A Rant in Two Parts
I am not ordinarily given to rants, or so I like to tell myself, partly because the nature of the rant is so overwhelmingly negative, but mostly because it's the comfortable bastion of every casual writer with a grudge and a thesaurus. True, that's a painfully accurate characterization of myself, though I actually have _two_ thesauruses – I so want to call them my thesauri – but even very good cliché is still at its best cliché. Usually my better angels prevail and I make at least a passing attempt at penning an article of some meaning, but like the impulsive midnight run to Taco Bell, sometimes the cheese-stuff coated badness just tastes too good to resist. With that, I offer these two brief rants.
I have a friend. For the sake of protecting the innocent, we'll call him "Rob". He's insane about spoilers. Not only doesn't he want to know important plot points like the guy narrating the entire story actually turns out to be the killer or that Spiderman is actually Peter Parker, he doesn't even want to know that the villain exists ahead of time or see possibly tainted speculation about who is playing Minor Supporting Love Interest or Cappuccino Junkie #2 in the movie version. He builds an information wall around himself, and guards its parapets like an online Davy Crocket staring down the virtual Santa Anna Army of Internet Rumor Junkies waiting to storm the fort and tell him that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time!
"Rob" is a crazy person. I have solid evidence to support that fact, but he does have a basic point, which is that in the internet age, ruining movies, books and games for people has become an almost casual sport. Even the very marketing that supports media franchises regularly and casually gives away points that would have been far more interesting to see in the actual product. Thanks to Battlestar Galactica, for example, for saving me the trouble of having to actually watch an episode by putting entire mini-episodes at the end and beginning of each show. Like I needed two chances to see that Tigh does something drunken and stupid while Adama and Roslyn uncomfortably fawn over one another.
But, when malcontents sail past long lines of young Harry Potter fans waiting for the midnight release of the book and shout spoilers out the window, you really have to reconsider on a fundamental level the possible merits of putting people in the stocks and throwing rotten vegetation at them. As we consume more and more media that relies on mind-bending twists and double double-crosses at the same time that the internet has made secret-keeping a whole new kind of difficult, we come to a crossroads where jerks thrive. That I had to go on a week-long media blackout just so I could get through the Deathly Hallows without compromising the ending is ridiculous.
I think of those who spoil entertainment as members of one of three categories. The first, and most easily forgiven, are the accidental information klutzes, people who either by presumption or momentary lapse of reason let slip a crucial piece of information in sensitive company. It is possible to remain friendly with these folk, but not recommended to spend any time around them if they've seen a movie you're waiting to see.
The second is the media sadist, the person who secretly revels in ruining experiences for others. Often stealthy in their delivery of spoilers, and quick to mimic the intellectual klutz, they see their possession of information as a power to be exerted over people. These are actually an uncommon breed, online evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and should suffer permanent and lasting humiliation for the particular cruelty of their crimes.
The last, and by far the most common and insidious, spoiler criminal is the person who simply has no idea there exists on the planet anyone but themselves. These are the same people who drive 60 in the left lane, who take a cart brimming with items into the express checkout lane, who casually decide upon their fast food order at the driver-thru box right at the heart of lunch hour, who simply drop by for hours at a time with no prior notice, who can't bother to even pretend to hold the door open for me at the Post Office when packages are clearly falling from my tenuous grasp, who stand oblivious right in front of the exact loaf of bread I'm trying to buy no matter how loudly I shout "Excuse ME!", who carelessly let obscenities slip while walking by the playground with a dozen scandalized three year-olds, who answer their cell-phones in theaters and then carry on any conversation at all and who usually wear driving hats while driving very large Cadillacs which they invariably park across as many as three spaces. For these people, my scorn is limitless and vast, a great and bright nebula of intergalactic size that burns with the young fire of 10,000 newly formed nuclear furnaces, because these are not the carriers of spoilers.
These are spoilers themselves, spoilers of art, of kindness and of manners.
A Loser's Tale
I have no shortage of personality flaws. I chew my food too loudly. I like bad eighties music. I revel in my own imagined superiority at things of little consequence. I even occasionally tell my wife I need to close the office door to get some work done when secretly I just want to hit level 38 with my Undead Warlock. But, among my most grievous failings is the terrible marriage of an overdeveloped sense of competition and a bad attitude about losing.
One might think that with such an extensive resume of losing at competition, I might have developed a thicker skin about it. I am not what you might call a "winner". I don't mean that I lose at the important things like life, relationships or fatherhood, but on the far more trivial matters I have an apparently infinite capacity to psyche myself completely out of the game. I am, in the face of certain victory, like a puppy who pees on the floor out of joy for being promised a trip outside. I live in the unpleasant netherworld of sensing impending victories and knowing even as I sense them that I will let them slip through my trembling fingers.
I am a choke artiste. I may even be a choke maestro.
My uncanny ability to competitively lose despite endless preparation and training is decades old. It is a predictable thing, and made all the more poignant for very occasional and unexpected bouts of victory that don't really serve to shine my tarnished record, but only remind me of what the victories I so richly desire taste like. Imagine giving a starving man a Hershey's Kiss, and you have a good idea of what I feel like in the meaningless victory of a video game, or a round of pick-up basketball, or a day on the golf course or even a casual board game among friends.
Some people play competitive games simply for fun, win or lose. For them the important thing is simply spending time with friends and doing something they enjoy. My lack of understanding of these people exists on such a fundamental level that I must assume that with sophisticated enough equipment scientists would be able to prove we are actually different species.
You may have the impression that I am lamenting this unfortunate tendency, and I suppose to some degree I am, but I also recognize that in the stuff that really matters, I have the exact opposite trend. I have been very fortunate in cobbling together a life mandated only by my own goals and desires, and 97% of the time that's much better than winning a game of the aptly titled Trivial Pursuit. The only time I feel differently is in the wasteland moments immediately following some souring defeat, and that is where my unreasonable and misapplied competitive streak sends me to dark places where I can actually feel testosterone in my veins commanding me to break glass and plaster to express my primitive fury to a world that would probably be embarrassed to be seen hanging out with me at the time.
I am an angry loser. And, though I make great efforts to hide it, those who know me best see it and, to their credit, try very, very hard not to laugh at me when I'm acting like a two year-old who's just had his fuzzy bear taken away. I am a controller breaker, quick to torque fifty dollars of equipment to the snapping point simply because Jerry Rice dropped a pass. Again! An easy, floating pass after he's executed a perfect route and is alone in space. I mean honestly! When does Rice drop a crucial third down pass with no coverage that hits him in the hands? Never! That's when! That's why he's going to be in mother-fragging Canton!
Sorry, I got carried away there.
Perhaps this isn't so much a rant as it is an open apology. I am not alone in this character flaw, and we really are mostly aware that we are acting unreasonable. We are sorry; maybe not at the time of the offense but certainly later. We realize we are acting like children when we eject the disc from the Xbox and sail it across the room in the sincere hope that it satisfyingly shatters into a hundred glittering shards of broken failure, but in our darkest moments of loss the impulse is simply overwhelming. Call it poor-sportsmanship, being a bad loser or just a good ol' temper tantrum, and just be glad we don't play video games with something sharp or explosive in our hands. We'll try to be better next time.