Ben “The Boss” Bateman just can’t seem to avoid controversy. Following Friday’s loss to “Dangerous” Dan Murrell, Bateman went evil, calling out his faction and his manager as the reason for his loss. Then, he doubled down on Twitter the following morning.
There were a number of people that felt, in this moment, that The Boss had crossed a line. They argued that attacking the writers was out of line and lazy on his part. Yet, this argument doesn’t sit well with me.
There is a difference between critiquing or “attacking” the question and attacking its writer. Like the wheel, a question is an element of the game. Yet when a competitor claims the wheel is rigged, no one claims that they are out of line. On occasion, the questions are going to have flaws to them. The writers, like everyone else, are only human after all. Occasionally they are going to make a mistake. This is why players have a challenge available to them. Not for the nitpicky things it is currently used for but for the rare case that a mistake is made and the question is incorrect. The Barbarian ran into this issue when he played Chance “The Cobra” Ellison. He got two different questions where the methodology for approaching the release date of the movie was wrong. One question used the festival release date and one used the wide release date. It is a valid criticism to say that this was unfair. There should be a standard to the way dates are selected (I should add there is but this was an accident that fell through the cracks.). Stating this fact is not an assault on the writers, but an assault on the question. This type of conversation should not be out of bounds.
That’s not to say that nothing should be off-limits for a heel to approach. I inquired about this Sunday night during Bateman and Andrew Ghai’s latest episode of The Action Guys, and as two of the best heels and overall characters ever they were best suited to provide this guideline. Bateman and Ghai were both in agreement that anything is on the table as long as it avoids the person’s personal life. Saying something like “Now I know why Competitor A’s wife left them,” after they went through a recent divorce is unacceptable. Yet, saying “How did Competitor Z miss that question? It was a layup,” is perfectly fine to tease someone about. The same should apply to the writers. Raising a valid concern about the question should be ok, as long as it doesn’t attack the writer personally. Saying “Whoever wrote that question is a big fat meanie-pants jerkoff and they deserve to lose their job,” is without a doubt terrible and should never be said by competitors or fans alike. That’s not the same as what Bateman is doing in this instance.
Another thing that I’ve seen reiterated a lot this weekend is the idea that players can just admit they didn’t know the answer to a question. To an extent this is true. If Dan Murrell misses a question, it is within his character to say that he was wrong or that he could not pull it from his memory. However, Murrell is about as far face as faces come. Different rules apply to heels. Across all media, a good bad guy never admits that they are in the wrong. Thanos doesn’t think he is a bad guy for trying to kill half of all life. Lex Luthor doesn’t believe that he’s wrong to blow up the California coast in order to make his land more profitable. If a villain cannot be wrong, then in their mind someone else must be to blame for their failure. At first, Bateman blames his manager and his factionmates, but he can’t keep harping on the same things or people would call him one-note. Instead, he chooses to attack the question the following morning. It certainly wouldn’t work if the question wasn’t on some level debatable, but the fans aren’t supposed to agree with the bad guy. Fans are supposed to see him as making excuses, as whiny … as wrong. Fans are supposed to want to root against him and that can be accomplished through arrogance and a lack of ability to accept defeat.
In our rush to make the game a sport, we often forget to acknowledge the character aspect. Big characters like Ghai and Bateman or Videodrew and The Delinquent are the reason that I care about the show. It’s what makes the sport special to me because people sitting around a desk answering questions is boring. The characters will cease to exist if too many caveats are placed upon them. Villains aren’t graceful in defeat. Villains try to tackle their opponents when they lose. Some limits should exist, but the league and the audience alike shouldn’t pretend that the writers are infallible. They’re human and humans make mistakes. Only when you begin to attack the human is when it becomes an issue, and that’s not what this was.