San Francisco 49ers wide reciever Kyle Williams had a bad day on Sunday by anybody’s standards. In the NFC Championship game between San Francisco and the New York Giants, Williams had a crucial pair of fumbles that ultimately helped New York win the game and move on to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVI.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Within minutes, so-called fans of 49ers were expressing more than their disappointment with the game’s outcome. Some had begun tweeting death threats to Williams.
I’m a lifelong sports fan and I’m amazed at how vicious fans can get in a situation like that. One thing I learned from team activities is that it is an extremely rare moment in history when one person is truly responsible for a team’s loss. This game was no different. Williams’ mistake set-up the eventual winning score, but the 49ers as a team had plenty of chances to win the game before it went into overtime and chances to win it outright in overtime, too.
But, I’m not here to talk about that right now. Instead, I was called upon today by WBIR-TV (NBC, Knoxville) to participate in a discussion about how fans are using and abusing social media. To be fair, I don’t consider this purely a social media story. Social media isn’t the cause of this sort of vulgar and illegal behavior, it is merely the newest delivery system. Fanatics have clogged team switchboards, dropped hate mail in the corner mailbox and even fired off an angry telegram or two. What is new is the ability to share these thoughts instantly with millions of people in a very public venue.
Happily, I had the opportunity to share the interview segment with Erik Ainge, a former quarterback for the University of Tennessee and the New York Jets. Here’s our discussion: