While MLB has wanted (and probably needed) mid-summer attention from the national media for something besides PEDs, this likely isn’t what they had in mind. During the All Star game, The Milwaukee Brewers’s Josh Hader, a man of the not-so-deep south (Maryland), was shamed for some pretty offensive Tweets from his teenage years. Clearly, he was humiliated about it. Atlanta’s Sean Newcomb, one strike away from a no-hitter, was equally shamed for the same offense, albeit with somewhat less vile content. Seeing a nice story ruined by social media’s morality police, Braves fans countered by humiliating Washington’s Caucasian speedster Trea Turner for similar youthful indiscretions, exposing HIS racist Tweets as a teenager, for the time he…quoted a Terry Crews character from a movie??
It would be nice to say that this is all surprising, but anyone who’s paid attention to what’s happened in America since the rise of social media, should be anything but surprised. Shaming famous people, and athletes from teams we don’t like (“Boooo- different shirt!”) in particular, has itself become a type of sport. It all went mainstream in 2013, when the now-defunct Gawker, a site which often used cyber-bullying as a disguise for moral crusading, shamed Justine Sacco, a young executive at IAC, into losing her job, for a poorly constructed Colbert-Report-styled joke. (They didn’t come up with the phrase, “Don’t try this at home, kids!” for no reason.) Although Justine’s shamer recanted somewhat when he HIMSELF was shamed, the trend only took off from there. So here were are, about five years later, getting mad at some jocks for things they wrote as kids- things which, by the way, predate what Justine Sacco herself wrote.
So is Josh Hader a truly hater? Is Sean Newcomb in need of sensitivity training, because he used to speak like a character from South Park? Should Trea Turner stop finding Terry Crews funny? Man, I don’t know. I DO know that I was NOT a jock when I was 18, yet still managed to write a few things that I’m not proud of today, thankfully pre-social media. Who hasn’t When Facebook started to become popular beyond college dorms about ten years ago, I told my sister that national-level politicians of the future would have to defend themselves against some really stupid things that they were typing, right as we were speaking back then. (We’re not QUITE there yet, but we will be soon.) I was all for it, because when running for national office, we need the whole picture of someone’s character, particularly when no one’s paying attention to them. (ie. What do they think they can get away with?) I never dreamed that the same standard would be applied to less-than-household named professional atheletes, who were years away from being old enough to drink at the time of THEIR youthful indescretions, even if, ironically enough, they might have been drunk while committing those indiscretions. And yet here we are, with the Washington Post, virtue signaling by telling us how these Tweets feel like- quote- “an actual gut-punch”. Really, Washington Post? First of all, whatever happened to “…names will never harm me”? Second of all, anyone who can make this statement and truly believes it- THEY threw in the word “actual”, not me- has probably never been punched in the gut. Perhaps those who truly feel let down by these jocks- from when they were KIDS THEMSELVES, no less- need to get a reality check on life. To paraphrase Charles Barkley, parents- not Major League pitchers- should be role models. Unless causing ACTUAL harm, athletes should, for the most part, be looked at as people who are paid to entertain us for a few hours a day, and that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less should be expected out of them. Outside of a few exceptional cases, there are plenty of others to turn to.
None of this is to say that the Tweets, or the culture that cultivated them, should be ignored ENTIRELY, because this type of thinking IS still a problem in our society. It just shouldn’t be a career-damaging one- let alone a career-ENDING one- because that’s a long road which should not be traveled. (Speaking of roads, if anyone wants to talk about athletes’ images versus reality? Peyton Manning normally doesn’t drive a Buick. Trust me on that one.) And when this perceptive IS challenged, it should be done so in a far more nuanced way than electing THIS guy. (Go ahead, click on the link- it’s not who you think it is!) Otherwise, we’re going to find ourselves living inside of another Terry Crews movie. As luck would have it, we’re too close to living there already.