Ready! Aim! Fire! is a three-word, three-sentence command used by firing squads before executing a condemned prisoner. Each command is shouted clearly and separately by the squad leader.
No one fires prematurely. You want the squad aiming their weapons at the right target. Firing the weapons last is important because there’s no coming back from death. If there is a last-minute reprieve from the governor, you want him or her to be able to get through.
Our social media culture is a little different. There are hot-button issues that always have people at the ready: racism, sexism, homophobia, crime and politics. When a story is published involving any of these topics, many people don’t even bother to read the entire text before popping off.
A New York newspaper published an article on Tuesday alleging St. Louis Cardinals fans yelled the N-Word at Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward. It was Heyward’s first game in St. Louis after leaving for Chicago last offseason.
People were as mad a nest of hornets and I was buzzing right with them. I could not believe fans in my hometown, fans of my team, were pulling this. I had to hear it for myself.
So, I clicked on the story link. Um, there was a video of Heyward being booed like crazy. Not the nicest thing in the world, but fans have the right to boo. The article also cited four tweets regarding the alleged slurs.
That’s it. There was no audio of the alleged slurs. ESPN and the Cardinals themselves spent all day Tuesday scouring tape. They came up with nothing. Heyward said he didn’t hear any slurs. None of his teammates said they heard any slurs. No one on the Cardinals said they heard any slurs.
The Ready! Fire! Aim! mentality called into question the character of Cardinals fans and sent the team and a media partner into a tailspin looking for a needle in a haystack – when there was no needle, let alone a haystack.
Parents often have the same mentality when it comes to our kids. We’ve all gone hard-charging into the principal’s or the coach’s office when we believe our child has been wronged.
The principal then shows us the teacher’s gradebook full of missing assignments or the video of our precious angel pushing the other kid first. The coach tells us everybody does push-ups at the end of practice or that Johnny got extra laps for using profanity.
Let this Heyward situation serve as a lesson. Headlines are meant to grab your attention. Kids talk in headlines. Before you label an entire fanbase as racists or name your principal or coach a hater of children, get the whole story.
It’s often much ado about nothing.