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Is it possible to survive the Human Comments Section?

It turns out Sinatra wasn't quite right about New York. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Ha.

If Francis Albert were still around, he'd change his tune. (Literally). Because survival's litmus test isn't merely the big, bad city any longer. If you can survive an encounter with the Human Comments Section now without higher blood pressure or gulping Grey Goose, you can do anything.

I was reminded of this all over again reading the Boston Globe on Thursday morning. I subscribe online mostly for the sports section: following BC sports, old friend Pete Abraham covering the Sox and Dan Shaughnessy's columns.

Dan wrote a keeper about COVID-19's impact on high school and small college sports, including some vignettes from his own life, underscoring the impact sports have in our formative years. It hit home not just from personal childhood/adolescent experience, but from professional vocation. It's what I like to write about the most.

And then I made the fatal mistake.

I read the HCS (Human Comments Section).

And there it was. This crucible of missing the point, the inability to stay on point, misplaced anger, non sequiturs and the inevitable slog into the morass of political tribalism that turned a thoughtful retrospective into a steel cage match.

Makes me wonder: Have the inhabitants of this country always been so contentious, fallacious and malicious? Or has the HCS become a forum to ignite and encourage the demons of our nature?

Shaughnessy began the column with a caveat, suggesting that perspective in a pandemic is paramount. His words: "Everything must be viewed in perspective, because there has never been a time quite like this. Those blessed with good health, employment, and family support can't complain or demonstrate impatience. There's real suffering all around us, so we all need to suck it up and wait for the pandemic to play itself out."

Among the very first comments comes from "aintnothingbutthetruth," who chided Shaughnessy for a lack of perspective: "500,000 dead in this country. Many dying without family around. And some people miss a season (three, four months of sports). Get some perspective, Dan."

This is what I mean about obtuse. The column's beginning thoughtfully included the concept of perspective.

I'm thinking: Where do we find these people? Where do they come from? Do they vote? Are they standing in line next to me at Stop & Shop? How do we make them go away?

Shaughnessy later wrote, "Mock me if you want, but I remember a time in my life when losing a season of varsity baseball or basketball would have made me feel like my life was ruined. And in these days when we are surrounded by so much real suffering and economic doom, I cannot get the damage done to student-athletes out of my head. I feel for them."

I've heard scores and scores of kids and parents tell the same story in the past year.

Later, he recounted some of his high school sports memories, including this: " ... the stuff that happens in high school and college team sports: Wins. Losses. Cheers. Tears. It's what kept many of us going in some of those difficult years.

"And now so much of it is gone: Making signs to paste on the walls at school ... looking forward to the game all through the school day ... whispering and passing notes in class ... locker room banter ... bus rides with teammates ... cheerleaders ... pep rallies ... trays of orange slices ... team dinners ... cups of water from the Gatorade bucket ... shared towels on the bench ... huddles ... your parents and friends watching from the stands ... nicknames and inside jokes that only you and your teammates understand ... the last time in your life that you seem to be free of real-world concerns."

I would consider Shaughnessy's musings rather thoughtful. And also somewhat innocuous. Ah, but the HCS begged to differ.

"Cyclops04" wrote, "This is the sports section," implying that this column about high school sports ... wasn't apparently about sports.

I'll take reading comprehension for 800, Alex.

This is a popular HCS take now. Heaven forbid the sports columnist try to use the metaphorical richness of sports to illustrate a larger societal point. Enter the "stick to sports" crowd who lacks the bandwidth to comprehend, apparently.

Then came the granddaddies of them all.

"Stragger" wrote, "it was the Republicans who robbed us all."

"DeansDesk" wrote, "Disgraceful. All to make sure Trump wasn't returned to office.

"Israel Hands" wrote, "Yeah... that's why. Trump is the real victim here, right?"

Talk about careening into the abyss. Only now can a story about high school sports, cheerleaders, orange slices and pep rallies degenerate into a referendum on Donald Trump.

It happens here in the ol' Day Paper, too, by the way.

And we wonder why this country is swirling the bowl.

I used to think people were just getting dumber. They're getting meaner, too. Bad combination.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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