Twitter and sports were almost made for each other. Twitter, the ultimate tool of short, immediate news bursts couples beautifully with the world of sports for fans, teams, players and media members to come together in a shared space of discussion and news.
Of course, having all of these personalities in the same place without any sort of filter can cause problems. It is sort of like the lunchroom when one of the monitors is out sick; mass hysteria.
The problem that arises in the world of 140 character blurbs is that sports geniuses, world-class athletes and mouth-breathing Neanderthal fans all exist in the same place. What this leads to – depending on what you expose yourself to – are sometimes volatile flame wars fought two sentences at a time behind the protective wall of your phone, tablet or computer. These are battles that are always won by the aggressor. The rare exception is if you’re capable of carrying on a multiple-tweet debate with this person without devolving to name calling, profanity and generally off-the-handle responses.
Some of the ugliest developments have come at the expense of those fighting for equality. Whether it be race or sexual orientation, many still turn to old favorites when they come up with taunts. Or, in the case of racists, they simply continue their typical course of action when attacking opposing fans or players. Look no further than the tweets emanating from Boston after Joel Ward scored his overtime winner last spring. These examples are numerous and not very difficult to find and do, in fact, go far beyond Boston.
Typically any sort of inflammatory comment that finds the eyes of an opposing fan will draw out such remarks. Handling these people is often the greatest struggle. These are the type of people who will never learn to change how they act. Whether they’re racists, bigots, homophobic or just plain ignorant, these things will never change. Unfortunately resisting the urge to attack them back, no matter how noble the cause, is typically useless.
Not that these actions should ever go unpunished or ignored, but in a forum like Twitter – or even message boards and Facebook – your actions cannot be cause for a positive evolution. Not in a one-on-one exchange, at least. I suppose the lesson here is to let the sleeping dog lay (even though these particular dogs have stronger barks than bites).
In a no win situation in which you call out or identify a bigot or racist all you end up doing is empowering their action. Not only did they vent their rage but they baited you into a response. Fueling the fire with additional responses just digs the hole deeper. Before I begin writing myself in circles, I say this; there are idiots everywhere and there is little you can do to enlighten them.
You’re not as cool as you think you are
Twitter is a hell of a lot of fun on Sabres and Bills gamedays. As someone who enjoys layering their opinions with snark, I really enjoy the interactions I have on Twitter. I also make sure not to clutter my feed with people whose opinions I don’t respect or care to read (see: Sullivan, Jerry).
This goes for accounts which irritate me or do not provide me with any sort of enlightenment on the topics I care about. I do, however, follow one of the hockey communities king trolls, @twolinepass along with players like @Biznasty2point0 and @AndrewPeters_76, among others.
Too often I see these accounts responding to people who just don’t seem to understand where they fit in the grand scheme of things. What fans don’t seem to grasp about Lambert – or other trolls for that matter – is that his shtick is layered with intelligent hockey opinions. While he baits his hook with plenty of meat he is worth a follow and a regular read if you can get past the vitriol.
When confronted with a fan, writer or anyone else who is specifically producing content or opinions that are designed to infuriate you, take a moment to fully evaluate the situation. Rather than immediately responding with a comment that will probably make you look silly, take a moment to realize that most of what these guys say will target those who are quick to judge and slow to evaluate. If you look at the big picture it is likely that you’ll grow to appreciate the service these guys provide.
As for guys like BizNasty and other players on Twitter (this goes for hockey, football, baseball and other sports), why are you telling them how bad they are? No matter if you’re talking to a fourth liner who serves as a better grocery stick than a hockey player, or a young star, you probably don’t hold a candle to their athletic prowess. It is also likely that you have never reached the heights that they have in their particular profession. Since this is the case for 99% of Twitter, don’t bother to try to chirp or otherwise insult these guys.
When you tell Paul Bissonnette how terrible of a hockey player he is or that Andrew Peters should invest in double runners, take a long look in the mirror and understand that you wouldn’t touch the puck if you were skating against those two.
Particularly in the sport of hockey, the insane talent possessed by even the most average players is so far beyond what you will find in your average beer league or pickup would make your head spin.
At the end of the day, this is something that also extends to fans who don’t fully grasp what they’re watching. Fans who revert to “it was Miller’s fault, he sucks” in losses, or “Vanek is so lazy” when the sniper doesn’t register a point. Look at the big picture, folks. By no means am I a hockey expert, hopefully I don’t project that attitude. I have been fortunate to grow up with the game and to have a strong understanding of it.
For as many fans out there who understand why Ryan Miller doesn’t get a shutout every night, there are two more who think he’s terribly overrated because he has only made a handful more saves than Martin Biron over the course of their careers. These type of thoughts are spewed all over Twitter on a day-to-day and game-to-game basis.
What is frustrating is that you really can’t win. What you can do is shutter yourself to those who are ignorant to certain facts or choose to try to embarrass others while simply just embarrassing themselves. Maybe it isn’t great advice, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.