Past The Press Box

Does social media make sports fans more whiny?

The single greatest thing about the Internet is the ability to find whatever interests you and then other people who are interested in the same thing. If I'm the type of person who effing loves Jello molds, I can find someone else who does as well. Or, a little closer to reality, if I'm caught up in the Packers playoff run and need my fix on the daily, I can find that from any number of outlets.

As the latter example happens to be true, I came across the excellent Green and Gold Today podcast hosted by Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson of ESPN Milwaukee. In one of these recent podcasts, as the pair discussed Mike McCarthy's clock management and playcalling abilties, Bill kind of lost it and claimed "social media has turned Packer fans into a bunch of whiny bitches." He also said clock management rarely impacts the outcome of football games. At first, I thought those were two of the dumbest things I'd ever heard. Now I'm not so sure. Well, on the first point.

There is, like with any other debate, two sides to this argument. I'm going to start with my initial reaction.

Social media has not made sports fans any more whiny than they were previously, only more vocal.

Social media, at its core, is a medium. It's only a channel of communication, like email, the telephone or the radio. A medium alone normally should not drastically change the attitude of the message that is being presented. The way it's being presented? Of course. But not necessarily the message itself. While the timing doesn't line up—or even come remotely close—imagine someone getting all pissy and saying "Darnit, this telephone is making Packer fans waaaay more bitter about losses." It wouldn't make sense, and not just from a historical perspective.

Social media hasn't changed the attitude of the fans, or made them complain more when the really shouldn't, but only given a voice those who previously went completely unheard. Previously, radio hosts like Johnson only heard from fans when they called in. The volume of calls received was of course limited by the hours the show was on the air, the ability to get through to the show and fans getting past the fear of being openly lambasted on the air for thousands of people to hear.

Now? Fans can anonymously fire opinions at radio hosts 24/7. So the attitude itself hasn't changed, it's just easier for Johnson and others to hear it.

And then, of course, the other side of the argument.

Yup, social media and the increased exchange of opinions has made sports fans complain far more than they previously did.

The crux of this argument goes all the way back to the introduction: if I want to find other people on the internet who think the same thing I do, I can do it. If I want to find a group of people to support my claim that Mike McCarthy is a horrible play-caller and his clock management is downright criminal, I can do that. I can probably find hundreds of other people who think the same thing.

Similar to how social media can take a good sports fan and turn them into a great one, it can also take a nervous or disagreeing fan and turn them into one who strongly criticizes and openly questions the team they love, even when they're two games away from the Super Bowl.

Aside from simply finding others who are thinking what I'm thinking, social media also allows sports fans to be influenced by a much wider variety of opinions and a significantly deeper base of information. I may not have thought something previously but, because of something I saw tweeted and then re-tweeted by several others on Tweetdeck, I may start forming an opinion on something I hadn't thought much about.

As an example, late Monday night this was making the rounds amongst the group of sports fans, writers and bloggers I follow

Now, I may not have previously thought that Oregon got completely jobbed, but now I'm starting to think that may be the case. If I'm a Duck fan, I'm going to be much more whiny about the game after seeing that.

To conclude, social media is much different than other mediums due to the fact that it expands far beyond the traditional one-to-one or one-to-many models we've seen previously. It is many-to-many, and the open exchange of ideas creates an environment where opinions can rapidly grow in strength. While we often hear about the positive effect of such technology, we need to be careful about the negative side as well.


Photo credit: eytonz

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The American Sportswriter_