She: God, did you see what she was wearing?
Me: Oh, you mean…
Me: Wait, are we talking about…
Afterwork conversation among friends at a local watering hole in between sips of gin tonic and beer? More like roadside chat among triathletes in between sips of water and energy drinks at a recently concluded standard distance triathlon.
The multi-sport community is a small but growing town of diverse personalities and characters, packed with tales of crimes and misdemeanors that serve as fodder for the rumor mill. And that’s what makes this sport even more interesting: If you look and listen close enough, there’s as much to be learned from the triathletes’ lives as there is from their race performances. It’s a regular hotbed of showbiz, politics, and sports. I hazard to say that this phenomenon is present in practically any sport community. It just so happens that I hear a lot more scuttlebutt here than from the running and cycling community. Or maybe I’m not listening and looking hard enough with the other two.
A cousin once wrote an article about his fascination for local entertainment gossip, despite living halfway across the world earning his double degree at a top-notch university in the US. This was back when shoulder pads, harem pants, and big hair were in vogue, and when being a Regal Baby and/or guesting on See-True were the equivalent of having arrived in local showbiz. Instead of US Weekly or Entertainment Weekly, he pored over Kislap and other local rags that ran articles on pregnant starlets, cuckolded athletes, and other juicy dirt on movie stars, politicians, and basketball players. Yes, Virginia, even people who go on to become captains of the industry and biggies in the boardroom enjoy a healthy dose of gossip in their daily diet.
And though I am never going back to a life of suits, ties, and after work schmoozing, I cop to the same guilty pleasure of bending an ear in the direction of tattles and tidbits about most any news that raises eyebrows or better yet, elicits gasps of surprise or horror. I remember when a daily tabloid filled with the latest rumors and news about local entertainment personalities was a regular expense entry in my cost of living allowance. I even had my regular newsboy waiting for me every weekday morning at the traffic intersection, with tabloid in hand, ready for our five-second exchange of money for muck rag. I still get the dirt on showbiz, politics, and sports — but most of it is terribly accessible now via technology (pc, mobile phone, et al) and talknology (text, twitter, et al).
Our society’s obsession with gossip of all casts and colors stems from, I believe, restlessness amidst a peaceful environment. Quiet has no place in a world that regards bad news as better, especially when it involves shock and scandal, usually tinged with immoral or unethical behavior. Sometimes, bad behavior is enough to plant the fast-growing rumor seed, which can bloom into an entire tree of black propaganda whose branches stretch far beyond the targeted person(s) control. Most people tend to resort to rumors in the absence of ‘real’ topics of conversation for reasons of convenience and perhaps, entertainment. And even within the tightest of group of friends, it’s almost certain that the absentee becomes the main topic of conversation, simply because he/she isn’t there to validate facts or defend himself/herself.
It’s not uncommon to hear a lot of gossiping during training runs or group rides, since it (gossiping) seems to be a socially accepted practice. In fact, there’s an unofficial ‘chat lane’ in the swimming pool where I normally train, where the swimmers sheepishly admit to spending more time exercising their jaw muscles than the rest of their bodies. Anyone is fair game in the gossip mill. The key to staying out of the crosshairs is to maintain a low profile, which means to keep as quiet as possible. But triathletes are normally Type A personalities or are social creatures to begin with, so that makes blending into the background a bit of a challenge. BUT, it is possible. I have met triathletes over the years that have managed to train and compete in obscurity, but have also done more than decent jobs at establishing themselves as forces to reckon with come race day.
Here’s where the incongruity plays into the picture: it’s often fascinating and amusing to listen to (and even spread) rumors, but turn the tables on the rumormonger and he/she will be singing an entirely different tune. We like to talk about other people, but when the conversation turns to us, we clam up.
So where is all of this going? Not very far, really. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, gossiping and rumormongering aren’t going to go away anytime soon. They’re part of the territory and are probably hard-wired into us as a people, like some cultural defect that has somehow been reinforced by our extended villages of sport, politics, relations, and interrelations. And we’re just too small a society that can connect with little difficulty a humble tobacco farmer to the president of the republic through no more than four degrees of separation.
Methinks the wiser among us tend to put on our thinking caps when faced with the latest slew of hearsay, preferring validation to promulgation. The news can easily end there, or can take on a qualified, fact-checked version that may not sound as fantastic or earth shaking, but could offer a more plausible interpretation of the original story. Of course, it can’t be helped to call a spade a spade when the only report to be made is Ms. X is pregnant by Mr. Y, or Mr. A left his family for Ms. B.
So it’s probably good advice to check your facts before pulling that trigger on the gossip gun, while taking aim at your favorite subject(s) of the moment. And while you’re at it, did you hear the one about…?
IMHO (In My Humdrum Opinion)
It had to happen: My Top Ten Pet Peeves On Facebook Conduct. Not in order of annoyance level. And I have a lot more than ten.
10. ‘Liking’ one’s status. There are better ways to getting attention. Like suicide.
9. Shameless self-promotion pic. Okay, so you can juggle, balance on a chopstick while juggling, or won best smile of the week. I’m not going to hit the ‘like’ button to encourage you. I’m just going to hit you.
8. Selling This For Someone. Whatever it is, I’m not buying. Go start up a buy site.
7. The Late News Report. That sports/business/political/showbiz story was reported four hours ago, Anderson. Maybe if you stopped playing Candy Crush for a few seconds, you’d know what was happening in the world.
6. The Effusive Declarations of Love. I give it six months. Max.
5. The Hallelujah. So you love God and his word. Go to church. And stay there.
4. The Uneventful Status Update. Hear that? That’s the Cricket Symphony in A Minor. Dedicated to you.
3. Game Invites. Mafia Wars, Farmville, Candy Crush. Where’s that Unfriend button?
2. The Facebook-Is-Violating-This-And-That-Privacy/Right Post. Check your sources, Smarty. Never heard of www.snopes.com? Figures.
1. The Single Word Status (aka Annoying fraternal twin of #4). Am not going to ask you why or what it’s about. Because I don’t care.
So there. Unfriend me. Please.
"It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up."