I went to a Rockets game last Wednesday with a friend. It was a good change of pace for me, a chance to leave some toxic surroundings for a while. It was a favor, in a way. I was sick, I was beat down, and I was tired. Conversation wasn't very good, though the Toyota Center was empty enough to hear things just fine. But none of that really mattered. What mattered was reaching out to someone, swapping stories and connecting, and leaving behind my disjointed and self-defeating thoughts for about four hours.
It was on the drive back that I asked about another of our friends who was supposed to go to the game with us, and he had been "too busy." The way my friend described it to me, it was as if he had pleaded with this guy that I needed the break and there was no real compassion there. We're talking about a guy I've known since I was maybe 15 or 16, and it turns out he's really bitter about the way I've treated him and I never knew about it.
I've been around the internet long enough to know that if you seriously look at someone's past, you can find instances where they've done or said something stupid. I also know that oftentimes we'll wear masks for the greater benefit of our issues. To hide insecurity, or to not face facts that need to be faced. Anyway, from the ages of about 16 to 20, I was a giant dick to everyone. It's not that I was a bad kid, and yes, part of it was me just trying too hard to be funny, but it was mostly because I was depressed. I took it out on the world and made a lot of future enmity in the process. At best I'd have people tell me they thought I hated them, and at worst, well, they'd act accordingly on that idea.
I was playing cards, as I was wont to do at that age (this is the particular game, if you need guidance about what kind of nerd I was), and this guy walked into the card store and began talking in a manner that reminded me of the kids in Lassie. "Gosh, that Kevin Stocker is a MEAN 300 points!" And I looked over and ruined his life in an observation:
This guy looks exactly like the Hamburglar.
The thing is, it became a cycle of behavior that he wouldn't stop and I wouldn't stop. I would belittle him because he was goofy as hell, and he was so nice as to never stand up for himself in any situation. Heck, he even wound up embracing "The Hamburglar," and would use it in his screennames or aliases.
Now, I am positive that I was really a dick to him at some point - when I was that age, I was a dick to EVERYBODY at some point - but I honestly never knew how far under his skin it got. I didn't read the signs properly. I'm not saying I thought he enjoyed it, but I thought he was taking it in good spirits.
I was in a situation for the last couple of weeks where a lot of people were willing to step up and help me out. People who knew who I really was and not just the dick I turn into sometimes to get shock laughs or prove a point. I suppose that, even though I really thought I did try to show the real me to this person, he never saw it. It might be a thing where there was just too much enmity built up, where the past just holds too much pain for him to embrace this idea of me as someone who isn't trying to tear him down.
I suppose, if that's the case, it's the mark I have to bear. I have reached out to him a couple of times in the recent past with congratulations about new gigs that he's gotten - and trust me, the guy has some pretty enviable jobs. I heard Bill Worrell mention him by name one time and texted him about how cool that was. I guess I'm beginning to see why I never heard anything back.
I'm sharing this not in the name of having a pity party, but just as an example. Sometimes, you don't really know how your behavior is affecting someone. I find myself looking more and more back on the past and simply wishing that I had known about how someone had felt before I acted. I doubt it would have changed much in this instance because I was completely self-absorbed at this point, but I like to think there is a sliver of me that would have listened. Obviously I've got a ways to go with communicating all my thoughts in the flesh. In your life, too, there's probably someone out there who could use your encouragement and who would like to be heard.
I guess all I can say is that I'm sorry.
So, if you want to submit a question to the Battle Red Bag, here is the procedure you should follow:
1) You should shoot an email to rivers (dot) mccown (at) gmail (dot) com.
2) Said e-mail should contain a question. For instance, you could ask me what I'd name a cat. Or, if you have a little more confidence in me, you could ask me a question that has some deeper meaning in your life. Or you could do what you did last week. Again.
3) You should put a subject in your email that is something like "Bag Question," "Battle Red Bag," "Question for Bag," or "So, I Totally Have A Crush On You" to ensure that I read it.
4) You should wait a reasonable number of days. A week. Maybe 8 days. 9 if I really hit a wall.
5) You should read the answers to your questions next week. It will be enlightening. You can do it without pants if you want to. Nobody's judging you here.
(Please, no questions about Football Outsiders-related statistics or content. Thanks!)