The internet, for those of you who are just joining us, can be a strange and wonderful place. On one hand, you can have access to anything and everything, but on the other hand...you can have access to anything and everything. Between blogs, Wikipedia and social media, that sort of information overload can be quite overwhelming
On Monday, the denizens of the information superhighway were given the most effective kind of lesson in the perils of information overload, when Twitter, the social media outlet de jour, saw a fair share of controversy stemming from some comments made by Shane Victorino.
It started when the Flyin' Hawaiian joined Twitter towards the end of the season, but it didn't come to a fever pitch until the day after the Phillies were eliminated from the playoffs. Victorino, instead of sulking and lamenting the playoff loss, tweeted about his golf game. That was followed by other tweets that were non-Phillies related, including some in which Victorino actively cheered for the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS and even went as far as to talk glowingly about the amazing postseason run that St. Louis' Allen Craig was having.
Predictably, some of those tweets got the fan base riled up, because after all, there is no greater betrayal than a local athlete rooting for another team in the playoffs. Right?
Maybe not. You see, once the Phillies were eliminated from the playoffs, their season was over, and thus, he (and any other members of the team) were no longer beholden to the so-called “loyalty” to the fans. It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but if they want to root for other teams, what's the problem?
The thing about professional athletes is that, yes, they are just like you and me. Except that, unlike you and me, they have an extraordinary gift and are able to compete at the highest levels of the game and are compensated generously for it. To some, that level of compensation, which essentially entitles them to living the rest of their days without having to have an actual job, means that there is a different level of expectation in how they act and react.
Sometimes, that makes sense. If Roy Halladay was out carousing all night before his start in the playoffs, then the team and the fans have every right to be upset because his actions have a direct, and negative, impact on the team.
But sometimes, it’s silly to get ones collective bloomers in a bunch, especially in Victorino's case. I mean, how dare he express his feelings about the other baseball games that are going on. Not only is he tweeting, but he is actually rooting for some of the other teams and players. He even went so far as to congratulate the Texas Rangers. The horror, Shane, the horror!
Really, who cares? The season is over, and has been for over a week. It’s difficult for the fans to come to terms with that, which is understandable, but there is a component that a lot of us fail to consider. That is, to Victorino and whoever else, the game is a job. It is their occupation. Once they punch the clock, they can do whatever they want, provided it doesn’t hurt the team.
Athletes are people, too. If Shane Victorino – professional baseball player – wants to talk about how much be enjoys watching other players and other teams play baseball, then that’s his prerogative. It’s not as if though he was tweeting from the batter’s box about how much he loves watching Chris Carpenter pitch.
I don’t care if Shane Victorino, or anyone else, is golfing the day after they lost in the playoffs. I don’t care if they are seen out somewhere with a smile on their face a week after they got trounced, I don’t care that they compliment the good fortune of a team that just eliminated them. Why? Because it has zero to do with what they did on the field.
I know that fans “live and die” with their teams, but that’s just an expression. No one actually does. Sure, fans get mad and excited and probably overreact, but it’s all very visceral and very in the moment. The day after Ryan Howard watched Brian Wilson’s third strike run past the outside corner, I was enjoying my Sunday afternoon with my friends. I wasn’t lamenting that day, I wasn’t hanging my head in shame, and I certainly wasn’t demanding, or even expecting Ryan Howard’s world to stop while he sat in the corner and thought about what he did.
Athletes are people, too. If you prick them, they will bleed. And if you put them on Twitter and get a chance to peek into their everyday lives, you won't be looking into a portal to another world that is filled with endless riches and fancy parties. You’ll be looking into a mirror.