by Kevin Coupe
The Wall Street Journal has a piece about New York Mets pitcher Jon Rauch, who opened a Twitter account believing that it would give him a greater connection with the team's fans, even if that meant occasionally having to put up with some abuse on days he pitches poorly. But nothing, the story says, "prepared him for the level of invective he received after allowing a walk-off home run to Yankees catcher Russell Martin."
Some of the messages were derisive. Others were vulgar. There were even messages that were homophobic. (Rauch is not gay.)
• "Take this day off and hang yourself with the laces of your cletes."
• "I hope you have suicidal thoughts. Don't act on them though. You;re a terrible reliever. U should hang them up. Choke on food not n games."
"It's one thing to be upset that we lost," Rauch tells the Journal. "It's one thing if you want to take it personally and attack me about it. But it's just a shame that some people have the audacity to put something like that up and think there's no repercussions."
Rauch notes that far more fans are supportive than abusive. "But the whole episode underscored the ugly downside of athletes embracing social media," the Journal writes. "Interactivity is a happy-sounding buzzword, and it can help them promote themselves. But it also exposes them to people who they'd rather keep at a distance."
They've got that right.
Now, as a NY Mets fan, I can certainly sympathize with folks who don't feel kindly toward Rauch. Or, for that matter, toward the entire bullpen.
But I'd like to suggest that while social media may facilitate the act of being abusive, it does not create abusive people.
Long before there was social media, there were people who would shout stupid and abusive things from the stands.
I admit that I tend to be surprisingly reticent about expressing my emotions in such settings. I don't even boo during sporting events; I may moan and groan to myself or to whoever I happen to be with, but booing just seems uncivilized to me. And kind of mean. (People who read MNB may be surprised by this, since I seem to feel no such reticence here.)
So let's not blame social media. Let's just blame people who don't know how to behave.
One other thing. If I were a team owner, I would put in the contract of every one of my players that they are forbidden from Tweeting messages or posting on Facebook or any other social media site. Because as many dumb fans as there may be, there are more than a few dumb athletes who don't know when and how to keep their mouths shut.