Dear obsessed sports fans,
I get excited when my team wins, just like you do. Just a couple weeks ago, when Dorian Baker scored a touchdown to give Kentucky a win over Eastern Kentucky, I nearly threw my phone through the ceiling. I was excited to see the Wildcats pick up a win.
On the other side, I also get upset/mad/frustrated/angry/sad (insert other negative emotion) when my team loses. I was mad when Baker dropped a touchdown against Auburn, when they handed the ball off with less than a minute to go, and when Towles took a sack on fourth down. Trust me, I am right there with you.
However, I have never felt such hostility and anger that led me to make death threats or encourage suicide against a college football player (or anyone), and none of you should either.
I say this for a reason. Most of you have seen the infamous bobbled punt by University of Michigan punter Blake O'Neill that led to a walkoff scoop-and-score for Michigan State last Saturday. The highlight has been shown over and over, and I'm sure O'Neill has to be sick and tired of seeing it. Trust me, he will re-live that play over and over again.
After the game, the tweets rolled in from the obsessed and crazed fans. They encouraged O'Neill, the same player who was highly praised for an 80-yard punt earlier in the game, to "jump into a pool of spikes and cyanide," to go into the equipment room "and start chugging that bleach," and various others simply telling O'Neill he should "just die."
I couldn't agree more with what Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio said about the situation:
"This is an entertainment business that we are in. It is a game. People need to realize that."
I understand, in a moment of anger, we say/do things that, in hindsight, we wonder why we would say/do such a thing. I completely get that. I've done it. Everybody has. But we need to remember who these players are, what they're doing, and take a look at the bigger picture.
O'Neill is a college student that has accomplished way more than any of the cowards who tweeted death threats and suicide encouragements at him.
I will go out on a limb and say that most, if not all, of them have played football at a Division I level, much less at a prestigious football school like the University of Michigan. Not to mention being a star in Aussie football while dabbling in fashion modeling, with a bachelor's degree and working on a second masters degree.
Simply because you have a keyboard and Internet access does not mean you should go on tirades like this. At any time. Social media has great advantages, we can connect with others in ways never thought imaginable. People are more accessible than ever, but with that, a small minority ( VERY SMALL) has showed the majority the negative side of social media.
While writing this, I did a quick Twitter search to see what people are saying. I was glad to see hundreds of people tweeting encouragement to O'Neill in the wake of the incident. That's what it should be like. As a fan base, we should encourage the players of our favorite team, not kick them while they're down. He is going to have a hard enough time trying to move on, he definitely does not need gutless Internet trolls encouraging self-harm.
Again, I want to emphasize the small portion of each team's fan base that takes things to this extreme. It's extremely small, less than five percent. However, the small minority tends to ruin things for the majority. That is terribly sad.
It's ridiculous. It's unnecessary. It's cowardly. So think before you send that tweet.