Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are that solely of Dan Kotnik.
Tombstone. What a great movie. Not only a great movie, but a movie that has a lot of stars in it that worked well together. Everyone acted within their roles while still doing enough that you remembered each of them. Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliot…enough said. Let me give you the back story: Russell plays Wyatt Earp trying to settle down in the lawless West, dominated by the Cowboys, with his brothers and friend, made up of the rest of that cast I mentioned. The Cowboys kill Russell’s brother, Paxton, which leads to Russell and a band of U.S. Marshals spending the rest of the movie hunting down and eradicating the Cowboys. The war against the Cowboys starts though with one of my favorite scenes from film and where the title of the blog post comes from. Russell and his group ambushes some Cowboys, but let’s one go, Ike Clanton, to deliver the message of damnation to the rest of the Cowboys. And it all starts with that line: “You called down the thunder, well now you got it”.
What the hell does this have to do with sports? Well, not as pressing or serious an issue as a lawless band of Western criminals, I’ve seen a rash of people who want to “call down the thunder”: people, mostly fans, that want to become part of the ever-more visible arena of sports and then play the victim or cry foul when the people in the sports world fires right back.
The most recent example of this is New York Knicks owner James Dolan response to an email from a “lifelong fan” which criticizes his ability to run the franchise, which you can read about here. Yeah, Dolan is a multi-millionaire and a professional and should act like such. It wasn’t wise for him to respond the way he did. But I’m not going to blame him for acting like a human being; a human being with the huge amount of responsibility, pressure and criticism that comes with his job.
It’s never been easier to reach almost anyone you could possibly want. The caveat, however, to that ability is that those people can say whatever they want to me too. It’s a two-way street. Some people want to use their ability to connect and interact with those in the sports world, whether it be through technology like in the above example or at the event like this infamous Marcus Smart incident. That’s great! You want to voice your opinion or talk smack to a player from the opposing team. Do it, no one is stopping you. But now you’ve entered their world. Don’t go swimming with sharks and then bemoan the fact you got bit.
To look at it another way, what if on top of doing your job, you constantly received a barrage of communication: letters, emails, tweets, phone calls, most of which most likely don’t have the most professional language and possibly include nasty personal attacks and even threats on your life. You are doing your best, you know you are. But no matter what, you are faced with this every single day. Just because he is in a public position and makes a lot of money doesn’t mean he is not a person without a breaking point, where he just has enough and lashes back.
We want our sports stars and those in the lime light to act like they’re on your level. We want them to be relatable. That’s why we love Peyton Manning and Gronk. “Hey they’re just like us! They party and eat Papa John’s just like I do!” But when they actually mirror us on the negative side, we want to rip them for it. You don’t get it both ways. You want them to act like you? Then don’t act surprised when they act like you.
Back to my original metaphor, the people that want to use their access to those in sports, to criticize, attack, however you want to describe it and then play victim are like Ike Clanton in the movie. Throughout it, Clanton has a number of scenes where he looks like the missing link of internet trolls. He acts tough, talks tough, hiding behind the infamous cache of the Cowboys. When things go wrong for him and the Cowboys, however, he’s the first to turn tail and hide, screaming for mercy. But the message for Clanton and all more importantly to anyone who wants to enter the ring of the sports world: you call down the thunder? Well now you’ve got it.