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Screen Shots: Improving the discourse

Sometimes fans can share the same vitriol as players and coaches, such as Wayne Gretzky. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Sometimes fans can share the same vitriol as players and coaches, such as Wayne Gretzky. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before I became immersed in the lucrative, groupie-laden, glamorous world of sports journalism, I dabbled in government work, a career choice that afforded me a fair amount of insight into the often-depressing realities of dealing with the almost-always angry general public on a daily basis.

Even with that background, I never was fully prepared to deal with the hate mail that is virtually guaranteed to come your way as an Internet-era sportswriter. Thanks to the tribalism involved and inherent in pro sports, the level of vitriol and sheer rage displayed and conveyed by those whose technological savvy is limited to knowing where the “on” and “send” functions are located on their computer would send a shiver down the spine of even the most desensitized misanthrope.

I don’t mind angry criticisms from readers if they are creatively expressed. Unfortunately, a good chunk of emailers fall into the same old, staid, rhetorical traps that barely cause a mental ripple among seasoned hate mail recipients like yours truly, madly and deeply.

Therefore, in the hope of raising the level of feedback-related discourse for the upcoming season, I’m going to list a handful of the most-used, least-effective hate-mail techniques and demonstrate the complete absence of imagination and logic that goes into them.

1. The “So-Called Experts.”

An expert? Lil’ old moi? I don’t recall ever referring to myself in such a manner, but even if I did, the term “expert” doesn’t entail 100 percent accuracy in the field of predictions, nor does it assure me of being forever infallible in asserting or defending my theories or opinions.

Don’t forget, Bob Goodenow was considered a labor-relations expert at one point, too.

Anyway, if I’m an expert at anything, I’d like to think I’m an expert with the English language. If you don’t believe that, I kindly invite you to masticate my nates.

2. ‘Nuff Said.

I always wished anyone who used this line – and then usually went on to write a 650-word treatise on what they just claimed to have said enough about – would’ve thought it in their head and simply left it at that.

Know what the universal symbol among intelligent people is for “nuff said?” A period! And I don’t mean 20 minutes of hockey.

3. I’ll Never Get Back The 10 Minutes Of My Life I Spent Reading That.

I’ll accept this one as legit if you can tell me exactly what part of your life you can get a redeemable refund for.

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4. Do you even watch hockey? Alternate version: Have you even played hockey?

These two vapidities share something in common with the “so-called experts” putdown, because at the core of all three lies the assumption you must have played the game at an elite level to be able to comment on it.

Indeed, that philosophy is held by a select, arrogant few in the NHL community. And that’s why anytime someone – like a handful of TV analyst/former player types I won’t name – looks down his nose at hockey writers for the sole reason they weren’t a former teammate or member of the NHLPA, I have to laugh.

The day those ex-players (or for that matter, readers who don’t know their “you’re” from they’re “your”) show the capability of forming coherent, engaging thoughts with printed/typed words is the day I’ll believe they could do my job.

The lesson: A little mutual respect will get you a long way in this business.

5. This Is The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Read In My Life.

Honestly? Have you by chance flipped through Mein Kampf? Or Gary Bettman’s Guide to Scrutinizing Potential NHL Owners?

Take it from a seasoned hyperbolist – even hyperbole has its limits.

6. Can I Have Some Of What You’ve Been Smoking?

This one isn’t limited to the sports world, but I’ve never quite understood the rationale behind it.

On the one hand, you’re ridiculing one of my ideas by implying I was in some terribly altered state; but in the same breath, you’re telling me you found it interesting enough to request some of my stash. Can’t have it both ways, my friend!

Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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