Since I joined up with World Soccer Talk, I’ve been called a lot of things. The “worst pundit on the World Soccer Talk podcast,” “a know nothing American,” “a biased Chelsea fan,” “a plastic glory hunter,” etc. I’ve had my knowledge of sports in general called into question. I’ve been asked over and over why I continue to appear on the podcast if I’m so horrible at what I do. Repeatedly I’ve seen comments calling for my head on the pod. But those are just the comments that have been put out for public consumption. Lord knows what’s being said in untagged tweets, Facebook statuses or just general conversations. But that’s the world that I’ve entered into. That’s what happens when you enter into a project where your work is put out for public consumption. I certainly have no problem taking every single one of those comments. I realize its part of the territory and that’s why I continue on with my work at World Soccer Talk.

I’m not debating the validity or the fairness of these comments. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and has a right to express their opinion, especially on the Internet where no one really has to answer for their actions. The fact of the matter is that I’m so used to these negative comments that they just roll off my back without a care in the world.

But when I see what has happened to Stan Collymore over the past couple of days where he received abuse for his opinionated views about the Luis Suarez penalty incident, I consider myself lucky to have to deal with the relatively tame arena of the World Soccer Talk comments section.

Now anyone who has followed me on Twitter knows that I’m no fan of Staniels (my name for Mr. Collymore) and I’ve certainly never held back in sharing my views on a lot of the things that he’s said. But I can honestly say that throughout all of those thoughts I’ve had about how dumb something he has said, I’ve never thought “You know what, Stan Collymore should be killed for saying that.” I get that soccer fans are a passionate lot, but how someone can get to the point where they are so enraged with something someone has said that they actually go onto a public forum and call for their life is beyond me. I’m not trying to get into the mind of someone who spends their day slinging death threats and racist abuse, at someone they’ve most likely never met, over the Internet. But it seems that most people forget (and given his past, sometimes it is easy to forget) that Stan is still a human being. A living, breathing person with feelings, and this particular wave of abuse clearly was one of the most intense he’s probably ever dealt with.

I feel bad for Stan, I really do. And I hate that I feel bad for him because when you take away all the vile things that people have said, Stan Collymore is still the same awful commentator/pundit/person that he will always be. Nothing will ever change that. But at the same time, for all of Stan’s awfulness, he’s still a person like you and me and no one deserves to have that sort of abuse thrown at them. Stan Collymore is a lot of awful things and has said a lot of awfully stupid things in a public forum, but not one of those things warrants what he had to deal with over the past several days. Being the lightning rod for a media outlet is a gift and a curse because in today’s world the line from criticism to abuse that people have to cross keeps getting pushed further and further back. I get that people will say he’s a public figure getting paid a handsome salary, and he should be able to take some abuse. But there really is no amount of money in the world that can be paid to someone to sit there and have to listen to constant threats against their life or racist abuse.

I count myself lucky that I’ve never had to deal with the things that Stan has had to deal with and I hope that I’ll never have to deal with those things. But from someone who is considered the “Worst Pundit” to another who is considered the “Worst Pundit,” I can understand at least a little bit of what Stan is feeling. We’re only human and no matter what you may think, we still feel things. I didn’t write this to say “stop telling me I suck” or “stop being mean to Stan” because those things are never going to happen. There’s always going to be that one guy.

But the next time you want to write some outlandish thing on the Internet just to top what MANUFANBOY112345GGMU said, maybe take a step back and think about how you’d feel if someone said something like that to you. If you want to criticize someone, maybe put a bit of thought into it rather than just taking the easy way out with racial abuse or death threats. Personally, if you’re going to tell me I suck, I couldn’t care less. Its the criticisms that have substance that cut the deepest.  There’s not enough accountability on the Internet and there probably never will be, but maybe if people just started using some common sense, we could all go back to just telling Stan how awful he is without having to abuse him racially.