Long before I was writing my thoughts online about the Angels and the Ducks, I was on Twitter. What pulled me into this social media platform were the very sports I now write about, as I had found a place that I could interact, complain and celebrate with fellow fans—virtually. How else can you be sitting watching an Angels game by yourself on the couch and simultaneously be following every pitch with the fellow Halo faithful? I was hooked.
Angels fans, like any sports fans, are a passionate bunch. I think SoCal sports fans in general are often marginalized for not being committed enough to our sports and our teams. There are just too many distractions living in paradise, right?
But I haven’t found that to be the case at all, and this was never more apparent to me than when I joined the #AngelsFamily on Twitter. We cheer when they win. We gripe when they lose. We throw out our opinions on how we would “right the ship”. We may agree to disagree, but we love our Halos.
Back in February, I wrote about how the Angels Family stepped up big time to help one of their own when the going got tough for her family. It was the perfect example of the good in social media and how the relationships we’ve formed extend beyond the computer and into real life.
But last week I saw an ugly side to Twitter, as Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, who is one of many Angels players active on Twitter, decided to quit the microblogging service. He got tired of the criticism from fans, and I suspect it got worse as the Angels have dropped in the standings in recent weeks.
Are fans frustrated with the team’s recent play? Of course they are, and so am I. Not only are the Angels chasing the Texas Rangers in the West, but now they’re chasing the Oakland A’s too. Seriously? Yes, seriously. This team, with these players, should not be playing catch-up. But they are, and with games running low and time running out, it ain’t pretty on Twitter most days.
Frustration abounds and if you’re on Twitter at all during a sports event, you know how it goes. But what happened with Bobby Wilson apparently is that the criticism of the team’s play turned into personal attacks on the catcher. And he had enough. This was his last tweet:
“I’m done with twitter. Try to be fan friendly and all I get is criticism. I wasn’t blessed with 5 tools. I worked hard to get here.”
That’s a whole lot of insight there in less than 140 characters. He’s right. He’s not 5-tool player/phenom Mike Trout. But 99% of the MLB players who have ever played the game aren’t Mike Trout either. Wilson has spent a lot of his career going up and down from the minors. He’s spent time on the Angels bench as their third catcher. But he’s also caught two no-hitters. No matter what fans think about how he plays, he made it to the MLB. He has worked hard to get where he is and those stories of determination and not giving up in an environment as tough as professional sports are just as moving to me as stories like Mike Trout’s.
Should he have known what he was getting into, interacting with the fans on Twitter? Yes, absolutely. It comes with the territory. Everyone is open to criticism when you put your thoughts out there for the world to see, especially if you are one who spends a lot of time in the public eye. It’s no different than critical comments on blog posts. The outpouring of support for Wilson from Angels fans, and many others, was swift and sure. They wanted him to stay. Haters will be haters, after all. Bite back. Don’t give in.
But Wilson came to the conclusion that the time spent fighting the haters was no longer worth it. His Twitter account is completely gone. As Landon Hall from The Orange County Register wrote, it’s a shame, because interacting with the players in this format gives fans a richer baseball experience and more connection to the game they love.
I tweeted last week that I was not happy to hear this news. It’s disappointing and he deserved better from the fans. But I respect his decision to leave. I never saw the tweets that pushed him over the edge, but not everyone handles these things the same way. It was his choice. It’s also the classic example of a few spoiling it for many.
I have felt recently that there has been a wave of negativity on social media. Not that it wasn’t there before, but it seems so much more prominent to me these days. People can be very bold behind a keyboard, can’t they? I’m pretty sure these same people wouldn’t make most, if any, of these same comments in person. I’m all for being upset with the way the Halos are playing. I definitely am. Twitter is a great vehicle to vent that frustration alongside fellow fans. Tweet away. I’m still a firm believer that the positives of Twitter far outweigh the negatives. But maybe we should think before we type. Maybe we should keep the criticism to the game and stop ripping the players and others to shreds on a personal level. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I can’t help but remember that these guys are sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. They are human.
At the same time Bobby Wilson was leaving Twitter, Keith Sharon with The Orange County Register posted this very moving story of what former Angel Shawn Wooten and his family have been battling this summer. A member of the 2002 World Series Championship team (and coincidentally, one of the Angels back-up catchers), I’m sure Wooten longs for the days where life was as simple as playing baseball. What a contrast.
Perspective, people. As much as we love it, it’s only a game.
*Sad Twitter image from Icondeposit.com