That title seems awfully preachy and judgmental, but I’m coming from a place of experience of being a dick, and being called out for being a dick, which I’ll get into in a second.
It’s NSD2 (national signing day 2) eve, and tensions are running high. You, an avid recruiting follower, are seeing class of 2020 players committing, getting offers, visiting, and not visiting...and you are also realizing that time is running short for that on 2019 player that your school really needs in order for the class to be elite. So you decided to tweet a recruit a graphic of how your school is so much better than the other schools they’re choosing from. Then someone from a rival school responds to your tweet, including the recruit, to tell you how much of an idiot you are. And then it becomes this 10 care pileup where you’ve moved on from talking about recruiting and are now debating the merits of the electoral college.
All of this started because you decided to tweet a recruit. Nothing you can say or do will impact a recruit’s decision. Why even bother?
Or another scenario: You get word that a player decided not to visit your campus, or didn’t like the visit they took. You don’t @ the player specifically but you use names and question the players heart, motivation, character all while extolling the virtue of your coach’s mental evaluation saying that that player clearly couldn’t hack it in your program. The player searches for their name, sees your tweet and sends you a veiled response about how fanbase x needs to keep his name out of their mouths.
All of these things fall under the umbrella of kind of being a dick on twitter. And like I said, I speak from experience. Here’s a little story.
The 2011 season was pretty rough for A&M. Tensions were high. Twitter was also relatively new, and no one knew that players searched for their names. A&M was playing Northwestern in the Car Care Bowl. Northwestern hit a big play or something and one of our corners got beat. Out of frustration, I tweeted the following “I will not miss you Lionel Smith”*
*note that was two twitter accounts ago so I don’t have the original tweet which brings me to another point: don’t threaten weathermen even if you’re just joking
So I tweeted that, not thinking much about it. Later that evening, Lionel Smith replies to my tweet with “But I still love you”. Later on from there Patrick Lewis (former center for A&M and one of my all time favorite players) replies back with this
So here I am, a 31 year old man (at that time) with two 18-20 year olds taking the high road after I made an offhand comment about their performance. I felt like a dick. I apologized to them, got no response, and just went about my day feeling like a total ass.
Maybe you have tougher skin than I do (which isn’t really saying much because I’m pretty thin skinned), but I don’t know, there’s a lesson to be learned here about being careful about what you put out there on twitter. Would I have said “I will not miss you” if I saw Lionel Smith in real life? Man hell no.
And I know there’s a built in conundrum with both recruits and players alike...that they ask for attention and crave affirmation but then can’t handle the other side of the coin when they do something that people don’t approve of. I get that. I also get that applying rational thought to irrational people (meaning teenagers, but also fans as well) is just a recipe for disaster.
And let’s be clear, this isn't directed towards my fanbase. It’s to all fanbases. Whether it’s horn fans being dicks to Footwork King after Shepherd’s visit, or A&M fans coming after Zach Evans’s brother for not driving him to College Station this weekend, we can all collectively do better.
[There’s another conversation to be had about how what we say on message boards is no longer private because there’s a whole industry of screenshotting stuff from behind paywalls and sending them directly to recruits, but we’ll keep this one specifically about twitter.]
I’m sure I’m going to get some push back about being preachy here, and I’m ok with that. More than anything, I wanted to make a long overdue apology to Lionel Smith about being a dick to him on twitter back in 2011. Sorry man. Thanks for all of your hard work while at A&M.
GBH Ed. Note: We do not condone or encourage any tweeting of recruits whatsoever. But we do applaud the author here for acknowledging the difficulties it entails, and sharing a personal anecdote from several years ago that can be a valuable lesson for all.