Friday, May 10, 2013

Passing judgment on people for fun and profit!

(A preemptive disclaimer: I'm sure I've mentioned this before but because of jobs I've done and other circumstances that have absolutely nothing to do with talent, skill, physical attractiveness or anything else of merit on my part, I have met famous people. This is not the point of the following story and I only mention it to illustrate what is the point of the story, which will be made self-evident. Hopefully.)

The other day it was announced that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be retiring the number 99, last worn by former defensive tackle Warren Sapp. For those who don't follow sports, this is the ultimate honor a team can bestow on one of their players.

Sapp played nine seasons for the Buccaneers and during that time, he rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. Around here (Tampa and the surrounding Tampa Bay area), it's actually difficult to find someone who doesn't have at least a second-hand account of an unpleasant interaction of some kind with him. Whether it was a refused autograph request, a run-in at a local nightspot or something else, you'll find no shortage of locals who are eager to dismiss him as a rude, surly jerk.
Here's the thing though: I've met Sapp four or five different times and he was never anything but personable and friendly with me, just like any normal person. Granted, that's not a huge sample size but 100% of the times I've dealt with him, he has never acted like a jerk in any way. I don't care about what other people say, I like Warren Sapp; he's always been nice to me.

Vince Naimoli used to own the Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays), our major league baseball team. You will find about as many people who have nasty things to say about Naimoli as you will Sapp. He hasn't owned the team for over five years but there are those who would argue that his brusque manner and inept public relations efforts are responsible for the team's current attendance woes.
Here's the thing though: I worked for the Rays for over two years, including every home game during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, and every single time I encountered Mr. Naimoli, he was perfectly pleasant. If he wasn't in a huge hurry, he'd usually stop and want to chat about how the University of South Florida baseball team was doing. I don't care about what other people say, I like Mr. Naimoli; he's always been nice to me.

When people want to talk about the terrible, ill-tempered attitudes of Sapp and/or Naimoli, I can't participate. Sorry, but I make every effort to judge people, "famous" or otherwise, as individuals, based solely on my own personal experience. For me to say something nasty about either of these guys would simply be unfair. I'm not casting doubt on anybody else's experiences, it's just that I don't share them. "So you're saying you don't believe me when I say that Warren Sapp set my neighbor's house on fire and Vince Naimoli stole cotton candy from blind little leaguers?" No, not at all. What I'm saying is that for whatever reason, I don't share those experiences and for me to say otherwise wouldn't be right. How can I call somebody a jerk if they don't exhibit any jerk-like behavior in my presence?

That's a courtesy that I consistently try to extend to everyone I meet, with degrees of so-called fame or celebrity not being a factor and I feel good about it. Simply out, if you're nice to me, I will consider you a nice person and defend you as such to those who might say otherwise. Of course, vice-versa applies as well, although when it comes to the broad scope of things, I seem to encounter more nice people than assholes for some reason.

It's also largely for this reason that I'm glad time travel doesn't exist. Because if it did, I'm pretty sure there would be three lines at the time travel depot:
  • One: Go back and experience great historical moments firsthand in order to develop an in-depth understanding of why the world is the way it is now.
  • Two: Go forward and find out the results of sporting contests to come back and bet on them.
  • Three: Go back and kill Hitler 
Line One would be basically empty except for the people who got bored while waiting in lines Two and Three which would be jam-packed around the clock. And of course, I'd be in the Hitler line, but based on my experiences listed above, I'd be afraid the whole time that it wouldn't work out as intended.
"Hello. My name is Clark Brooks. You killed millions of innocent people. Prepare to die."
"But... but... I made cookies!"
"Cookies?!? Who cares? You're a monster of pure hatred and evil, guilty of genocide on an almost unimaginable scale! The last thing I want is one of your damned cookies, Hitler!"
"What did I ever do to you?"
"Me? Nothing directly... but... Do I smell oatmeal raisin?"
"Just out of the oven, mein friend!"
"Well, shit." 

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