The cruel world of online sports fandom

Melanie Dinjaski November 1, 2012, 1:54 pm

In the minutes following Cameron Wood’s delisting by Collingwood earlier this week, some anonymous, internet savvy sports fan immediately took to the internet.

They did not merely exalt at the news on their social media channels, no. That would be too modest.

Instead this individual took it upon him/herself to update Wood’s Wikipedia page...

Let’s forget the fact Wood has just lost his job and his immediate future is in limbo. Let’s lampoon his life’s work by suggesting it’s all been for nothing. Let’s bring down his dedication and hard work and label him a sucker for ever trying.

C’mon people. Show a bit of heart!

Did he cheat? No. Was he involved in an off-field controversy? No. Is he a repulsive character? Well I don’t know him personally, but publicly, it doesn’t seem that he is.

Yet someone took it to a personal level when he least needed it, and when he least deserved it.

Granted, sports fans expect the best from the professional sportspeople that entertain us, and so we should. The standard should be high and we should be free to openly discuss how they’re tracking week to week. If there’s a better candidate out there for the job then it should probably be explored.

But why during this discussion, does it have to get personal and nasty?

This is not the first time a sportsperson has been the target of such cruel endeavours by a sports pundit and Wikipedia is not the only avenue people use to voice their disdain. Forums, comment threads, Facebook pages and Twitter are all mediums these trolls thrive in.

Twitter’s every-growing popularity has allowed Joe Bloggs to have an uncensored voice on the world wide web, when his views were previously kept within a five metre radius at his seat at the footy.

Knee-jerk reaction hashtags demanding a player or coach be sacked are a common yet unfortunate sight on Twitter. They really get my goat, particularly when that coach or player has barely had much time in the role to get settled.

Can you imagine someone starting an online campaign to oust you from your job? It’s unthinkable! But it all seems to be fair game in the sports world.

Furthermore, fast and loose vulgarity does not add value to a sports debate either. It simply displays an inadequate vocabulary and a mean disposition.

Social media has been, for the most part, extremely valuable for sport. It’s taken all codes to exciting new platforms and has brought sporting communities together in a meaningful way.

However, if I may use a Quade Cooper-ism in my description here, it’s also proving to be a toxic environment where many often get carried away and lose their ability to display common human decency.

We're not talking about split-second cursing after your team's player misses a shot or tackle or whatever.

This is completely unnecessary premeditated hate that adds nothing to the conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve criticized many sportspeople on the interwebs in my time. But they’ve always been delivered with the best of intentions or in a tongue-in-cheek manner. There’s a difference between that, and downright rudeness.

With more and more athletes joining the online sports community there’s a good chance professional sportspeople are now directly reading the rants coming their way. And yes, as athletes and (arguably) public figures, they should probably learn to cop such things with a brave face.

Nevertheless, the next time you are tempted to smash out some vitriol on your keyboard, why not have a think about it first? Would I say this to his/her face?

Sportspeople work ridiculously hard to get where they are and it's not a skill learned by studying a text book. They have limited career longevity and job security. They do it all for our benefit, to entertain us in the sports we love.

So all I’m asking for is a little respect.

Follow Melanie on Twitter, @MelanieDinjaski



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