Social media, also known as new media or Web 2.0, is a platform of sharing user made content. The venues may be through Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn or Twitter, just to name a few. Individuals have access to share opinions, pictures, or news to thousands of people instantaneously.
This unfiltered access has caused a ripple effect through the sports industry for the past couple years. Debates on what staff, press, and athletes are permitted to post, and at what time, have caused quite a stir. For example, in the summer of 2009, the NFL restricted Tweeting during games by players.
Until recently, I simply enjoyed the addition of new media in hockey. Hockey enthusiasts can get quick facts from news sources, like Puck Daddy, or opinion-based fan blogs. Then I joined Twitter as the Cardiac Cane Spokes-Tweeter, and something strange occurred. I became invested to a point beyond a fan simply watching an entertaining sport.
Hockey to me is my escape from a pretty emotional day job. The sport to me is probably what Bieber Fever is to teeny boppers. It is a blissful retreat from reality.
However, it seems Twitter is leaking reality into my fantasy from two different angles. The direct interaction from fans and athletes has altered our participation in sports.
(Photo by Adam Meaney via Getty Images)
We’ve all been there. You bunker down in your seat in the arena to watch your hockey team illustrate their skills (or lack of skills depending on your team) and a loud, know-it-all fan begins barking in your ear. They think they are the guru of all things hockey. They have recited every statistic and rule. A superior aura exudes from them and reeks like week old stadium chili dogs.
Whether you tolerate it for sixty minutes or initiate a brawl of your own in the stands, you get to escape after the game…unless you participate in new media. Save just tweeting yourself, it is difficult to fully escape arrogant fanatics.
When things got heated over blogs and Twitter on the Chara/Pacioretty hit, I closed my eyes and slammed my laptop. Of course, I had an opinion and prayed for Patch, but damn it, this is supposed to be my happy time (selfish, I know). Not to say feuds and controversy didn’t reach audiences before social media, but it is now on a more emotionally extensive level.
The second source of tainting in my blissful hobby are the athletes themselves. I follow a few professional hockey players on Twitter. Observing their personalities and getting an insider’s look at the sport has been a tremendous experience. Reading Pacioretty’s tweets of thanks to his fans during his recovery was remarkable. Athletes can directly interact with the fans and vice versa. What a treat, right?
I thought so…until last night. Charlotte Checkers’ goalie, Michael Murphy was injured during Sunday’s game against the Penguins. There was no real explanation during or after the contest. To much of the enjoyment of his fans, #31 is quite active on Twitter. Heck, he even married one the other night. Without my permission, I must add.
Tweets started to surface full of questions and concerns for the goalie, and I found myself worrying. Worrying?! What the hell? Players in this sport get injured all the time. He skated off the ice on his own accord, so why am I fretting like some mother hen? I have witnessed people I actually know and care for get hurt in this physical game. So, why the sudden anxiety over a player I never met?
Simply put, Twitter put a real person in my daydreams. I’ve seen a picture of Murphy’s dog, his funny photoshop skills, and bantering between his teammates. Dang, now I have feelings invested in what is supposed to be my carefree dream time. I am two Canes family injuries away from needing anti-anxiety medication. Geez.
Allow me to clarify, even prior to new media I would never lack sympathy for an injured player. You never want to see someone you admire and respect get hurt. The difference is the sympathy transforming to a harder to manage emotion…empathy. Empathy as you begin to know the players on a more personal level.
So, will I stop blogging? Will I cease to Tweet? Nah, it’s like a traffic accident I can’t help but survey. It just means I need a new escape. I wonder if there are many professional bowlers on Twitter…
Whether you agree or not, there is no deny social media has greatly impacted the culture of sports. I appreciate the read and welcome comments.
And damn you, Murph…get well soon! I thought a cute picture with a Murph-type caption was in order…
And yes, those are the “stinks like goalie gloves” butts I get to sleep with every night.