’s “While We’re Waiting…”
And now for the random 90s song of the day. This song made a random appearance on my brain’s soundtrack not long ago, a surviving relic of 90s pop not yet pushed out by useless sports statistics and even more useless professional knowhow. I suspect SiriusXM’s BackSpin reinvigorated at some point along the line. But in any event, I found myself singing, “Hey! Boy. I’ve been watching you!” over the course of an afternoon.
Somehow I had forgotten it was an Aaliyah song, which may be a subconscious defense mechanism because it’s depressing to think about her tragic passing. But luckily “Are You That Somebody?” is the first result when googling “hey boy i’ve been watching you song.” The video — as most videos from the 90s are — is delightfully tacky. Aaliyah is apparently a … falconer or something, defying a motorcycle game by performing choreographed dances in an underground supervillain lair where scenes from Dr. Doolittle project onto the dungeon walls. Producer Timbaland makes an appearance too (naturally). In an alternate universe, an Avicii remix of an Aaliyah/Beyonce track is crushing the Billboard charts right now, being downloaded tens of millions of times, and inescapably playing in every room you walk into. And now I’m sad again. But it’s a really catchy song.
Say yes or say no
Cause I really need somebody
Tell me are you that somebody?
- As I mean it here. [↩]
- Don’t worry, the irony that this is coming from an independent blogger with no verified legitimacy is not lost on me. [↩]
- “2+2=5” is a well-known Radiohead song, itself an homage to the revisionist-truth employed by Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. [↩]
- This is not to argue for or against the parade. Just the stance towards people participating in it. [↩]
- John Oliver has some ideas, too. [↩]