Where Is the Line Between Jokes Being in Fun or Bullying?

The Anonymous Account Creates Banter and Excitement, but Can Hurt

A few months ago I wrote an article titled “Who is EGR Barstool?” The page was a fun,  lighthearted page, centered around the interesting happenings of East Grand Rapids. Now, with the page under new ownership, the content has gone in a different direction, one that I have enjoyed. The page now focuses on promoting EGR sporting events by trash-talking other schools and players. This format has been copied throughout the greater Grand Rapids area, and in this era of social media, you would be hard-pressed to find a school that does not have a barstool account. With the change in direction for the page, it poses the question, are the posts just friendly banter between schools, or are they taking it too far? 

To be honest, I like the new direction of the page. It is a callback to the good old-fashioned banter between teams and players that so many people are trying to take out of sports today. In an era of participation trophies and  “sensitive” parents and players, the page feels like a return to the classic competitiveness that draws me to sports. The problem with sports today is a lack of competition. The way I see it, you play to win the game. Obviously, you should get enjoyment out of your sport, but the enjoyment comes from winning. And while these Barstool accounts may not offer any competitive advantage, I enjoy them because of what they stand for, players and fans having passion about the game that they play, rather than just playing to play. 

And yet, I do think that there are instances where the pages can take it too far. To be honest, I am fine with most of the insults. While some people may say that the trash talk should be limited to the general school, I have no problem with calling out specific players as well. My general rule of thumb is asking myself, would I say it to their face? Most of the time, the answer is yes. In high-level sports, the game is equally as mental as it is physical. If you can get inside teams and players’ heads, there is definitely a competitive advantage, and that is not restricted to inside the lines of the playing field. There is an unwritten rule in most sports that is not to take anything too seriously because at the end of the day, anything said in the name of the competition is not personal. Most of the time, players do not have any serious gripe with each other. Where the pages cross the line, in my opinion, is when they say things that are clearly bullying and harassment. Everyone has a conscience, and we know what is considered “crossing the line”. That is not ok. However, I think that so far the accounts have done a good job at keeping the jabs in good taste.

With that being said, I understand that words can hurt. If you are an athlete frequently attacked by these Barstool accounts, it may get under your skin. I advise those players to reflect why they are posting what they are. If they feel the need to call you out, you are doing something right. Also, leave it all on the floor. Good play silences all, and if you continue to play at a high level, they will not have anything left to say. 

While some people may be disappointed with the new direction of the EGR Barstool account, I have enjoyed the sports-centric content. It is just another good way to inform students about the happenings in sports, game times, etc. The chirps are also very entertaining, and it is a good way to interact with other schools. And yet, the “old page” also had some funny content. Maybe the new owner of the account can find a happy medium between the new direction and old direction and create a page that encompasses the entire school.

This article appeared in the February edition of The East Vision.