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July 10th, 2014

Inexplicably Bad Decisions

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Memo to McLean police, the International eSports Federation, and Shaun McCurtain: IT IS NOT THAT DIFFICULT.

In all walks of life, wherever we live, whatever we do, I think we can all agree that it's important to make the right call. Sometimes, making the right call is difficult. And sometimes, the right call is so incredibly obvious that you wonder how anyone could spend days or weeks defending the wrong call, or even making it in the first place. Three such astonishingly bad calls make up this week's SPASTIC TOPIC MONKEY FRIDAY.

Let's say that you, as a small town police department, are faced with a choice. You have a 17-year-old in custody, accused of sending a picture of his junk to his 15-year-old girlfriend. You could recognize that it's 2014, everything has a camera, half of everything has a penis, the consequences are obious, and let the kid off with a stern warning. Or, you could insist that, in order to prove that the kid was making child pornography of himself, you had to take official, police-sanctioned photos of the kid's erect penis, because, like so many other things, it's apparently not illegal when done by a policeman.

This should be an easy call. Don't figure out some official way to force a 17-year-old to have a boner so you can take a picture of it. Nobody should even have to say don't do that. And people certainly shouldn't have had to say that repeatedly to the McLean, Virginia Police Department until the negative publicity got to them and they begrudgingly backed down. From taking a mug shot of an underage cock. I repeat, begrudgingly. THIS IS NOT THAT DIFFICULT.


Let's say you're a South Korean organization and the latest group trying to pretend playing video games is a real sport, even though it's not. It's OK, video games. You don't have to be a real sport. Lots of fun, competitive things aren't real sports. Roller derby and golf seem to be getting along just fine, after all.

Anyway, in your attempt to grant sports legitimacy to Hearthstone, a free-to-play electronic collectible card game based on World of Warcraft, you have a choice. You could announce proudly that there are no girls allowed in your tournament, or you could... well, not fucking do that. It seems like an obvious call. I mean, it's a card game on PCs and tablets. It's not like breasts are some kind of disqualifying factor. Yet the IeSF failed to make the obvious call, until everyone yelled at them for a few days, and then they reversed the decision mostly. THIS IS NOT THAT DIFFICULT.


Let's say you're a high-school teacher in Iowa. You say something to one of your African-American students. He responds by saying, "Yes, sir." You could:

1. Say nothing.

2. Correct the student, telling him the correct form of address is "Yes, sir, master."

One of the things I do to pay the bills is come up with multiple choice questions like this. If anyone suggested "master" as a possible wrong answer in this situation, I would laugh them out of a conference room, because nobody would ever do that.

Yet Shawn McCurtain, Roosevelt High School teacher, did. He has since apologized, but what other discipline he received, if any, is being kept confidential, because clearly the last thing this school needs is anyone speaking out of turn. Again, this is not a difficult decision to make. There are very few circumstances where it's appropriate to tell anyone to call you "master", and none of them should be taking place in a high school classroom, either.