Pirate Notebook No. 519
Monday, October 14, 2013

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Fans take social media too far

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

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Someone should draw a line in the virtual sand protecting college athletes who participate in social media. There is little shielding them from cyber attacks when they donít meet certain expectations.

That was never more evident to me than during the aftermath of East Carolinaís 36-33 loss at Tulane Saturday. It wasnít long after Green Wave kicker Cairo Santosí game winning field goal split the uprights that the first keyboard missiles were fired.

Many of them were targeted at Pirates kicker Warren Harvey, who missed field goals to end regulation and in the third overtime. Clearly his right foot ruined the lives of many.

ďItís absolutely not his fault that we lost this game,Ē Pirates quarterback Shane Carden said in Harveyís defense. ďThere were plenty of opportunities. I had one terrible read and throw that cost us a 14-point swing.

ďIt is never one man, especially in football. We had plenty of opportunities to win. It wasnít just Warren. It wasnít just me. It wasnít just one person on defense.Ē

Carden, who overcame a slow start to shatter a school record for passing yards in a game, wasnít shielded from Twitter bombs, either. Apparently 480 yards against one of the nationís top defenses doesnít cut it these days.

Surprisingly, even receiver Justin Hardy was the subject of Internet ire. Forget his record-setting 17-catch, 230-yard performance. He muffed a punt that led to a Tulane field goal.

Guess heís human after all.

Thatís what ultimately gets lost in the narrative of college sports, especially those that drive the revenue train that fund the others. The athletes who largely are the reason for the exploding spending spree by television execs arenít professionals, rather guys earning their keep by running into each other at high-velocity speeds.

Many of them donít ask for the pedestal on which we place them. Nor do they deserve the degree of public scrutiny to which they are often subjected.

They go to class. They play Madden. They wear school colors with the same degree of pride as the most die-hard fans, if not more. And yes, they make the occasional mental snafu.

Just like you and me.

It wasnít that long ago that I watched East Carolina football games in the blaring sun or pouring rain. Admittedly, I also was known to slam my hat in disgust over something as simple as a false start.

I was the guy you paid extra not to sit beside, and if you did draw the seat next to me, it didn't take you long to seek relocation.

If Iíve gained one thing in my 12 years covering East Carolina football, itís the perspective that I wish every fan could have. Any anger I might have possessed over a loss as a fan has grown into compassion from within the media.

Anyone who witnessed the mood outside the ECU locker room Saturday couldnít have possibly unloaded a Web assault on a bunch of teary-eyed teenagers. And they probably would have thought twice about making an Armageddon declaration on the season.

None of this is to mean that college coaches and athletes canít or shouldnít be subjected to criticism from both the media and the fans. When executed with professionalism in the press box and proper decorum in the stands, itís fair game.

There is nothing wrong with offering pointed analysis or breaking down the good and bad of any coach or playerís game. But to drop a tirade of insults into a college athleteís Twitter timeline is crossing the line.

Having been involved in organized sports since I was seven, I once possessed the desire for my son, now four, to exceed the modest levels of success I reached.

If my Twitter timeline yesterday is an example of whatís ahead, maybe I should dream a different path.

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10/13/2013 08:35 PM