On Sports, Email and Abuse


Fair warning: this isn’t going to be about the Oilers unless you squint.

Sometimes, things are just a little bigger than hockey.

I’ve started live-tweeting the Oilers games for two reasons – I felt like we needed more of a gameday presence on Twitter, and it’s forcing me to pay attention to the games (which, for well-documented reasons, has been hard on me). So, armed with what I feel is the appropriate amount of snark (and much less lamenting about Taylor Hall than one would expect) I set out to keep our followers entertained. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me, but I can generally take the criticism I get.

Today, however, was a little different. I checked my Rig email this morning and saw one that said “Hey you stupid cunt, why don’t you cry about Taylor Hall some more?” My feelings about Hall notwithstanding (I haven’t cried about him in quite some time), I was pretty taken aback by the language in the email. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten something like that, and I’m certain that it won’t be the last.

I decided that rather than engaging with the sender, I was just going to delete what he sent. Before I did, I noticed that there wasn’t a name attached to the email, nor was there anything that could identify the sender (except that it’s a hotmail account); I assume that whoever sent it is someone who follows me through my own twitter account or knows of me through this website, and decided that he’d try to derail my day, or at least make me feel bad.

Instead, I got angry.

I sat on this all morning, because I didn’t know if I wanted to respond, or what to say if I did respond. I waited until classes were done for the day, and I tweeted this out on the Rig’s account:

The people who responded to this (both at the Rig’s twitter and on my own) are incredible. I’ve thought a lot about this community today, and I am so thankful that there are so many good people in it. It’s heartwarming to know that people I’ve met because of this garbage-fire team are willing to go to bat for me. I can look after myself, but the sentiments are appreciated.


More Than Mean

Here’s the thing that’s been bothering me all day – I’m less shaken or upset about this than I am mad.

It’s infuriating that my opinions are deemed unworthy by someone I’ve never met, and who felt that he has the right to tell me how to react to something. It makes me mad beyond belief that he resorted to calling me a cunt because he had nothing else to say. But what really gets me is that this isn’t the first, or second, or tenth time it’s happened. I wish it was, I truly do, because then I’d have been suitably horrified and outraged. Instead, I read it and thought “oh, here’s another one”, which is so messed up in itself.

Our own Jackie D wrote about the harassment she received one day last year (though I know that’s not the only time she’s faced that, and I’m sure that won’t be the last). This isn’t an isolated incident, and it’s clearly not an issue that we’ve been able to solve. For whatever reason, women who write (or report) about sports are targets of some of the most vile abuse and insults you could imagine. Things that people would NEVER say to someone’s face end up plastered all over twitter, retweeted time and again with comments added for posterity (or something).

Back in April, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, two sportswriters and broadcasters I really admire, sat down on camera across from men they’d never met. The men read, verbatim, some of the tweets that both Di Caro and Spain had received, mostly from men who don’t like what they have to say about sports.

I don’t often get that kind of vitriol, but I do know that when I opened my email this morning I was taken aback. As many times as it’s happened before, there’s still a little part of me that feels ill when I see something like that directed at me. I can’t imagine ever saying something like that about anyone else, not online or offline. The distance that our computers (or phones) put in between us makes it so easy to say things without thinking. SO when I asked for people to remember that there is a person behind the Rig’s twitter account, I meant it. I see all the responses directed at us, both positive and negative, and sometimes I have to take a deep breath so that I don’t lash out at what’s there.

I’m not naive enough to think this won’t happen again. I know it will. I know that there’s some keyboard warrior out there who can’t wait to try to take me down based (presumably) on my gender.

What I learned today, however, is that I don’t need to let that kind of insult define me, and I don’t have to let it ruin my day. In tweeting about it, I shared the burden with dozens of people who are on my side, who read what I have to say and respond respectfully and thoughtfully, who put up with my whining about Taylor Hall being traded, and who help make my experience writing about the Oilers more positive than not (despite the last few seasons).

So to those of you who feel like you can tear me down – you can’t. I’m stronger than you know, and I’ve got an army on my side.

To those of you who offered support through likes and retweets – thank you.

To those of you who reached out – that means more than you know.

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