Unfortunate ‘spin’

FI-EditorialA funny thing happened on the way to the 144th Greenwich High School commencement being just another chance for teenagers to throw red and white caps in the air … the Internet got involved.

So now last Friday’s commencement isn’t just a chance for the 674 students in the class of 2013 to earn hearty congratulations for their hard work, bask in their accomplishments and receive a little advice on the way out that they can either remember or let disappear as quickly as the bubbles being blown throughout the ceremony. Thanks to a popular website known as Deadspin, the ceremony is now the occasion for the “rumbling, bumbling, stumbling” speech given by commencement speaker Chris Berman.

You know Chris Berman, don’t you? The guy from ESPN? The one with the “back, back, back back GONE!” home run calls and the guy who goes “He…could…go…all…the…way” when describing a touchdown run. Well, he was the speaker choice for the graduation and, days after the ceremony, Deadspin decided his speech was the worst thing it had ever heard. It quoted not only anonymous graduates blasting the address as the “most random speech I’ve ever heard” and “the worst speech at the graduation,” but even harsher tweets from graduates (because what good is a graduation if you can’t live tweet it?).

So Deadspin declared the speech to be “a disaster” based on those assessments and made no mention of the fact that Berman did this as a favor (he doesn’t live in Greenwich anymore nor did he attend GHS) to the town for taking such good care of his parents all these years, and that he personally thanked first responders for responding to late night calls at their home for medical help.

This points to a problem in our culture today. It’s not enough that something be disliked. Oh, no, it must be soundly mocked and obliterated through clever snark. Something that’s not enjoyed doesn’t get what it deserves until the Internet gangs up on it.

Now, we shouldn’t be naive. It’s not as though the world was a bastion of civility and politeness before that mean and nasty Internet came along. Websites like Deadspin are here to stay because they are very good at what they do. Plus, if we lose our sense of humor and decide that nothing can ever be mocked then we might as well give up now and wait quietly for the inevitable end times.

Anyone who has ever read Deadspin will know it is not fans of Mr. Berman’s style or on-air personality. And believe it or not, that’s OK. But to write a whole posting on a well-trafficked website about how bad a graduation speech is without even seeing it just because you don’t like a guy? Is that where we’re at today? There’s a very thin line between being funny and being mean and it gets shredded every day. For every person saying “Oh that’s too much” there’s another going “We want more.” Yet, is online mocking really the height of cleverness?

Was the speech too long? Well, it certainly could have lost about 10 minutes, but let’s not act as though an overlong speech is an insult to the fine tradition of breezy graduation ceremonies. Too often the tendency these days is to pile on. It’s not enough to be bad. It has to be the worst ever. The knives have to come out.

There’s so much more out there to enjoy than to mock. Talking about something you hate has seemingly become more fun than talking about something you love. Life is becoming a 24/7 bout of heckling. and it’s nothing to cheer.

Fighting that is probably like trying to stop a tidal wave with a bucket, but it would be nice if this tendency took a day off every once in a while.

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