html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Not so amiable.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Not so amiable.

Years ago, I played regularly in the most casual pick-up game in town. It was one of the highlights of my week; I did not often miss Sunday pick-up. There was a guy who also loved Sunday pick-up, and friends, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that he was fucking annoying.

My primary grievance is that he was a dangerplayer, which is a term I made up by myself. He’d go all out for everything, and he didn’t have the coordination to avoid collisions*. There are people I’ll contest with every time, because I know that they’ll do amazing contortions and grab the disc from over my head but never land on me. But this guy, you’d pull up if you even saw him in your peripheral vision, because he’d run smack into you. He blindsided me once, and I remember this amazing sensation of being bodily displaced, feeling all the momentum transfer. He knocked the breath from me, but at least I wasn’t injured. I saw him in two separate collisions that ended the other person’s knee. He never meant it. He felt terrible. But he constantly caused collisions.

If I’d liked the guy, I would have gone with his intentions and forgiven him what were always accidental collisions. But I couldn’t stand him. He was smarmy, with a scraggly mustache. He hit on new woman players their first day at pick-up, and who knows how many we lost that way. He rode his motorcycle onto the field and always referred to it as his BMW. He would invite the ladies over to hot tub. He was a caricature; only, not funny. My skin crawled when I was near him. I cringed when he showed up, gave the briefest of answers when he talked to me, walked away if he was near. I was always civil, never badmouthed him, didn’t discourage people from inviting him to group events. But when I hosted, he was not invited.

Another woman played with us in those days. I’ve written before about how I watched her do sneaky, self-centered shit until I came to the conclusion that she was without empathy or a belief that rules apply to her. That combination, I decided, made her too unpredictable to spend time with. I stayed away from her after that. But here’s the thing. This woman, whom I assessed to be too dangerous to be around, was well socialized. Mostly pleasant demeanor, good at conversation. I didn’t care if she showed up at parties, never thought I had to supervise or save people from her. But the guy, who never had anything but the sincerest good intentions, who was genuinely nice but all the way tacky, he annoyed me just by existing. I wanted him the fuck out of any space I was in.

It is not fair that I was more willing to be around a woman I thought could be evil** than a nice but profoundly annoying man. It is true though. Annoying people are truly a test of my decency and beliefs. I do not want to live up to my ideals with annoying people. I want them to stop being annoying.

*I think I especially hate dangerplayers because they’re a type, and when I was a kid, my tkd master would always match me against them. He did that because I was coordinated and I didn't get mad when I fought. But they scared the shit out of me, because they mean destroyed joints and broken ribs. Their enthusiasm is sky-high, and they don’t have the control for that. They don’t even realize they’re a hazard. I hated fighting them. Incidentally, if you get to choose, always, always fight someone better than you. A better fighter will beat you, but a worse fighter will injure you.

**Please understand that I never thought she was motivated by malice. But I thought that if malice occurred to her, she had no internal limits.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are people like that in every sport. People who are so bad they're dangerous. You just have expectations how the other players will react. Like in basketball, when I jump to shoot, I expect the guy guarding me to jump with me. But, I've had people duck instead, undercutting me. I've actually landed in a hand stand from people doing that to me.

I've seen skiers take other people out skiing beyond their ability. They have a sense of control, going fast, until suddenly they have to turn, or react.

A couple weeks ago at a bouldering competition, with a gym completely full of people competing, I saw a guy working a hard route, try to jump for the final hold, and come crashing down, either severely spraining or breaking his ankle, on some idiot who decided the ideal place to sit was right next to the wall.

I see people at the gym all the time decide to get underneath people on lead. People on lead can take sudden 20' falls. But you'll see people start a route right underneath them, or walk underneath.

Some people just have no sense.


3:15 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

We talked a lot in tkd about how power and control are the flipsides of each other and you have to develop both.

There are lots of well-meaning people with lots of power and no control, and they don't mean any harm. But when they can cost you your knees, it is hard to care about their good intentions.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I don't play sports, or even dance.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first two paragraphs I thought you were going to say that guy moved to NC and joined my pickup game. This guy is all elbows, but he wore spandex biker shorts all the time, and totally meant well.

I think the same applies to power and control in non physical situations. People with authority that accidentally bulldoze people all the time even though they mean well, same in relationships.

I think amount of empathy is another one of those personality markers. As is responsibility for one's own actions. This book I'm reading on optimism though ties its definition in with who you assign blame/credit for tasks and/or how you interpret others perceptions of you with being optimistic/pessimistic and thus living longer and/or being more happy. So my conclusion using hyperbole is that clueless people are happier

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's not just power vs. control. You don't have to have any power to put other people at risk. The girl sitting next to the wall at the bouldering comp just had to be clueless enough to sit there.

You don't have to be anything special on skis to be dangerous, you build up a lot of speed very easily.

I've noticed a lot of people here like to drive in your blind spot, even on a wide open highway.

A lot of people are just completely oblivious to the potential consequences of their actions. Having no control is one thing, a lot of people have little control in certain situations, then avoid those situations, or act extra carefully. You have to include cluelessness to get really dangerous.


4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I got annoyed just from reading your story about that guy. You had me at "scraggly mustache," and the rest just rubbed it in deeper.

-- Spungen

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an offhand remark in this thread (which is an entertaining anysis of a total trainwreck at Dr. Helen's) about the way girls learn self-presentation skills due to social expectations (thus allowing your evil woman to cloak herself to some extent) but boys often do not. Just food for thought.

Where's the post about the female player, by the way? Now I'm curious about what made her "evil."

6:27 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Weird. On re-reading my post, I realize I used nearly exactly the same words about her. I've clearly developed a fixed mental framing. I don't think she was evil, but I thought she was empty where she should have felt for other people, or felt shame. I thought that if she were inclined to do evil -and I never heard that she did- she had nothing inside to stop her.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Noel said...

Nice but annoying is a pretty common geek syndrome. It usually comes down to poor socialisation.

I'm so totally with you and Justin on the 'dangerplayers'. They are few but memorable.

2:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I've say stuff like "He's alright BUT..." to explain my aversion, in the long run I realize that he isn't okay, sometimes in a dangerous way. Trust your instincts and stay far away from that guy. The woman you just don't really like, which isn't a huge deal. The aversion to the man is a signal to stay away from him. He may be dangerous in other ways than on the field. You want to like and accept people in general, but remember there are some sick people out there, so trust your gut.


4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The social penalty associated with being annoying is often much, much higher than that associated with being bad. This is profoundly unfair, but it's still true. So resolving to be nice to annoying people is a good thing, even though it's hard. But don't let it cost you your knees.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Dangerplayer's collisions were "accidental" only by the most convoluted stretching of the word. Unless he were a complete moron - which, admittedly, sounds within the realm of possibility - he should have realized early on that his style of play, combined with his lack of coordination, was a danger to other competitors. He then should have toned down his style accordingly. By continuing to play in the same manner, however, he showed a complete lack of regard for everyone else's safety.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much I like someone and how much I respect them, while closely linked, are distinct. In an environment where you face a choice between associating with someone and giving up the activity, it can be appropriate to just get along with someone you don't particularly respect. Lord knows there's a few ulty players here that I wouldn't give the time of day if I didn't have to deal with them, and I'm sure there's a few that feel the same way about me.

Also, there are plenty of perfectly good people that I just don't associate with. In a world of limited time you have to have some resource-allocation algorithm, and including "doesn't annoy me" in it is fine.

Peter and LB are too strong in their moral condemnation. Most people do realize the dangers involved, but some people are just plain clueless. Idiocy is not morally suspect.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

It is hard to convey these guys, how sincere and enthusiastic they are, and how terrible they feel after they hurt someone, and how they don't have the field sense to watch people and the disc, and how they vow to be careful, but they just can't if they think they can make a catch.

I have fully snapped at them, telling them not to get in plays if they aren't in control, but they aren't as coordinated as they think, and they aren't self-aware enough to monitor themselves. They would have to not play at all, and is hard to ban someone who loves it SO much, and is trying SO hard.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Lady, I am almost entirely with you, because I never thought his company was worth the danger he posed. I often wished he would spontaneously find another hobby.

But we have this ridiculous ethic of including people, and he wasn't mean, and who was going to be the bad guy, and you can't secretly move the game and not tell him, and like that. If it is pick-up, if there is no ref or league or authority, the situation just drifts on.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Also, I think there is greater tolerance for not having good bodily control when you are playing a sport all out. Maybe that's the opposite of how it should be, 'cause the risks of injury are so much higher, but he was coordinated enough for daily life, just not enough to catch a disc and avoid landing on people.

Incidently, the most amazing catch I ever saw was a guy laying out for a disc. He caught it in his right hand when he was completely horizontal, then reached out with his left hand to catch his glasses. He landed flat on his back, disc on one hand, glasses in the other. Some people can make stunning leaps over and around you, and never hurt you.

3:09 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

Peter's point should be in the general rulebook of all sports to be maintained by the International Standards Organization. When you are new to something, figure out some of the subtleties of the body movements before you kill someone. It might not be their fault that in any particular collision someone lost their knee. Over the course of the game, however, it is his fault that he played in a manner that any idiot would know someone was eventually going to lose their knee to him.
Side note: I have this strange characteristic that people who decide to run into me hurt themselves doing so. (They don't take out their knees, but they seem to feel it.) I have yet to transform this into a marketable skill.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll bet that Dangerplayer got away with his antics because Ultimate players tend to be peaceful non-violent sorts. If he'd tried such things in, say, an inner city pickup basketball game, he would have learned his lesson - the hard way.


6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter hits it right on the nose (with both posts).

6:29 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

But they weren't antics. They were just him, playing harder than he could control. The only way to stop him would be to scold him every time he bid for a disc, or ran through traffic. You play a sport to get out of your mind a little bit, and we would have had to forbid him to do that every single time.

No one was willing to do that. I couldn't be nice to him, but I couldn't be that mean to him either.

(In tkd, that would be a ref's responsibility, and the ref would be at fault if anyone got hurt.)

9:13 AM  

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