Social media can be a very powerful tool, it can also be very dangerous. When it comes to sports it’s easy to congratulate your favorite player or coach on a great win. Unfortunately there any many that take this open platform to attack those same players.
With West Virginia struggling through a slump many fans have taken to social media to voice their displeasure, sometimes directly at Mountaineer players. There is a huge issue with this that has an effect far greater than many realize. Speaking to Mountaineers of the past, Jeff Braun, Julian Miller, and Clint Trickett, you get a true sense of just how much of a an effect these negative comments can have.
Jeff Braun played on WVU’s offensive line from 2010-2012. He points out that it is easy to make statements and hide behind a keyboard. While Braun stated he was able to handle the criticism, he said many teammates had trouble handling the negative attacks.
“A lot of teammates really had a hard time reading those things,” he said, referring to the negative attacks on social media. Braun went on to explain why those negative comments upset him so much, “those people aren’t there day in and day out. They aren’t there to see the effort these players are putting out.”
He pointed out that younger players have a tough time adjusting to this type of criticism and at times it can become too much. He did state though that “older players know it comes with the territory, they have to have thick skin.” Regardless of whether they are a freshman or a redshirt senior is it truly necessary?
Julian Miller (defensive end 2007-2011) pointed out how disappointed he was with Mountaineer fans who cheered both in the stands and on social media when Skyler Howard had to leave the game after losing his helmet on the previous play.
“That doesn’t represent Mountaineer nation,” Miller said of the incident.
He went on to say there were numerous times that night he wanted to defend Mountaineer players on Twitter from heckling fans but thought better of it simply because he did not want to escalate the situation.
Miller agreed with Braun in that some players took those negative comments to heart and their play, at times, suffered as a result.
“Fans don’t understand that when they are booing and cussing at players that they are contributing to the loss,” Miller said.
Think of that for a second, a player coming off the field does not need to be reminded of the mistake he just made, especially from someone sitting in the stands or at home on their couch. The coaches will be there to ensure they know what they did, it is their job to correct it.
The signal caller for last year’s Mountaineer team, Clint Trickett, stated he heard far worse at home from his father it still got under his skin at times when he was attacked on social media after an off game.
“I was playing hurt, it was tough for me to read all of the negative comments and not say anything.”
Trickett knows all too well the problems social media can bring, he was forced to take an absence from Twitter after comments he made during his final season at WVU.
He did explain that reading about a missed read or bad throw is expected and usually tolerated by most players. However, personally attacking a player for a subpar performance crosses a line.
Braun relayed those same sentiments saying, “these guys already know they’ve played a bad game, that is wearing on them. The coaches have already jumped them about their performance, that is wearing on them. Now they have fans who want to wear their jersey one day are now chewing them out.”
Where exactly is that productive in any situation? Braun did continue to say that criticism of play is expected when it comes to the media and former players. He simply feels that fans, too often, cross that line.
All three stated that coaches warn players about getting involved with fans on social media. However, there are many players that truly care about what others think of them, especially the younger players as Braun pointed out.
Miller pointed out that if his coaches would have found out that negative comments from fans were affecting his play, it would simply make the situation worse. He went on to say that despite coaches thoughts, “some players would come off the field and immediately, check Twitter to see how many notifications they had. They wanted to know what people thought of their performance.”
Unfortunately there were many times those players ended up reading something they didn’t want to see.
While none of the three we spoke with feel that players should be banned from social media, they do feel that it has gotten to a point that players should be educated on how to handle it. It is sad that these young men have to endure criticism from those who are supposedly there to support them.
The next time you feel the need to openly criticize a player, know that there is a possibility they will see it. Know that what you write could potentially have an impact on them. Because while you are able to hide behind a screen name on a message board or other social media outlet they can not.