Social Tech and Pro Sports: When Fans Turn Ugly

Social Technology enables access: to the good and the down right ugly of fandom.

A friend, who is new to the Twitterverse sent a copy of this tweet to me today via email, with his proposed Twitter response…

What I saw was great Twitter-quette from @Mark_Sanchez an athlete I’d never heard of prior to this morn (NFL’s not exactly front page of the sports section down here in Oz).

What my friend saw (and was subsequently outraged by) was a mean fan.

Now his proposed response was everything you’d expect from someone not yet immune to the unfiltered exchanges that permeate the Twittersphere.

It was terse, it was pure exasperation and it was just as emotional as it tarred all mankind (and of course the Great Lord above) with a lack of intelligent design to engage with Mr Sanchez in this way.

This was fandom, flamed.

The Twitterverse, as a study platform for understanding the motivations and machinations of human behaviour and communication, is at it’s most simple: a crowded sphere of opinion and sentiment.

And my friend certainly had his!

Although what he also had was time. Not through choice, but because he needed guidance on how to use the technology to respond.

My instructions to him were simple:
– Reduce your text to 140 characters using Twi-language
– Search for the original tweet in player’s twitter feed and ‘link to’ it using a right click
– Remember: the best thing to do in communicating (through Twitter) is not to be emotional

I also told him: think of your professional online profile. I knew that would stop him into consideration.

I explained: Twitter is searchable and given the nature of his proposed response (inclusion of a not overly glowing reference to God) was likely to provide a little more than a spark of its own.

I questioned whether the Twitterverse in this instance, was actually the best place for him to be defending his atheism by doing a little flaming of his own…?

Not surprisingly, his preferred course of action was a non response. He ‘let it go through to the end goal’ (you know what I mean…!) so to speak.

While it is Twitter’s dynamism that enables the global masses, it’s non regulation is both its beauty and its beast.

Knowing how to best respond really comes back to a question of self regulation and ultimately, control.

So what is the correct thing to do when you see someone, a sporting hero, celebrity, or friend attacked in the Twittersphere?

Do you jump in and claim the space of ‘having their back’…? OR can you report the ‘flamer’ to the authorities for being mean?

Sadly, Bullying doesn’t stop in the school yard. Some people continue the practice well into and throughout their ‘adult’ life as well.

The rules of engagement (with professional athletes) in the Twittersphere is also a blurred social space now… especially if the athlete manages their own account (which IMHO I think they should… but only if they are mature enough to self regulate, manage through their emotions and act professionally at any given hour)

I remember when my brother was playing for the Sydney City Roosters, his captain Brad ‘Freddy’ Fitler, jumped the perimeter at the Sydney Football Stadium during the game and went after a fan who as it turned out, had thrown a cash register roll onto the field which hit my brother in the head and knocked him out cold as the Roosters stood huddled in goal.

Now ‘Freddy’ reacted instinctively and made a bee line for the perpetrator of the assault, but by the time he’d ascend the stadium steps, grabbed the 19 year old responsible, he’d either cooled down enough or heeded the advice of surrounding security and police on hand to stifle a response.

Now a professional footballer’s instinct on Twitter is no different. However, this is not as easy to do when the distance or space and time, between a Twitter event and response is muted by the prevelance of smartphone technologies…

Because it’s here where space and time morphs into one.

The ability to STOP, wait, think and breathe through the options available (respond / don’t respond) really makes all the difference in EVERYONE’s (not just the professional athlete’s) management of communications (with fans and colleagues).

There is not a person alive who wouldn’t be offended if they had been the intended recipient of the Sanchez tweet.

On the other hand, there isn’t a decent human being who would read this and not think it’s author, gutless for cloaking their bullying under the cyber cape of anonymity.

As I said to my friend, why engage with someone who won’t even tell you their real name, let alone someone who wishes pain and injury to a 26 year old pro footballer who is just doing his job and under pressure to perform no less (yes, I did my research) with rookie Geno Smith pushing for selection this preseason.

Professional footballers don’t need anyone to tell them when they’re not playing well. However, ridicule for a bad day at the office (or even a good one) is sadly the nature of invested interests or fans who live for a result.

What I do know, is that whatever the 2013-2014 season holds for Sanchez on-field, in the Twittersphere he is leading by example.

And in Australia, #NRL #ARU #AFL #FFA could well take note.

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