We believe that we do a few things pretty well on Behind The Steel Curtain. But one of the best things about this site gets little open recognition. Several years ago when I began to visit BTSC I was impressed and grateful for both the quantity and quality of the information provided about the Pittsburgh Steelers. But what hooked me were the comment threads.
It is this aspect of internet based media that is so clearly superior to print media. A story or post, while interesting in and of itself, is often just a launch point for more in depth interactive discussion where the knowledge and opinions of readers actually adds to and enhances the understanding of the topic.
Practically speaking this happens less often than not. Normally when I visit other sports and news sites I don’t even bother with the comment threads. The reason why is that I usually feel I just took a bath in anger, ignorance and contempt. If the interactive aspect is the strength of the internet, then anonymity is its weakness. In the Pittsburgh I grew up in if someone took the license to insult one another in the manner that so many do routinely on these sites they would find themselves face down on the pavement or worse. Many of us also use personal attacks as a proxy for an attack upon their ideas. If you can’t successfully undermine the credibility of their views then the fall back position, and in a depressing number of cases their only position, is to undermine the credibility of the person. To be fair, many of us have learned this from watching cable news channels.
The particular genius of BTSC is that Michael Bean has always been consistent in demanding that a certain level of respect and civility was a non-negotiable condition for participation on this site. And the moderators, editorial staff and the veteran members of the community have done a very good job of maintaining the standard such that we all pretty much understand that this is a discipline that we practice, not just aspire to. The benefit is the cultivation of a very high level of discourse among the members of the community. We all slip on occasion, but generally speaking we manage to maintain a high baseline of comportment that has kept the site stimulating and attractive. Folks keep coming back and, I suspect, some of us are addicted.
Unfortunately, if you’re like me you might come on site, read the stories and skip the threads because you have been conditioned to expect so little from them. And you will have missed some of the absolutely best stuff that we have to offer on BTSC.
So we begin a little experiment. Just as we’ve been doing the Weekend Check Down as a roundup and review of the week’s top news stories, I’m going to attempt to put some light upon some of our comment threads as well. To be honest, I’m not sure what the final form of endeavor will take or even if it sustainable over the long haul. I’ll be seeking feedback from the community (I guess in the form of the comments thread) and then we’ll see where we’re at in the fall.
In thinking about what is appealing about a thread and I came up with the following general themes:
My moment of insight came when I stumbled upon Ron Cook's claim in the Post Gazette that "[Kordell] was the Steelers' best quarterback between four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw and two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger."
Hombre de Acero used this assertion as the jumping off point on a July 9th piece on Kordell Stewart.
Even after having defended Kordell ad nauseum in watering holes throughout Steelers Nation, Cook's contention struck me as preposterousAnd then he spent the remainder of the piece arguing why it was not preposterous. What followed was a thread that was focused upon the parameters of the argument and led to a surprisingly (for me) even handed and sober debate on the pros and cons of Cook's assertion.
A fan post by Whiskerando (Four Things NFL Fans Should Stop Saying) on July 9 encouraged the community to examine the clichés that are common in our discourse as fans. The author listed four, but Lobo and average joe blow added some more.
"If they were allowed to watch the replay on…"
Rules are rules and no matter how much we wish and hope that the rules were different, they are not. The Ref can’t look at the replay for penalties so the "What If" might work great for Marvel Comics but not so well for the NFL.
1. "One player away" – I get how that phrase makes sense in basketball or even baseball, if it’s a prime position, but in football, there’s no such thing as one player a away. It’s THE true team game and adding "one player" rarely puts a team over the top.
2. "We finished strong last year so that’ll carry over to this year" – It’s never really made sense to me how a pitiful team finishes the year 5-2 or whatever so alot of people expect them to carry that over and go 11-5 the next season. It doesn’t work like that anymore. With so much turnover every year, this really is a year to year league.
Insight and expansion
One of the interesting, dare I say amazing aspects of Hombre de Acero’s piece is the discussion broke from a pattern that was typical of how Steeler Nation tends to think. Normally any mention of Neil O’Donnell results in fans having a bout of Tourette’s Syndrome. To paraphrase Mechem ‘We hate him and he stanks’. Yet in arguing the relative merits of Steelers quarterbacks between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger some real ‘level headed’ discussion occurred concerning the abilities, and even the assets of O’Donnell. The topics of the harsh criticisms that all Steeler quarterbacks receive from the fan base, race and the biases against mobile quarterbacks were also part of the discussion.
Introspection and humor
Some of the most powerful and affecting commentaries are those where someone will share personal experiences that resonate with the subject matter. These testimonies which not only expand our understand of the topic under discussion but a good deal about the person making the comment are often the type that most typically gets ‘greened’; where the comment itself earns a recommendation (rec’d) from the community, a high honor usually.
Depth and complexity
In some of our best threads some of comments rise to the level of being mini-posts themselves. The writing is investing thought, research and not a small amount of time in order to make a point, and more often than not succeed magnificently in doing so.
In my opinion, the best recent example of what I am referring is the most recent Weekend Check Down.
There were a few comments about, Adrian Peterson’s arrest, an article on Mike Tomlin’s contract status and my little rant about the ongoing whining from Seattle fans on the outcome of Super Bowl 40, but by far the most energy and passion was in response to the news about Penn State University and the Freeh report.
This was no surprise to me. By far, the most controversial and divisive piece I have ever written for BTSC was a fan post on Joe Paterno last fall. Members of the community were at each other’s throats and the level of incivility reach a ridiculously bad level. My criteria for selecting the items for the Check Down is to adhere as much as possible to those things directly about the Steelers or other NFL issues of general interest or of specific concern to Pittsburgh fans. I will also include things that would be of interest to those in Steeler Nation with Pittsburgh area or Pennsylvania roots. This would include, space permitting certain items involving the Pirates, Penguins and area colleges including Pitt, West Virginia and Penn State.
On a good week the Check Down will have between 40 to 50 comments; as of this writing we’re up to 92. Two of the comments were greened. 21in69 pointed out (not the first to do so) the parallels between Penn State and recent events involving pedophilia in the Catholic Church. The comment also spoke to hypocrisy and the possibility of hidden motives; namely that there are people who may be so strident in their views because they were Penn State or Paterno haters in the first place. What is interesting here is that unlike many greened items there seemed to be as many commenters that took issue with these views as were in agreement.
SteelStealth provided the other green commentary entitled For Penn State Grads. The conclusion of the piece:
"…a Penn State professor who expressed disappointment that Paterno was being treated as a saint. He implied that Paterno would win at all cost, and this was a dangerous situation. In 1986 this must have seemed a jealous remark, but in 2012, the professor may have seen the warning signs years in advance."
In other comments, Mantho weighed in with this,
2. Everyone is coming out to bash Paterno. This is the most amazing thing to me. Everyone has to say how he should have acted or how THEY would have acted. Let’s remember that whole "20/20 hindsight" thing. I used to say that, if somebody tried to stick a gun in my face, I would smack it aside and beat the crap out of the guy. Yeah, I was young and stupid. And the first time I actually had a gun stuck in my face, I meekly handed over everything I had. The point is that, unless you have been through a similar situation, with a really tough moral call, don’t tell me how you would have done better.
PaVaSteeler is one of our most prolific commenters
Two crimes are involved here; the actual predations by Sandusky upon innocent children, and the failure of the Penn State Overlords to react properly
The crimes of Sandusky have been adjudicated, and it’s only a matter of time before Sandusky gets what he deserves.
The issue with Penn State is different, and won’t be resolved for years.
For the Administrators, Board of Trustees, and the various other officials, their crime appears to be a voluntary failure to act, and to attempt to cover up their failures, and the facts.
For Paterno, I now am beginning to believe that he truly failed to comprehend just what was happening. Given his age, and the fact that he was a product of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s both life-wise, and professionally, he may not have been able, at his advanced age, to comprehend how someone like Sandusky could perpetrate such evil, and to have a friend be the evil behind such allegations; probably unfathomable.
In the end, Paterno is guilty of failing to act; but I wonder if his failure was voluntary, or whether he was just unable to comprehend such evil enough to acknowledge its existence.
And this from Homer J
If, as you say, Joe PA's primary concern was the adequate and fair funding of athletic programs...
...he failed that as badly as he failed every other test in this sad case.
A one-year death sentence is called for in this horrific tragedy, but I'm betting against it because the NCAA is a corrupt institution and PSU has plenty of power and influence. There must be SOME penalty, though, given the gravity of what happened. It will no doubt involve not allowing PSU to participate in any Bowl games or conference championships, as well as probable loss of TV money.
The last word goes to Fifty-Eight
Go ahead and mark that as absolutely not happening.
It had nothing to do with the athletes, past or present.
The coach in question is literally dead.
The president of the university and director are both no longer at the school, having resigned.
The convicted, sick, perverted felon at the center of the tragic events is going to be in a prison cell until he breathes his last breath on this planet.There is just no sane, logical, or constructive reason to level a death penalty on PSU football. The stories I hear now are at least 3-1 or 4-1 against it happening. It just won’t happen.
While the arguments were passionate, even painful, the good news was that the discourse was mostly respectful. If you haven’t seen the thread I encourage you to have a look.