What Goes Around

It's easy to laugh at launch-ramp hijinks — but next time, it might be you!

boat launch

boat launch

(This editorial appears in the April 2014 issue of Sport Fishing.)

You see a guy or a family having trouble trying to launch a boat. Do you a) go over to try to help; b) simply watch; or c) hoot, holler, and shout “idiot!” and “moron!”?

To which group do you belong?

I started chewing on this recently after I had spent some time on YouTube compiling a gallery of videos showing boat-launch high jinks.

As you might guess, there are many videos showing launch-ramp disasters. I was struck by just how many posters of these videos took great joy in publicly ridiculing those having one of the least-pleasant days of their lives. I’m talking both about video narrators and those nearby, who on the video are heard saying with scorn that only an idiot would ever suffer such a calamity, as well as comments left online — “f-ing retards,” “typical morons,” “dumbass,” and on and on.

Yeah, sometimes the boat launchers really screwed up. Nevertheless, I would have a hard time standing there and laughing at their misfortune.

For one thing, about the time I’m calling out someone for being an imbecile, I’ll probably end up doing something incredibly stupid — and hope no one who notices will call me an imbecile.

I suspect those pointing fingers and laughing the loudest have made (at least) their share of major screw-ups.

In part, this attitude no doubt can be attributed to the sense of "better him than me!" Gloating and laughing at others' misfortunes may be one way of reassuring ourselves that we are better (or luckier). So it might be in large part a lack of self-confidence that leads to ridicule at the ramp — pointing out that we aren't idiots; we are better than that.

Similarly, what’s funny about someone being horribly seasick? For the life of me, I’ve never figured out why some guys who don’t suffer the malady seem compelled to taunt and make jokes at the expense of miserable anglers repeatedly crawling to lean over the rail. Is this another way of beating your chest and declaring: “I’m no wimp; I sure don’t get seasick”?

I’m not so high up on my soapbox here that I don’t recognize there is humor in some boat-launch antics. Let’s face it: Slapstick is funny. But of course we know that a Peter Sellers-like comic isn’t really getting hurt. By the same token, it’s hard not to laugh (or gasp) at some real-life pratfalls in boat-launch-mishap videos.

But I think there’s a difference between chuckling and publicly ridiculing someone for being an idiot. Whatever happened to compassion? Fortunately not all posters of launch-fail videos delight in the suffering of others. For example, one wrote: “These guys needed our help! I jumped in and gave a friendly push!”

Speaking of which, I guess when push comes to shove, letting the Golden Rule guide our behavior isn’t such a bad thing. Next time you get the urge to laugh at someone having trouble on a launch ramp, keep in mind that old karmic prognostication: What goes around comes around.