It’s a truism to say social media have changed the way we interact, and it’s as true in professional sports as it is in any other aspect of our lives.
But with great power, as Spiderman reminds us, comes great responsibility.
It started Monday. Mayor Karl Dean strapped on the headphones and sidled up to the mic as one of the first guests on 102.5’s 1st Quarter as WPRT-FM shifted to an all-sports format.
Eventually, as one might expect on a sports station, the topic came around to baseball, specifically the prospects for a new Nashville Sounds stadium. One of the hosts tossed out the prospect of a major league team coming to town. Randomly, the host mentioned the Tampa Bay Rays, who have had some attendance issues in central Florida. The mayor played along. It was all in good fun. But, of course, someone tweeted that the mayor indicated the city was interested in pursuing the AL East team.
Eventually that tweet caught the attention of ESPN’s Buster Olney, who once worked in our fair city. Olney backed the idea and an off-hand comment, obviously made in jest, made its way around the world, and the mayor’s office had to explain for more than a few news cycles that Nashville wasn’t trying to snipe the Rays.
A nice object lesson to everybody.
Although, it seems, Titans hold-out and superstar running back Chris Johnson didn’t take the lesson to heart.
Midday Wednesday, CJ suggested that “fake Titans fans” remain silent on his ongoing contract negotiations (he used an acronym which put the suggestion far less politely). Johnson did clarify that real Titans fans should feel free to continue expressing their opinions, although he did not offer a metric to divine who was real and who was fake.
The reaction was swift, and for the first time, it seemed like public opinion moved strongly against the speedster — although Johnson did get a tweet of support from Rainn Wilson, Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office.
Johnson, unlike the mayor, was not joking. He continued to back his statement — real fans, whom he loves, would not have been offended, he argued.
Whether his out-of-nowhere expression of frustration garnered him the “playmaker” money he received is up for debate. Perhaps the deal was already done. Who knows?
And whether the “real fans” understand the subtlety of his message is just as up in the air.