You don’t have to be a cheerleader to tire of the boos

September 25, 2011 

A “Sound Off” submission struck home for me the other day.

This is one of the few times you’ll see a reference to that particular forum here, because to be quite frank, “Sound Off” is not my favorite part of the paper. Actually, that’s not quite frank enough: I loathe “Sound Off” to the depths of my soul. That has to do generally with a disdain for anonymous commentary, and specifically with the river of sullen, trite, boring, frequently plagiarized, breathtakingly ignorant and numbingly racist sewage from which we try to extract responsible, thoughtful, provocative, witty and edgy observations.

From among the latter:

“Columbus reeks of armchair quarterbacks rotting in their negativity. From one side of the mouth they complain about how backwards Columbus is. From the other they scoff at anyone who tries to move Columbus forward.”

I don’t know whether the author had the whitewater project in mind, but he (the e-mail address included a man’s name) might well have. If he didn’t, he could have been thinking of a score of other ideas and projects over as many years that were scoffed and hooted at by the same usual suspects. Of every five such visions, if four of them are spectacular successes and the fifth fizzles out, they gloat and crow about that one as though its failure were something to celebrate.

I don’t know whether Columbus has more of these peanut gallery goobers than comparable communities do; probably not. These are just the ones we hear. They’re the background noise to any effort at progress, at enlightenment, at civic uplift. They’re the drunk in the back of the comedy club everybody wishes would shut the hell up.

Once, just once, you’d like to hear one of these hecklers point to the RiverCenter or Oxbow Meadows or the Space Science Center or CSU’s riverfront campus and say something like: “You know, I thought that was a total waste of time and money, and a really stupid idea. Man, was I wrong.”

You’ll never hear anything of the kind, of course. If they were capable of that kind of self-awareness and self-deprecation, they’d be something more useful than hecklers to begin with.

They remind you of the pro jock who talks a lot of macho smack or “guarantees” a victory before the big game, and then is nowhere to be found after his three fumbles help his team to the short end of a 42-3 beatdown. I always find myself hoping some brave sportscaster will track the guy down and ask, “So, Rocky: Think you made a total dinkus of yourself?”

With the whitewater project, my favorite Debbie Downer line is the one about how the river is so polluted nobody will get in it. (That one’s a Sound Off golden oldie.)

This is probably not the best example for making my case, but I’ve been swimming in the waters of the Chattahoochee for only about 50 years now. So have a few dozen other people I know. Maybe it’s poisoned my brain, but that can’t be true of all the others. If we’ve survived it for half a century, some whitewater enthusiasts can surely handle it for an afternoon.

Maybe the whitewater project will be a bust. Maybe it’s a winning idea at a time when we’re losing a water war. (Oh, wait -- my bad. I keep forgetting that every court decision allowing Atlanta to siphon off more of the Hooch is a “victory for Georgia.”)

If so, the habitual hecklers will have that to hoot and cackle and crow about. If not, they’ll move on to something else. Either way, it seems like a pretty pathetic excuse for a life.

Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; dnix@ledger-enquirer.com.

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