One time I had a soccer coach who encouraged us to jab the opposing players in the nut sack during free kicks when the ref wasn’t looking. As captain, I argued to my team that though the coach said this, I would call them out on it, as it undermined the entire game.
The exercise of organized sports is about seeing who can win under a specific set of conditions, like in the case of soccer: using only your feet and not using sneaky freaky scrote punches. Nut-ball actually sounds like a great game, but it was simply not the game we were playing.
The goal of figure skating, to take another example, is to dance and spin on an icy surface better than your competitors without mangling their leg bone–you were thinking of Roman gladiatorial death combat on ice, Tonya, which is just a different, equally legitimate, game.
American civic life is governed by laws enforced by a refereeing authority, who actually very often isn’t looking—like on my high school soccer team where maybe I did end up grabbing lots of nuts. But in other ways, our civic life looks more like a pick-up basketball game, where there is no ref, where we move forward by practicing deference to one another, honesty, respect for opposing forces, adherence to a system of ethics. Sportsmanship. Integrity.
To many, 2016 feels like a certain someone on the court got the basketball, started throwing elbows, double-dribbling, kicking the ball, screaming in people’s faces, and then if the other team would call his foul he would throw up his arms and yell “What are you talking about! Prove it, you liars!” And because he won, and since his teammates didn’t acknowledge his fouls, it undermined the conditions of the entire game, and we’re all now worried whether the deference-honesty-respect-ethics-integrity stuff isn’t gunna count anymore.
Duhs and Donts isn’t saving lives, but maybe—while having some fun—it can be used to teach one another how not to be jerks in the modern era, all the new dos and don’ts we can follow to move forward collectively in peace. After all, Twitter is pretty new, and maybe that certain someone just doesn’t know its rules yet.