An informed opinion isn’t Armchair Quarterbacking

An informed opinion isn’t Armchair Quarterbacking


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One method of learning about self defense is to examine the actions of others in specific situations. Is that wrong to do?

Don’t be fooled: there is virtually no one in the training community with any real firsthand experience in private sector defensive shooting. There may be a handful who may have used their guns in defensive situations (as in actually firing their gun against an attacker), but there aren’t any with a significant number of those incidents under their belts from which they can make valid deductions. Police and military experience, as honorable as it may be, isn’t the same as what you and I will face if we’re attacked in a movie theater parking lot.

I say this not to anger anyone, but to simply point out that (thankfully) none of us have a lot of first-person information to relay. Because of that we’re all forced learn from the experiences of others, but the benefit is that by doing so we can amass the lessons from hundreds — if not thousands — of self defense incidents. This is how education works.

We can also, if we have a sufficient base of facts, make informed observations about those incidents and point out (from the position of the innocent defender) what actions were positive and which were not. When we do, however, there is invariably someone in the audience who accuses us of “armchair” or “Monday morning” “quarterbacking”. The implication is that this is a Bad Thing, and we ought not to do it. Unfortunately some folks in the defensive training world have taken that criticism to heart and now do not offer opinions on self defense incidents, lest they be branded as an “armchair quarterback”.

This is patently absurd. An armchair quarterback, according to every dictionary I checked, is by definition someone of offers an uninformed opinion on a subject about which they know nothing. My critiquing a football game, for instance, would be a perfect example: I really know nothing about the game and thus any observation I make would be ludicrously ignorant.

On the other hand, I do know something about self defense and defensive shooting. I’ve been studying as a serious student for the better part of three decades and have been sharing what I’ve learned for about half that. It’s a subject which I’m familiar with, informed about, and therefore one in which I’m somewhat qualified to offer opinions. That’s not armchair quarterbacking!

When you see or hear a critique of a self defense case from someone who you know has knowledge of self defense, it’s not armchair quarterbacking either. An unidentified someone hiding behind a screen name on a forum? They may in fact be engaging in quarterbacking; it’s the level of subject matter expertise that determines the difference.

Just because someone is critical of the decisions others have made in defensive encounters doesn’t mean that they’re being spiteful or petty, nor does it mean that you should ignore them because they’re quarterbacking. If the opinions are based on a real concern for disseminating knowledge about self defense, and backed by some expertise in the field, then they’re a legitimate way of advancing the state of everyone’s knowledge.

Don’t let terms like “armchair quarterback” affect your own judgement. The person using it may not even understand what it means, let alone understand why informed criticism is important for all of us in our quest to stay safe.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On July 1, 2014