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We can’t let sports, like everything else, send us to our separate corners

Society’s recent decisions to faction off are hurting everyone -- even fans of the same sports program.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Syracuse vs North Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Everything is sports” has become a prevailing internet opinion, and in some cases, a fun one for folks who create content for a living. Everything from reality TV, to cake, politics and more can be viewed through a sports-focused lens to score a winner and a loser.

But that has also given way to another, more society-wide brand of “everything is politics” in recent years. More specifically: “Everything is politics and I don’t want to hear about anything the other side has to say about anything. Ever.”

The other side and its beliefs define modern political discussion. Now, for some reason, they’re defining sports, too. Even when it comes to interactions between members of the same fan base.

For Syracuse fans, we’ve unfortunately seen it firsthand over the last couple years as the online fan base creates its bunkers across the expanses of the Orange-tinged internet.

Former football coach Scott Shafer felt criticized by the media covering him, so he went on the offensive in 2015. The media, TNIAAM especially, went after him for it. The lines were drawn. Everyone on both sides went to their respective bunkers. On one side, the #IStandWithShafer crew. On the other, the #FireShafer folks, many of whom made up the staff and regular commenters here. You couldn’t tell either side anything to the contrary of what they believed. There was a split amongst our ranks.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The bunkers continued -- this time, society-wide -- when last year’s presidential election came around. As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ramped up vitriol toward one another, their supporters responded in kind. Where we were once a society that could get along despite divergent political views, it’s become harder and harder to do so since the election ended.

“Gotta hear both sides” has given way to one-sided arguments, hard-right and hard-left echo chambers and a silo effect in society that’s getting worse by the day. I’m guilty of it myself when it comes to current events. While I once actively sought out opinions and commentary on both sides of the aisle, I catch myself ignoring the conservative viewpoint entirely now. Conservatives I know -- many of whom are family — have conducted themselves similarly with regard to liberal opinions.

These unfortunate side effects of an exhausting election season have now taken hold on the way every fan base — music, political, sports, etc. — thinks. That goes for this one too, in the latest “us vs. them” battle to play out, this time over Fab Melo’s tragic passing.

You probably know the story by now:

Following Melo’s death, Syracusefan user and admin CTO posted that the former SU player was “no saint” and added reasons (related to the NCAA investigation) why the 26-year old harmed the program more than he helped it. That would be your run-of-the-mill bad internet opinion if not for the fact that CTO is the screen name of SU Board of Trustees member Joyce Hergenhan.

Hergenhan issued some slight apology after being met with loud criticism on Syracusefan, but eventually, those screenshots of the thread reached Deadspin.

In the aftermath, Syracusefan responded by nuking the thread and CTO’s comments. They worked with sister UConn site, the Boneyard, to do the same there too. They also worked as a staff to try and get comments taken down around the Deadspin story. A Syracusefan admin contacted me directly because someone had linked to the Deadspin story in TNIAAM’s comments. They asked for it to be removed.

I respectfully declined.

This is where the impasse begins between the two communities, which had long worked together as the largest fan wings of the Orange internet.

It continued when admins there used the first name of Deadspin’s source to track down the “rat” and ban him permanently from Syracusefan. That user happened to be a user here too (as many readers of both sites are). His (since deleted by the user) FanPost about it was a popular topic in a lengthy Syracusefan thread first disparaging’s Mike Waters, then redirecting its ire at the user, myself, and TNIAAM.

The victims in this situation were the deceased Fab Melo (most importantly) and the since-banned user, who felt he had to go into internet hiding after the fact. But in the eyes of many at Syracusefan, the community and Hergenhan were wronged most of all. Hergenhan, the person of significant stature within the university, and the public forum she commented on (while assuming anonymity). According to one corner of the internet, no one was more betrayed than those two entities.

They, like all of us nowadays, headed down to the bunker. They closed ranks, as they had before. Syracusefan posted another short thread to make sure TNIAAM links would no longer appear on the site, lest an opinion counter to their views get past the wall being built higher and higher around them. This was something they’d done with 247 Sports in the past, as well.

These are fans of the same team I’m a fan of, and you’re a fan of, trying to lock the doors of their (public) community to prevent outside opinions from getting in.

They’re not the only ones, though. For years as an editor here, I’ve made tough decisions about how far opinions and criticism can go. Sometimes I’ve made the right call warning on banning a user. Others, perhaps not, and I’m willing to admit as much in hindsight.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

All of these actions point back to the same bunker mentality — one we should all strive to eliminate, even as it becomes more and more prevailing in our everyday lives. We can see things differently, from politics, to sports to where we get our news. Those differences are part of who we are (as a country, region, city, fan base). Eliminating them wouldn’t make much sense, and makes us all worse for it.

The constant need to not just create the bunker, but assign blame around the need for it, also misconstrues who’s really being harmed.

On both sides of the political aisle right now, a lot of people with means are shouting about how to handle matters that directly affect those without. However, the victims (in their minds) are those arguing about the issues — not the people caught in the crossfire and dealing with the aftermath.

Going back to the “everything is sports” point, both sides are so dead-set on winning the battle that they’ve forgotten the whole point of the war. The war, in America’s case, is a better society that benefits all of its citizens. The war for Syracuse Orange supporters is just seeing a successful athletic program that benefits both fans and athletes alike.

Maybe we’ve all gone too far down into the bunker, or too far into our separate corners, to repair the impact of current events on how we conduct discourse. For everyone’s sake, though, I hope we give it another chance to climb on out and give that “other side” another shot. We might just end up learning something.

TNIAAM continues to welcome all opinions and ideas, and encourages discourse (large and small) to be backed up with facts. That’s whether you’re coming here from Syracusefan, Twitter, comments, or hell -- even a Georgetown site. Those with well-though-out arguments will always be welcome. We hope others extend the same invitation to us.