Dear Stoolies

Note: This was swiftly written, out of the order it’s presented in, while I was at work, because I thought it was important for me to write it. I’m posting it here at my old site because I don’t know where else it belongs. Sorry and thanks if anyone makes it here.

Note II: You can see this in prettier, better edited form over at Crooked Scoreboard here.

This is not written to the general public, in order to expose the disgusting, festering underbelly of sports fandom that one finds in places like Barstool Sports. If you want to read about what’s going on there, read Nicolas Stellini’s piece, read what Jen Mac Ramos had to say, or read any number of people who are better at writing and at being human beings than I am. No, this is for the “stoolies” themselves. I write this to each and every one of you, directly, and even though I know most of you will never truly hear these words (and this may never reach you at all), if I can get through to just one of you, it’s worth the effort.

I was once like you.

Today, I’m a 28-year-old … something. I’m not sure what to call myself. I’m a sportswriter, because I write for Brew Crew Ball and BP Milwaukee, but that’s not really my job. So I’m a financial aid professional, but I won’t be for long, and I’ve never felt any sort of emotional attachment to my job. So maybe I’m a teacher or, at least, a future teacher, since I’m a Master’s student in UW-Milwaukee’s English education program. Or maybe I’m not any of these things. Maybe I’m just Travis, and that’s fine.

I like to think that today, I’m a good person. And I think that the majority of the people I’ve met in the past four years or so would agree. I try to treat people with respect. I’m not the friendliest son of a bitch on the planet but it’s only because I’m painfully shy. I have strong opinions on a lot of issues that sometimes rub people the wrong way, but I think I’m on the right side of these issues – I consider myself a feminist, I’m pro-gun-control, and I support movements like Black Lives Matter that seek justice and equality for everyone.

But I wasn’t always this way.

If we run the clock back 5 years, you’ll see a man that is unrecognizable from the person I am today, and one who would fit right in among the millions in David Portnoy’s flock of minions. At my apartment on the lower eastside of Milwaukee, the n-word was tossed around by both host and guests like we were all Lil’ Wayne songs manifested and made sentient. Even this fails to truly illustrate just how casually this terrible word was dropped among the circle of people I called friends; it was filler, just a word to say when you had nothing else to add to a conversation. It was truly disgusting, and when I think about the way I spoke just five short years ago, I am flabbergasted to know that there is anyone who knew me back then that still calls me a friend today.

It didn’t end there. We treated women like garbage, regularly throwing around the same type of vitriolic hate speech amongst ourselves that can be seen in the comments thread of every Barstool post. Our “jokes” took aim at anything and everything targetable, and for years I tumbled deeper and deeper into the darkness as I slowly watched my other friends walk out of my life, fed up with my antics.

I’m not proud of any of this, and it’s not fun to have to admit to the sins of my past. I may lose some respect from some of the people who I’ve met since I’ve changed, who might not know the terrible things I’ve done in the past. Yes – the things that I have done. The things you say matter. But it’s important that you know that I was once like you, maybe even worse. You have to know that, because now I’m going to ask you to follow me, get the hell up, and walk away from it.

It wasn’t some great moralistic uprising inside me that forced me to make a change. There were other issues among the group – lies, backstabbing and thinly-veiled hostility – that one might expect from people with such low moral fiber. I made no grand speech. I’m not a hero. I was a garbage person, and I made a change and became just a person. Today, I think that I’m pretty good. But I have a lot to make up for.

When I hear people say those words – you know which words, and you don’t need me to *-word them to stuff them into your head once more – today I cringe, not just like any regular human would cringe at hate speech, but as someone who is beyond embarrassed to acknowledge the way I used to be.

I never hated black people. I never hated women. I never hated anyone. And I think that’s what made it so easy to continue to act the way I did without having to reckon with the fact that I was swiftly becoming an extremely shitty person. It didn’t mean anything, it’s all just a joke. Don’t you get it? It’s the same defense that comes from Barstool – from el presidente, as he’s styled himself, all the way on down to his newest crony – when anyone takes up the mantle of Social Justice Warrior (how in the world has this term become pejorative?) and jumps into the arena to do battle with their army of rabidly-misogynistic drones. It. Is. Not. A. Joke. You have got to realize that before you can start to make a change. It’s not that we don’t think that the joke isn’t funny. It’s not that we don’t get the joke. It’s just not a joke, It’s not a joke to tell a woman she has a “fuckin gross fat frog ice cream looking ass face.” What the fuck is wrong with you? Would you really ever say that to someone that was standing in front of you? It’s not a joke to tell her there’s “no job market for ugly broads with an extra chromosome.” It’s not a joke to call her a c-, a b- or any other disgusting, hateful word. IT’S NOT A JOKE. It’s real, and the people you are hurting are real.

A couple years ago, I briefly reconnected with the ringleader of the posse I used to spend time with. I think I needed his signature on something to finalize a dispute we’d had upon moving out of the apartment we’d been living in at the time. We got to talking a little bit about real stuff, with him accusing me of grandstanding about the changes I’d made in my life. He sent the following text:

“I don’t believe you don’t think that shit is funny anymore.”

I know you don’t. That’s why I left. Some people change, and some people never do.

Sometimes in our society, we hold up men who take such radical stances as “women should be treated equally” or at least “maybe it’s not okay to threaten to rape someone on Twitter” as heroes, but we’re not. That’s literally the baseline of not being a horrifically shitty person. It’s unfortunate that a need exists for someone to stand up and say, “Hey, stop harassing women you fucking idiots.” But we do, and the reason that need exists is you. You have created the need for the “Social Justice Warriors” that you demonize.

So that’s my message for you. The groupthink that emboldens you to act and talk the way that you do is wrong, and you can break free from it if you try. You don’t have to be this way. If your real-life relationships are more important to you than pats on the head in the form of twitter notifications from your favorite Barstool writers, then you don’t want to be this way. Some of you really do think that women are beneath you, lesser-than, and you’ll never change. But if you don’t think that way, and you this is all a big joke to you, it isn’t. It’s not a fucking joke, and there are real human beings that are reading your hateful diatribes that you’ve launched against them. It’s time to grow up.

Posted on January 7, 2016, in Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Do you think anyone was really going to read this?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HahhahhhahahahahahahahahahahahahHhHhahahaha holy fuckin shit get over yourself buddy

    Like

  3. this is pathetic and ignorant. grow up

    Like

  4. honestly, generalizing all people that read a website as people that use the n-word and make insensitive jokes towards women? and you’re going to be a teacher? WOOF

    Like

  5. “Today, I no longer use the n-word or call women the c-word. and do you know why? because i stopped reading barstool”

    Like

  6. Good for you if you really feel as though a website had that big of control on who you were, but this holier than thou, net casting you’re doing on all barstool readers is pretty arrogant to be honest. When you say you feel like “you’re on all the right side” of controversial topics, you sound ignorant. The whole article is correlating reading a website to being an asshole, and not everyone allows reading a website to define their moral character like you insinuate.

    Like

  7. You’re a fucking loser.

    Like

  8. I don’t understand people like you. You throw out statements like, “but I think I’m on the right side of these issues” and use that as validation for your one sided beliefs. Are you right in wanting fairness and equality for all genders, race, religion, etc? SURE, OF COURSE. Does posting Instagram pictures of girls on Barstool ***with the girls permission first*** make them scumbags? No it does not. People always focus on VERY FEW specific events at Barstool that caused controversy and forget all the good they do. They have raised thousands of dollars for charities that include veterans, fellow readers with cancer, people who lost their house in a fire, and the list continues. Sure there are a few bad eggs that tweet and post the N word on their reddit sub, but on the Barstool site they moderate the comment section and remove extremism. If something like Barstool upsets you, dont read it. If you truly believe it is growing a bad culture, thats your opinion and you have every right to have it. Throwing out statements like “Some of you really do think that women are beneath you, lesser-than, and you’ll never change.” is outright ridiculous. Nobody believes that, they are just trying to make a joke and arent clever enough for something better. DONT READ IT. This superiority complex for anyone who considers themselves a “feminist” or any of the other stances you mentioned is bad for society. I pity you for being so closed minded that you take a smut site like Barstool so seriously. Let us have our fun and move on.

    Like

    • I mean, some people really do think women are beneath them. Some people really are racist. And some of those people read the stool. They also go to espn.com, but this enlightened ex-bro doesn’t seem to understand how it’s a person’s choice on how they want to be defined, not the other way around.

      He’s also a boring writer.

      Like

  9. Lighten up pal. Kids are going to be kids. When you turn 30 and are still calling people n-words and c-words, then yeah you should reevaluate your life. You are no long the target audience of barstool sports at 30 years old so yeah, time to get over it becauss you rhought their content was funny too when you were their age.

    Like

  10. You’re such a good person you have to write a blog about how good a person you are.

    Like

  11. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this was not it. What an arrogant, pompous, asshole you are. I don’t like barstool, but you sound like a complete loon and embody everything that is wrong with people. Poorly written to boot, please don’t touch. Stay in a safe space where everything is fine and no one is offended for the rest of your days.

    Like

  12. Louie Armstrong

    All this post made me want to do is check out barstool. Great marketing Campaign!

    Like

  13. What does the fact that you used to be a shitty person have to do with Barstool? Most “stoolies” I’ve met are truly salt of the Earth. Get a grip.

    Like

  14. The badgers stink and so do you. Grow up.

    Like

  15. BroncosCheatedTheSalaryCap

    So you were were a racist, now you’re not. Awesome. The rest is just drivel from a kid who doesn’t like his job and attempts to be condescending. It’s people like you that are the real problems with society. You can’t stand any dissenting opinion so you call everyone a monster while pleading for your “safe spaces”. You’re the reason why Chris Rock and Bill Maher won’t do stand up on university campuses. You’re too much of a pussy and aren’t smart enough to understand any type of nuance.

    Sorry son, someday you’ll grow up and understand how foolish you sound.

    PS – The fact that you refer to your group as a “posse” says all I need to know about you.

    Like

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