Saturday, April 17, 2010

Social Media and Today's Fan

It's a crazed new world.

I grew up in a time when encounters with revered athletes were as scarce as the authentic autograph. It was as if they lived in the picture box we watched them in. To catch them in the real world off of the field was surreal. It made you rub your eyes to check your vision.

I remember as a kid meeting Glenn Hubbard (former Atlanta Braves second baseman and current first base coach) in a restaurant outside of Stone Mountain. He and his family sat at the table next to ours in a way that he was seated right next to me. The eye glances between my dad and I were not too subtle and I just couldn't get up the nerve to interrupt the Hubbard Sunday dinner....until we got up to leave.

I guess I just couldn't bear the thought of coming so close to greatness and not walk away with something. Hubbard graciously signed a corner of the restaurant's placemat. And I felt bad as I left realizing that my finally asking him had opened up the floodgates for a line to form. I have no idea where that placemat is today. But the thrill of seeing a real live athlete I admired through a tv screen was a real treat.

Nowadays the college athlete is just a login screen away. It might be an interaction through the vast webs of the internets...but it beats stalking. Trust me. 

A few weeks ago, Rex gave his unique perspective on athletes who socialize through Facebook and Twitter. As one who dabbles in these venues daily, I found it interesting to read the words of a former player about what current players are doing publicly, albeit behind a computer screen or mobile device.
It's crazy. It's like these kids think the only ones reading it are their friends and or their team mates.
There's no doubt that creations like Facebook and Twitter have only added to most coaches locks of gray. And overall I would have to say our coaches must do a pretty good job of policing it as well as everything they can to prevent disasters. For examples of some of those disasters, just read or re-read Rex's piece.

Sure, I've been a little uneasy reading some Twitter feeds of current UGA players. I follow every Athenian athlete I discover on Twitter. To date I would have to say Mike Moore has been my favorite. There's others that have provided a glimpse that maybe isn't as rosy as Moore's continually upbeat status updates. I don't know that former FU Gaytuh Ray Shipman is on Twitter, but I would imagine if he is his updates the last couple of years would be in need of a very large tube of a prescription ointment as he tried to become the Tiger Woods of Reptile College.

All in all, I would say it's a thrill keeping up with these kids through these technological breakthroughs. I feel like I get a better glimpse at their lives through Twitter as opposed to Facebook, at least the ones who tweet a lot. It's more than cool to see that they cheer for each other across the sports on campus and it's funny as hell when the football players insist that Coach Richt can control the weather patterns just before practice. But just as Rex warned of the hazards these kids face under the social media microscope, fans should check themselves just as often. And I include myself in that.

As thrilled as I was when AJ Green responded to my well wishes when his niece was born, I was equally devastated after re-reading some of my comments during the Tennessee game last fall. It read as if I had (repeatedly) used 140 characters or less to blast kids for playing a game. My frustrations may have been warranted, but my actions made my stomach turn.

After that I took my responsibility as a tweeter more seriously. Because just as much as we want these kids to represent UGA Athletics for everything that honor is worth, I want to represent the Dawg Nation just as honorably.

1 comment:

MikeInValdosta said...

The beatdown up north was a life, er, virtual-life lesson for most of us.

I totally agree about Mike Moore. His tweet from the bus following the "beyond crompton" affair was a devastating blow to my humanity. I believe that tweet took more courage than any route Moore ever ran over the middle.