Before I start sharing my feelings and risk making it awkward, I feel the necessity to settle some misconceptions about my intentions here before I even give you the opportunity to misconstrue my message.
1. I'm not singling anyone out in this letter. If you're urged to accuse me of calling you out after reading this, I suggest you take a closer look at yourself and find out why you felt the need to put up a shield of defense. I'm not attacking any individual here. I'm addressing the group (i.e. - the membership of this blog, including myself) as a whole.
2. This letter isn't a laundry list of demands. While I have Editorial authority in this space, that doesn't mean I use it as a crutch to push a narrative. I'm not talking to you as an Editor, I'm talking to you as a fellow community member. Please remember that.
3. On the subject of demands, you're probably wondering if I have any. The answer to that question is a resounding no. I don't demand anything from anyone. I do, however, have one small request. I request that you give me this space to speak my mind and respect where I'm coming from. I'm not asking you to agree with me, just that you "hear me out" before jumping to conclusions.
4. Again--and I admit this is redundant, but I feel it's a necessary redundancy--I'm not singling anyone out here. I just have some things that have been on my mind for a few weeks and I feel that now is the right time to share them with you. If you feel that I'm calling you out for something, I apologize, but that's not what I'm trying to do here.
Ok, I think I've given enough of a disclaimer. I've probably lost you already.
Let's get down to business, shall we?
Over the past few months it seems that the overall blog post commenting narrative has taken a bad turn. There are a lot of new faces here than there used to be--more than I can even attempt to keep up with--who probably aren't aware of the way things used to be in our little corner of the internet. So, some of you won't understand the stuff I'm about to bring up, and that's perfectly okay. I don't expect you to. Most of you, however, will know exactly what I'm talking about, because most of you remember how things were back before the narrative shifted from respectfully sharing our knowledge and passion about football and the Carolina Panthers to making sure that everyone knew we were always right about every single thing.
We're starting to trend away from the community that we built and are instead going down a path that ultimately will make the CSR experience more negative than positive. We're tearing each other apart instead of building each other up. We've decided that we'd rather argue with one another over stupid minutiae that means absolutely nothing in the long run than share our passion for Panthers football.
My question is simple: How did we let this happen? What changed? We're still the same people, right? We're still Panthers fans, right? If nothing has changed, then why does this place feel different to me? Why do I feel like I'm walking into a war zone every time certain topics come up in a comment thread? Why can't we just get along and agree to disagree anymore?
Don't believe me? Use the search bar on the site and search the following key words:
Those are just a few of the hot button topics that seem to devolve us into rock throwing cavemen. There are others, I'm sure.
Of course, it would be foolish of me to expect an environment where there are never dust-ups between passionate football fans. I get that. But, I think it's safe to say we've taken it way beyond the point of giving each other constructive criticism. There are some topics that just aren't safe around here anymore, and frankly we're better than that. We used to be, anyway.
Have we drifted too far down into the abyss, or do we have a chance to get back to where we used to be? I'm genuinely asking that question, because based on the way things have gone the past few months, I'm not so sure anymore.
Again, I understand that this is the internet where hyperbole is king and minor disagreements are a feeding ground for apocalyptic pissing matches between people who will most likely never sit in the same room together, let alone get matching "Best Friends 4Eva!" tie-dyed t-shirts at the state fair. I get all of that. But CSR is supposed to be a place where we can come and talk about football, not degrade people who have a different opinion of how we should use our running backs. It's okay to disagree with each other. In fact, it's encouraged because if we all agreed on everything this place wouldn't be needed as we wouldn't have anything to discuss.
While it's okay--and even encouraged--to disagree, can we at least make some form of an attempt to do it without being complete a-holes towards each other? I should expect to be able to tell you that I think the Panthers made the right decision when they kept Ron Rivera as head coach without being told that I'm an incompetent moron who's never seen a game of football in his life, and vice versa. When did having a different opinion than someone become a disease? You can disagree without being disagreeable. Should we start banning people for simply being disagreeable and/or disrespectful? I don't think that's the solution to the problem. Do you?
I'm sure some of you are saying right now that "at least we're not like the comment sections at ESPN, etc." and that's true because we haven't devolved to that form of sub-human existence. At least not yet. But, let me ask you this: Since when has not being ESPN been good enough for us? Shouldn't we strive to be better than "not ESPN"? I think we should, and the reason I think we should is because we used to be.
We used to be more respectful to one another, and I think we could be that way again if we would just cast our egos and desires to be right about every single little thing that we say, think and feel to the side and get back to sharing our common interest: our passion for the game of football and the Carolina Panthers.
The bottom line is this: We're all Panthers fans here. It's time we start acting that way again, before it's too late.
Thank you for taking the time to hear me out. I hope you gained something from this, and again I'm not doing this from an authoritative point of view. I'm doing it as a concerned member of this community who feels that we need to do something now before we stop being the best place to talk about the Panthers on the internet.
I sincerely hope that you agree. If you don't you're certainly free to voice your disagreements, but please don't be disagreeable and/or disrespectful in doing so.