In the wake of a recent column, I received a rather vicious reminder that those of us who put our opinions out via mainstream media outlets are doing so at the risk of having everything from our intelligence and integrity to our worthiness of existence called into question.
Back when I was a full-time journalist, paid to objectively report on my assigned beat and provide fair and balanced accounts of whatever developed within the scope of my responsibilities, it used to bother me to no end when someone would react to something I'd written with hostile and often personal attacks via email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever.
I'd get all worked up. A big part was that my ego was out of hand at the time, and how dare someone suggest I'm less than a walking Pulitzer Prize? But part of it was like, Hey, man, I'm just doing my job here. Don't shoot the messenger!
Now? Well, I'm no longer a "real" journalist. I'm paid not to be objective, but to be highly subjective, to offer nothing more than my own personal view of any given subject. I'm not just the messenger. I'm the message!
As such, I'm really no different than any sports fan reading what I write or listening to what I say on the radio or TV. Sure, I have a more public forum than most fans, but because I no longer spend the bulk of my days and nights in stadiums and arenas and clubhouses and locker rooms, I'm more of a fan than I am a member of the media. A well-informed and connected fan thanks to my professional history, but still just a fan.
And thanks to AA, the ego's under control today, too. I understand and accept that my opinions might not be widely popular. So I understand that my general disdain for Jim Harbaugh's public persona will be met with malice. I accept that some of you might think I'm a jackass as the result of my now-heightened sense that Warriors management threw away any hope for a deep playoff run by canning Mark Jackson without having a damn good succession plan in place. I get that a ton of people heatedly disagree with my contention that Brian Sabean is one of the best two GMs in baseball, and that I'm a homer because I think Billy Beane is the other.
And yes, I know a lot of you think I'm a sycophant because I was tight with Barry Zito and several other players I covered over the years. God forbid two guys who work in the same building for months at a time over the better part of a decade develop a personal relationship.
But reporters aren't supposed to befriend their subjects! It's a conflict of interest!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll see your conflict of interest, raise you greater inside access, and go all-in with a challenge to find a single thing I've written in defense of a crappy Zito outing (or season).
Want more? I like Tiger Woods and can't stand Phil Mickelson. I appreciate the phenomenal athleticism and toughness of hockey, but don't give a rat's ass about it. I think the Raiders will be awful again this year. I think the Niners letting Aldon Smith play last season was almost criminally irresponsible, and I think Andrew Bogut needs to pull up and iron his skirt. Or is it a kilt?
Oh, and I dig soccer. Sue me.
Better yet, rip me. Now that I'm just a fan, when I rip you back it won't be "unprofessional." It'll be just what it is: passions colliding, and just plain fun.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of "Inside the Bigs," which airs every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ "The Game" (95.7 FM).