So, during the football game that did not happen, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hurt his knee, and had to be pulled from the game. For whatever reason, a bunch of commentators watching the non-game–those working for television networks, and those who have Twitter feeds (both groups include NFL veterans)–decided that it was okay to allege that Cutler wasn’t really hurt, that they could tell that he was fine, and could play, and that by failing to play, Cutler somehow quit on the Bears, didn’t have the heart of a champion/a warrior/a reliable teammate, and that he let his team, Chicago, and the entire National Football League down. Never mind that these people were not actually on the scene, in Chicago, talking to Cutler, his coaches, his trainers, or the team doctors. Never mind that they had no firsthand knowledge whatsoever concerning his injury. They figured that just by watching TV, they could tell that Cutler simply didn’t have the will to soldier on, and there was no talking them out of their conclusions.
For all of you who obtained your medical license via Twitter or studied under Dr. Maurice Jones-Drew, a sprain indeed is a tear. So when coach Lovie Smith revealed that Cutler suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament, it more than justified Cutler missing the second half of Sunday’s NFC championship game.
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A knee sprain is an injury that takes at least two weeks to heal — not two series. Had the Bears found a way to beat the Packers and Cutler missed the Super Bowl, then the continued questioning of Cutler’s physical and mental toughness would have been understandable. What has happened since the Bears’ loss related to Cutler’s injury borders on ridiculous.
Indeed. But there is more to this story than just the sliming of Jay Cutler.
Apparently, some people think that the Internet confers upon them strange and wondrous powers of cognition and insight. Do you have a Twitter account? Well then, you are a physician, capable of making a diagnosis of Jay Cutler’s knee from hundreds or thousands of miles away, simply by watching him on the tube! Do you have a blog? Excellent; you are an Internet obstetrician, qualified to tell us whether Sarah Palin really is Trig’s mom! Got both a Twitter account, and a blog? Marvelous! You can make arguments that omit an explanation of Phase 2!
Look, I have been quite the New Media triumphalist ever since entering the Blogosphere nine(!) years ago. I think that blogs are great. I am thrilled to see that they are accepted vehicles of discourse. I think that a lot of bloggers do really sterling work, and it is a delight to read the many blogs whose writers are experts in their field. And of course, Twitter and Facebook both do a great job of furthering the online conversation.
But neither blogs, nor Twitter make one omniscient. Being on the ground when and where a story is unfolding, gathering facts, talking to people, and getting firsthand knowledge remain an indispensable part of reporting a story right. Of course, most of us bloggers/tweeters/Facebook users don’t have the ability to deploy ourselves–or people who work for us–somewhere to cover a story. As a consequence, we have to rely on the mainstream media to give us facts that have been gathered in the course of commenting on a particular issue. That way, we stand a better chance of having actual, verifiable knowledge at our disposal in order to aid our analysis of that issue.
Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to keep their powder dry until the facts roll in. Rather, they jump to conclusions that best fit their ideological makeup, and then dig in their heels. We have seen this with Andrew Sullivan and the issue of Trig Palin’s matrilineal line; after all of the evidence making it clear that Palin actually is Trig’s mother, Sullivan remains utterly unwilling to let go of the issue. We have seen this regarding the Tucson shootings; after all of the evidence making it clear that Jared Lee Loughner is a mentally ill individual, that Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Republican party, and the center-right in general had nothing to do with the spasm of violence he initiated, and that violent rhetoric is by no means confined to just one end of the ideological spectrum, plenty of demagogues refuse to abandon the fantasy that Palin’s publication of a map led to Jared Lee Loughner wanting to shoot Gabrielle Giffords.
I guess that it shouldn’t surprise me that the same mass mental errors that led to the absurd controversy surrounding Trig Palin’s matrilineal line, and the absurd controversy concerning whether Jared Lee Loughner is a latter-day Ronald Reagan, should have led to the absurd controversy concerning whether Jay Cutler’s knee really was as badly injured as he and the Bears made it out to be. But it is kind of depressing to see how often online commentators are willing to opine before they are even in receipt of the facts. Oh, I am not perfect, and I have jumped to conclusions more than once in my life. But at least I admit that I can be prone to doing so, and have tried to be better about refraining from commentary until I collect the facts. Apparently, however, others believe that making similar resolutions is for the birds, and continue to plunge headfirst into a sea of commentary, without so much as a compass to guide them.