Saturday, February 16, 2013

Internet 101: When Snark Goes Bad

The First Rule Of The Internet is (or ought to be) this: You’re not as clever as you think you are. Present company included, by the way; just in case you thought I had an inflated opinion of myself.
Anyway, the Second Rule Of The Internet probably ought to be: Don’t repeat everything you see on Because they’re not always as clever as they think they are, either.
Case in point. Yesterday, Chicagoist’s Chuck Sudo caught an item on Deadspin that he, apparently, thought was quite clever. It involved the image at the top of this post – a promotion for the University of Illinois men’s basketball team’s upcoming game against Penn State. The promotion features a picture of Illinois head coach John Groce hugging his son after the Illini scored a huge win at home against then-No. 1 Indiana. Here’s how the picture appears on the Chicago Tribune’s website:
It’s a pretty awesome picture – a father sharing a moment of unbridled joy with his young son. You’d have to be kind of an asshole to say anything negative about it.
But because Illinois used the image to promote the game against Penn State, and because, weirdly, the promotional image refers to Valentine’s Day (the Penn State game is on February 21), Chicagoist had to follow Deadspin’s lead and make something creepy out of it:
From the “Photoshop Nightmares” Department: This is the Valentine’s Day promotion sent out by the University of Illinois’ Ticket office Thursday to sell tickets to the men’s basketball team’s Feb. 21 game against lowly Penn State. (A team that usually has the Illini’s number.)
Apparently there was either some disconnect between the folks who produced the artwork for this promotion or someone has a shrewd and warped sense of humor. What’s with coach John Groce hugging his shirtless son here? Or the slogan “ no matter who’s your Valentine, surprise them with tickets to the game?”
But mainly it’s the photo, which, intentionally or not, draws to mind Penn State’s recent struggles and its transformation from Happy Valley to Creepy Valley. But then the Illini, until recently, haven’t had much success in Big Ten play. We can see why someone would create this in order to sell a few tickets.
Actually, no. No rational person – and by “rational,” I mean, possessing enough common sense not to try to score a cheap laugh off of, you know, child rape – would see a connection between the Illinois basketball promotion and the disgusting Penn State football scandal. In fact, any rational person would be appalled by the effort to draw that connection.
I’ve made no secret of the contempt I feel for Penn State for allowing a child rapist to prey on innocent victims for years, all while covering it up to protect the school’s precious football team its and godlike head coach. The blame for what happened at that institution goes all the way to the top. But for fuck’s sake, you can’t impugn every other school and every other person who comes into contact with Penn State just because Penn State school allowed a child rapist to get away with his crimes for so long.
Look at the image in question. It’s a picture of a father hugging his son.
Jesus H. Christ. I happen to be a father. Perhaps Chuck Sudo is, too. Let me tell you something you probably already know: There aren’t enough positive images of fatherhood, let alone fathers and sons, in the world today. Yes, no doubt that’s mostly the fault of men who function more like sperm donors than parents, or men who play the role of father without really giving a good goddamn about their kids. But that’s all the more reason why it’s sickening to take an image of a real father being a father in an unguarded moment, embracing his son out of sheer joy, and turn that into something twisted and creepy.
All because of Jerry fucking Sandusky and his enablers at Penn State.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Sudo, Illinois has won three straight Big 10 games and is now 18-8 over all and 5-7 in the conference. So you got that wrong, too.
Look, people, the internet isn’t for amateurs. Or, maybe it is, and that’s the whole problem.

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