When They Go Low We Go High

The title of this story is a quote from Michelle Obama. She used it as a campaign slogan to urge Democrats to remain civil when facing Republican insults. It is a difficult standard to meet. “Don’t get mad, get even” is a more human emotion. Even though Michelle Obama advice is unquestionably right, getting even has more primal appeal; an appeal I am frequently too weak to resist.

Swimwatch stories have generated some heat in their time. One Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Chairman, Brent Layton, used the organization’s Annual Report to abuse me and the website. What did he say? Something like, “The credibility the opinions of these bloggers deserve is clear; absolutely none.” As is normal weak people find it easier to attack the person rather than address the issue.

The CEO of SNZ, Steve Johns, also throws around personal insults. His emails to me contain their share of malice. He loves words and phrases like, “write whatever pops into your head” and “constant attacks” and “outbursts” and “personally attack” and “you however continue to not have the decency or courage” and, the pièce de résistance, “vitriolic tirades”. No effort is made to address the issues. Johns specialises in attacking the man not the ball. He must think that by throwing insults the issue will go away. Certainly in his time as CEO I have never heard him explain any if the issues raised in this blog. Why has the number of SNZ members collapsed? Why is income down? Why have we been reduced to one bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games and no medals at the Pan Pacific Games? Why did SNZ lie to their sponsor about Championship entry numbers? No reply from Johns to any of that. I guess “vitriolic tirades” will have to do.

However the ex-Chairman and current CEO of SNZ cannot hold a candle to Dave Crampton of Facebook NZ Swim fame. Since 2009 Swimwatch has posted 1102 stories. Given the quieter period when I was in Saudi Arabia 1102 stories is an average of about 3.5 stories a week. There are not many numbers on my analytics page higher than the number of stories. In fact there is only one. And that honour belongs to Dave Crampton. As at 3.31 this afternoon Dave has visited Swimwatch 1127 times. He is obsessed.

What makes his numbers even more amazing is the length of time it has taken to accumulate his record score. Swimwatch has been posting stories since 2009 but Dave’s interest in swimming is more recent. I don’t know when he started reading Swimwatch. My guess is 2015. If that’s true Crampton visits the website about six times a week. That’s more than me.

While it may be flattering to attract attention like Crampton’s obsession it is also of some concern. The problem with Crampton is he has only been involved in swimming for five minutes. The depth of his swimming knowledge is less than the shallow end of the Cannons Creek pool. When I accepted his email messages he asked the most ridiculous questions. How long was the West Wave Pool, for example? It is hard to escape the thought that a person who uses Facebook to express his self-proclaimed superior views on swimming should really know that the country’s leading pool from 1990 to 2015 is a normal Olympic size pool. Either that or he would be best served keeping his uninformed opinions to himself.

Mind you obsessive behaviour and opinionated views, it seems, are not new to Crampton’s time in swimming. While he was at Massey University the Human Rights Review Tribunal ordered Crampton to pay $18,000 to a former President, Jeannette Chapman, of the Massey University’s Extramural Students’ Society. He was accused of harassing the former President by meeting her in a hallway, saying “nice suit” and pouring a cup of coffee over her, by sending her an average of 150 emails a week and by forcing her to change her telephone number twice in one year. The Tribunal “was satisfied that Chapman had given a truthful account and, if anything, understated Crampton’s degree of hostility. Crampton, on the other hand, conspicuously downplayed his own aggressive actions, it said.”

Very significantly one of the Human Rights Review Tribunal’s findings was that Crampton made, “Adverse comments about Ms Chapman’s reporting skills, spelling and grammar.” Wow, I certainly know what that’s like.

Based on my Swimwatch experience I understand exactly where the Human Right’s Tribunal was coming from. I am astonished at Crampton’s obsession. No one else in New Zealand clicks onto the site regularly in the early hours of the morning. Doesn’t the guy ever sleep? Perhaps it’s time to change the Swimwatch IP address. My telephone number and email are already out of bounds.

In my opinion, the involvement of Crampton and Johns in Swimwatch has much in common. In my view they are both opinionated, both strong on trivial swimming issues and both lack the understanding to address matters of major importance. It seems the Human Rights Tribunal came to the same conclusion. Here is how they concluded their opinion on Crampton’s evidence in the Massey case. “Our assessment is that he is a person who can see only one point of view (his own), believes he is always right and is quick to take offence.  Having little capacity for objectivity his evidence was invariably self-serving and self-justifying.”

Take, for example, a recent Swimwatch post that addressed the move to introduce professional swimming. Here is the link. http://www.swimwatch.net/2018/11/let-eat-cake.html

As one of Crampton’s private page members I was interested to read Crampton’s response to the “Let them eat cake” story. It seems he reverted to type. He questioned the spelling of a swimmer’s name and argued about the implication that Perry and Clareburt were going to China. The point of the post, in case Crampton lacks the horsepower to understand, was what is swimming going to do to transform itself into one of the professional sports that tennis, rugby, cricket and track have become? The sad fact is that while Crampton and Johns argue about the trivial or throw personal insults, swimming treads water. Their behaviour might be juvenile but its affects are serious.

I apologise to Michelle Obama for ignoring her advice. But there are occasions when bad behaviour demands a trip down under.

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