In the old days, when two men got in an argument, one of them might say, “You want to step outside?”
It was code for “fight.” At least back then, they had the decency to excuse themselves.
Today, nobody steps outside. Nobody steps anywhere. They just tap, tap, tap on their personal devices and think they’re being tough.
Thus we get the Twitter exchange this past week between Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, and Anthony G. Kalla, a self-proclaimed fan of the Detroit Lions.
Kalla, who says he’s 24, was upset by comments made last year — last year! — by Marshall, in which he called the Lions “little brother” and told Detroit to “fix your financial problems.”
Never mind that the Lions beat the Bears twice last season, which should be enough for any Detroit fan. Somehow, Kalla, now that the Bears are 3-6 on the season, felt the need to send Marshall these lovely messages:
■ “Remember when you called Detroit the little brother. Haha.”
■ “WELL LOOK WHOS AT THE BOTTOM NOW YOU (expletive)!!”
■ “Btw, your mother is still a whore.”
How proud he must be.
Safety in the shadows
Never mind that Kalla’s Twitter picture featured a grown man, presumably him, and a child, presumably his, and he’s calling someone’s mother a whore. (Maybe the child is actually Kalla.)
In either case, he was surprised when Marshall tweeted back, challenging him to a fight.
“I’ll give you 5K to get in a ring with me.”
Kalla upped the ante. “That’s it? C’mon Brandy. Make it 25 and we can do it in Detroit.”
To which Marshall replied, “25 it is. Ha! You thought I wouldn’t say yes.” Later he added, “And you have to apologize to my mom.”
At first, the brave Mr. Kalla didn’t respond. Then he tweeted they could fight once the Bears won three more games, which is a little like saying, “Give me time to go home and change.”
If all this sounds like typical machismo chest-thumping, it is, except neither man has to get out of his room, much less put on pants.
It is what the cyberworld — and increasingly the actual world — has become. People taking shots from the safety of a computer. Using the Web to rouse themselves into a tizzy. And never once taking a real chance. Never even having to use a real name.
Engaging in stupidity
Marshall is no stranger to controversy. He has been accused multiple times of violence toward women. He has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. And he uses his football celebrity (he’s been a Pro Bowl receiver) to call attention to causes — and frequently himself.
He defended his fight challenge to reporters in Chicago. “Why not? It’s Twitter,” he said. “That’s what social networking is for: engagement with other people.”
So that’s what he’s doing. Engaging.
“You guys don’t understand, where you see challenges, I see opportunities. When you read my social network, it says thought-provoking.”
Actually, it says stupidity. When you engage anonymous fools who insult your mother, it’s stupidity. It was before the Internet. It is today.
Marshall says his fight with Kalla will call attention to cyberbullying. How fighting does anything for bullying except promote it is beyond me. But Marshall sees Twitter as a chance to promote while Kalla sees it as a place to vent.
And that is mostly what Web posting is about. Promoting. Venting. In the old days, if you kept telling everyone how great you were, they’d ask you to go outside. And if you kept venting on someone, they’d ask you to go outside.
Now everyone gets to roll around in a virtual sandbox, never getting dirty while telling themselves they are brave, bold or thought-provoking. This “fight” will never take place. (Marshall’s bosses reminded him to read his contract, which likely forbids such activity.) But Marshall and Kalla each got their moment in the spotlight.
Before they get too excited, it’s the same spotlight that revealed Kim Kardashian this past week balancing a champagne glass on her butt. She claimed she was trying to break the Internet. If only she’d succeeded.