pyrajane’s review #25: Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities by Chris Kluwe

Beautifully Unique SparkleponiesI didn’t know who Chris Kluwe was until his wrote his amazing piece for Deadspin that many know as Lustful Cockmonsters.  Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote an open letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti asking him to force his players to shut up about civil rights.  Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of gay marriage and Burns decided he should use his position to try and silence free speech.  It was disgusting.

Kluwe’s response was beautiful.  Click that title up there and read it if you haven’t.  I respect a man who uses “Holy fucking shitballs” when making an informed argument.

As his response exploded all over the internet, I found his twitter account (@ChrisWarcraft) and found out he was in a band AND was a gamer.  Holy shit, this guy was awesome.  NFL punter AND a nerd?  Fuck yeah.

When I found out he was writing a book I was super excited.  Here’s a guy who is smart, loves to read, plays games, and has a realistic understanding of how an NFL career works.  I heard him on a few podcasts and he’s really funny and clearly does his research about things that are important to him.  I especially like his attitude about the NFL and how it doesn’t last forever and you better have backup plans.

I really wanted to love this book, but it was just a solid OK.  He chose a few pieces that had already been published and I agreed with those choices.  For a few of them he added commentary or quick notes about things that have changed since the original publication.

Read more about what I liked but why I was mostly sad over on my blog.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #38: Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies by Chris Kluwe

I was not aware of Mr. Kluwe (punter, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, currently of the Oakland Raiders) until he wrote his now famous letter, posted on Deadspin, ripping a Maryland elected official a new one for suggesting that football players should not be able to speak out in favor of civil rights. In fact, an attempt to replace the vulgarity in that letter (lustful cockmonster) resulted in the title of the book (Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies).

The book is not a memoir; it is a collection of essays – some previously printed, some new for the book. It’s Mr. Kluwe’s way of sharing his thoughts about life. Some chapters focus on football (though not all, nor even most); most focus on his ideas about how we can improve society. He suggests that the things he values most in life are empathy, justice and truth, and spends time discussing his support for equal rights for gay and lesbian people.

I really wanted to like this book. Like, kind of desperately. I follow Mr. Kluwe on Twitter (@ChrisWarcraft), and have enjoyed his 140-character comments. I also fully agree that just because people are in a position such as he is (celebrity, well-known football player, generally famous person) they don’t forfeit their rights to have an opinion. He seems to be a progressive libertarian, although I’m not sure he’d agree with that, because from reading the book (especially the entertaining chapter ‘Who is John Galt”) I get the idea that he is not a big fan of libertarians. However, possibly accidentally, much of what he says shows a distinct lack of empathy in areas, and a few of his statements read like they came right out of the straight white libertarian bro guidebook.

Perhaps I’m judging him unfairly; I had admittedly high expectations, and since he has cleared the bar of basic human decency of recognizing that gay and lesbian people are, you know, people, I think I was looking for him to hold similarly progressive views in other areas. Perhaps he does, but doesn’t realize how his words come across. Let me share some examples (jotted down into Evernote when I was listening to the book, so I won’t have exact quotes):

– The way he characterizes welfare came across as at least partially buying in to the bullshit ‘welfare queen’ concept. Mr. Kluwe seems to fully recognize that people do need help from others (see the aforementioned John Galt essay), but his words suggest that there’s a short window there, and that if someone is on it longer than his pre-determined length of time, then they are just milking the system. Eh. Really? That’s not a nuanced view.

– One section gave me the impression that he thinks unions are bad, and that union workers are lazy people who have no incentive to work hard. That was definitely off-putting and disappointing.

– He made a prison rape joke (of the ‘don’t drop the soap’ variety). Really? That’s empathy?

– He’s super self-righteous when it comes to atheism. He appeared to willfully misinterpret the definition so that he could claim that he’s morally superior because he calls himself ‘agnostic.’ I’d like to point out to Mr. Kluwe that the majority of atheists out there would certainly believe in god if there were actual evidence; their stance is that CURRENT evidence is insufficient. They aren’t claiming to know definitively that there is not a god, so the argument that they are just as irrational as religious people is not only super old, but super incorrect.

– His go-to voice (I got the audio-book) when he wants the person speaking to sound unintelligent is a southern accent. That’s regionalist and not cool.

– Finally, he REALLY dropped the ball in understanding domestic violence. He essentially assumes people stay in those situations because they think things will get better, and they are just liars lying to themselves. Read up on domestic violence. Learn about it. DO NOT call the survivors who stay ‘liars.’ That’s insulting and shows an utter lack of the real issues around being able to leave. For example, one might certainly know things aren’t going to get better, but fear the whole BEING KILLED BY THEIR PARTNER WHEN THEY LEAVE thing. Not empathetic.

I can’t recommend the book. It’s fine, there are definitely some really good parts, and as I said, the writing is not bad.