March 15, 2013
In A Pickle
To Communicate a Failure
You've heard this one, even if it's past its sell-by date by now: "Epic fail, bro."
Or you've seen people like Grant Brisbee doing GB Things with GIFs.
The part of the internet/pop/Twitter/baseball/nerd culture that I hang around in has lately taken strongly to amusement at the failure of others. Before you snort and move on to some other excellent piece on this website, though: This isn't a scold-shame-boooo kind of thing. I like watching the GIFs in the second link above just as much as you do! I'm speaking more from a descriptive point of view. I take no normative stance on how hard you laugh when someone falls down. There's no room for kinkshaming here, even/especially if your kink is watching Shane Victorino go boom.
I do, however, wonder why we enjoy baseballs hitting players in the nether locales, colossal screw-ups that result in three errors on a single play, and slides that wind up three feet short of the bag, Wesley Snipes–style. The word "schadenfreude" comes to mind, but it doesn't truly fit—the actual misfortune and pain of others isn't bringing us the delight so much as some aesthetic aspect of that misfortune. We don't look at a lopsided final score and and feel the same way as when we watch some poor sap get devastated by a dunk or trip over his own feet chasing a popup.
This suggests something about the scale of the misfortune being important. Losing a game has lasting and obvious repercussions for a season. It's written down forever in cold type. A single play, though, is just a single play. It's the rare hilarious GIF-inspiring action on the field, in fact, that can be fully captured in a scorebook. Go back to the Grant Brisbee link above and look at how each of those GIFs would be scored (from bottom up, so the numbers match).