There's a current thread on the Old Reds Guard (http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51099) that really got me thinking. If you haven't read the discussion, go do it. There are some very persuasive arguments, and it was refreshing to see so many people realizing they shouldn't read into things too much.
Here's a part of the story that sparked the discussion:
He then grabbed clubs and was apparently off to play golf.The other day Hatteberg questioned if the Reds — who haven't had to play for anything in recent Septembers — still have guys who think they don't have to show up every day.
Is resolve giving way to resignation?
Dunn shrugged at the questions: "I have no idea. We're just playing bad at the wrong time. There's nothing we can do. I guess we could take extra batting practice, but that's not really going to do anything..."
Here's what bugs me. Dunn said something stupid. But I doubt he meant anything by it. I doubt he was literally advocating skipping practices and drills because they're "not really going to do anything." But when I read that quote, I winced and knew it was going to create problems.
Personally, to me it just sounded like a guy frustrated by the team's misfortunes. When he said that he doubted even extra batting practice could help, I could imagine the sarcasm in his voice. A kinda "nothing could help us poor bastards right now" mentality.
However, I'm guessing other people read it differently. If they're already questionning Dunn's work ethic and feel he's a "loafer," I knew they would have taken the comments more literally. And I knew it would have supplied ammo for their arguments.
And, in fact, some of those critical comments appear in the original thread. Luckily, there's enough people on the board who understood the toungue-in-cheek nature of the comment and defended it as non-news.
But here's what bugs me. Most people reacted (in what my opinion was) reasonably. The knew not to take anything anything too literally and to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
But why can't people be equally reasonable when the topic doesn't involve a favorite player or manager?
Imagine if it were one of the crappy relievers, Jerry Narron, Juan Castro, John Allen, Royce Clayton or other targets of frequent criticism who said something similar to Dunn's comment. Many of those otherwise-reasonable people would be up in arms. They'd paste the quote into their signatures, use it constantly to defend their arguments that so-and-so doesn't care about winning, and accept it as fact about a player's character. That one quote would follow the player for years.
Remember when Rich Aurilia said he didn't come to Cincinnati to be on the bench? Tons of people labeled him a selfish player with a huge ego. That perception dogged him for months, and people still rag on him for thinking he's a superstar. Krivsky mentions something about "things have a way of working themselves out," and people quote it to prove he's a guy who doesn't plan for the future. Remember when John Allen said ownership doubted they could raise payroll one year if they didn't get attendance up? People now claim he told the media it's the fans' fault they were going to shrink the payroll.
Just in the day since that whole Dunn thread was started, I've read tons of other posts and was left scratching my head and thinking, "How can people take these quotes so literally? Why can't they brush it aside like so many people (appropriately) did with that Dunn quote?"
I took a couple journalism classes at college and I had a teaching assistant who did a really cool exercise. We paired up, and she told each of us to tell our partner about our weekends. We then took those exact quotes and were told to try to paint an entirely different picture without changing the quotes - just pick and choose what you need to accomplish it. I was paired up with this faily annoying girl who talked about her "awesome boyfriend" and how great he was and how much fun they had over the weekend.
The TA's lesson was to show us how easy it was for us -- intentionally and unintentionally -- to change the meaning of someone's words without actually changing those words. And quite easily, I quoted my partner and painted this convincing story of how her boyfriend was a complete jerk. It's amazing how that little exercise still sticks with me to this day. It was so powerful yet so easy.
Some days (especially after tough losses and lots of second guessing), I really wish we could all pair up here and do the exercise. I think we'd learn not to read too far into anything -- with Dunn's or anyone else's comments.