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Lakers Fans: Take the High Road, Please

Let's get straight to the point, shall we? We've got high standards for you guys. Yes, higher standards than we have for "them." Because we have a vested interest in your behavior as Lakers fans, we're going to be a bit stricter on Lakers fans, here at SS&R, than on others — even trolls and "haters." We have good reasons for this; allow me to illustrate.

A couple weeks ago, Kelly Dwyer wrote a piece on the on-court drama that went down between Kobe Bryant and Golden State's Stephen Jackson. It was an excellent piece, and the opinion KD expressed is one I absolutely mirror and agree with. You can find it here.

(Sidenote:  While I'm linking to it, let me just say that it's a great piece, and like KD, this is one of the reasons I love Kobe. Also, I think if you really pay attention to it, you realize that Kobe isn't so much an asshole, as he is painted by many, but just a competitor in an old mold, and one that's not afraid to get into his opponents' heads to achieve an advantage. Denver knows how that feels — he's gotten in their heads in two straight playoffs series, with 2008 being the best example. Read the post, it's a good one.)

If you actually read the post, you realized it was a pro-Kobe piece. No, KD is not kissing Kobe's ass; he has written anti-Kobe or pro-LeBron pieces just as often as he has written posts like this one. But the bigger point is that he writes it as he sees it, and though his opinion isn't infallible, I think his motives are pretty unassailable.

I read the first page of comments, and was immediately saddened and angered, at the same time. Most of them were from apparent Lakers fans, very harshly (and sometimes quite vulgarly) accusing KD of being a Kobe hater. I was puzzled... did they not get that this was a pro-Kobe piece?

Lakers fans like these give the rest of us a bad rap. They ruin our credibility, to the point that it's often impossible to make a pro-Lakers or pro-Kobe point without immediately being labeled a homer and an irrational fanatic/lunatic — even when we're making very well-reasoned, rational, well-articulated points. The truth is, they're destroying their own cause. They're so passionate, so eager to make our case, and to show that our position is a good one, that their passion causes them to act in ways that completely destroys their own cause, and completely undermines those of us who would otherwise actually have a shot at communicating it well and bringing others to our side.

Now, let me pause for a moment and say that I completely and fully understand where these counter-productively passionate Lakers fans are coming from. In January of this year, I wrote a fairly bold piece at Hardwood Paroxysm, articulating the struggle and frustration of being a Lakers fan, with the rest of the world stacked against you. I, of all people, understand full well that it gets extremely tiring to suffer the ignorance, stupidity, and insults of the hordes of Laker haters — and I know well enough that those Laker haters never stop coming.

It's frustrating. It's angering. Sooner or later, it makes you want to jump in and tell them exactly why they're wrong —exactly why they're idiots. It's an impulse that's hard to resist. It's also one that we must resist. Again, allow me to illustrate.

I'm guessing most of you have siblings. And if you have siblings, then the odds are at least one of them used to love to pick at you, for no apparent reason other than to get a rise out of you. (Note:  If you did not have a sibling that liked to do that, then the odds are you were that sibling.) Because I have such a sibling — for whom, when we were young, aggravating me was her one and only passion — I can guess what your parents probably told you:

If you ignore him/her, and don't let it get to you, s/he will eventually give up, and you will win.

If you're like me, for many of your young years you refused to accept this advice. And then, one day, you decided your parents might not be complete fools, and you gave it a try. And lo and behold, it worked! Suddenly, you were in control. And maybe, eventually, you and your sibling became not just family, but close friends, too. All because you finally stopped letting them get under your skin.

My younger sister remembers very well when I made this decision, and our relationship changed. She'll readily admit to you that, at first, she was furious that she could no longer get a rise out of me. See how that works? I had turned the tables on her; I was in control, and I was winning.

Of course, it's no big surprise, nor is it anything new. Three thousand years ago, Isrealite King Solomon said, "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head". Likewise, you've surely heard the common wisdom, "Don't stoop to their level."

Folks, if you allow the trolls and haters to push you to anger, to turn you into trolls and haters yourselves, then they have won. On the other hand, if you ignore them and refuse to be baited into a flame war with them, then they are spitting into the wind, and everyone will see them for the fools they are.

You see, SS&R's credibility in the rest of the basketball blogosphere — and, indeed, even with certain influential members of the mainstream media — depends significantly on our continued insistence on taking the high road, and our continued refusal to be bated into a pointless yelling match. At the same time, the way you guys act while engaging others in conversation and debate on the internet also reflects on our community, which directly affects our credibility.

Sure, you can get on a message board, either here at SS&R or somewhere else on the internet, and get into an internet shouting match with a Kobe hater. You can call him an idiot a dozen different ways, destroy his position, and tear him a new one. In the end, you may win the argument, but you've done little to further your cause.

You want to actually change some people's minds around here? Help us build credibility here at SS&R. Because if we build credibility, then we can write well-articulated, well-reasoned pieces that support our position — and those pieces will find their way into the links and discussions at ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, etc. But only if we remain credible.

So yes, we undeniably and apologetically hold you, our fellow Lakers fans, to a higher standard. Why? Because we expect trolls to be trolls, and we recognize that there is little we can do to change that. But we expect any of you who think you're better than trolls, flamers, and haters to take the high road. And if you want to participate as a Lakers fan here at SS&R, we require it of you.

I'm aware that, during the off-season, C.A. Clark may have come down harshly on some Lakers fans and SS&R members. I also understand he's apologized for being unfair, but you need to understand what we're trying to do here — and you've got to understand that, in trying to cultivate a community that others respect, I'm inclined to agree with C.A. in holding you guys to a higher standard, and I will likely do the same.

If we come down harsher on you than on them, it's because we don't care if they make fools of themselves and reflect poorly on non-Lakers fans — but we do very much care if Lakers fans act in ways that are counterproductive to our goals. If we are more strict with you, it is because we are trying to build a community that even those who resent the team we root for respect. And that means that we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than others.

I'm urging you — no, I'm begging you — to resist the urge to be baited into a flame war. When a troll or hater drops by SS&R, spouting obscenities, please do not get into it with him. Flag him, and ignore him. If we don't see your flag, email one of the moderators, and we will deal with it. But you must believe me, the last thing we want to do is indulge a troll or hater by giving him precisely the reaction he's hoping for.

It's important that this community reflects well on SS&R, just as it's important that SS&R reflects well on the Lakers community as a whole. And when we have held ourselves to a higher standard than our opponents, the rest of the basketball world will start to see them for what they are. And then, we win.

At the same time, it's important to point out that, here at SS&R, it's our philosophy to give visiting trolls enough rope to hang themselves with. One offensive post does not a troll make; as such, their first warning will be just that:  a warning, and an opportunity for them to stop trolling and actually start contributing. We believe that sometimes, if you treat a troll with kindness, they'll stop trolling and start contributing. It's when they don't, even after being "encouraged," that we need to drop the ban hammer in order to keep this a place of respectful discussion.

Also, our point here is not to discourage trash talking. That's part of sports, and we like it quite a bit. But it is important that your trash talking be easily understood as good natured, all in good fun, etc. — and if it's not being received well, don't persist. Remember that trash talk is supposed to be fun, so when it's not fun anymore, it needs to stop. It can be hard to convey good natured sarcasm and well intended humor in text. Be extra careful to make sure you're not being misunderstood, and good natured trash talk is always welcome.

Take the high road, folks — and while you're participating as a member of our community, understand that that is what we will expect of you. As such, we'll demand more of you than we do of visiting non-Lakers fans. It's the only way to come out on top.

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