My least favorite time of day to look in the mirror is first thing in the morning. My eyes are red and puffy from sleep, with the obligatory gunk in the corners. There are creases on my face from the pillowcase and drool stains on my pajama top. Not a very pretty picture and I'm sure I've frightened myself by catching sight of this horrible reflection before I was ready to fully handle it. It's hard to see the ugly side of yourself; sometimes it's downright terrifying.
Week two of the NFL saw a game between the Washington Redskins and the St. Louis Rams, a game that was more exciting than many thought it would be. One play that has been talked about heavily is the play that saw Redskins receiver Josh Morgan lose his cool with defensive back [Cortland Finnegan], a known irritant in the NFL. Morgan's ill advised lapse in judgment cost his team 15 yards on a personal foul penalty and in effect the game, as kicker Billy Cundiff missed the now 62 yard field goal attempt. Not a brilliant decision, but the real personal foul came after the game.
Social media is a boon to everyone who uses it. Social media can connect us, bring us closer to people we otherwise would be separated from, like sports stars. Unfortunately that closeness can cause problems as the internet breeds a lot of tough acting World Wide Web gangsters, spraying their vitriol with indiscriminate aim. Many took to Twitter to express their “gratitude” for Morgan's actions, giving him great advice about what he should do with and to himself. One of my favorite suggestions is that Morgan's child should have a football thrown at it. Morgan made a mistake, but he apologized for it and said he is taking steps to ensure it never happens again. I'm sure no one would like to be judged by their worst act, but this couldn’t possibly be Morgan's worst act in his lifetime. He cost his team 15 yards, yes, but how bad is that really? And that brings us to the Gladiator quote used to start off this piece. The NFL is for entertainment. As fans we take this sport way too seriously, and that's why our access to players has been restricted so much; that's why fans went from freely mingling with players to being separated from them by burly security men, gates, access passes and metal detectors. Morgan made a mistake, and yelling at the television screen is one way to react; another is to go on a social media platform and threaten his life. Only one of those has any logic to it.
Maybe because these men are our version of Roman gladiators we think they are immune to pain in any form. Maybe because these men perform feats each week that most of us are envious of we think they are truly invincible. Or maybe social media has a detrimental effect on our ability to realize that there are real people on the other side of the "send" button on our phones. Maybe because all we see are avatars and words we forget that someone is reading what we write, and somewhere it hurts them. Or maybe these fans need to step away from the television and find some sort of perspective. This mistake cost a sports teams a win. Nothing more.
Twitter can be an amazing tool for social change, as it was during the Egyptian revolution; it can be an instrument that helps heal an aching body through humor, as Oakland Athletics pitcher [Brandon McCarthy] showed us; but it’s when Twitter is used to harass and badger a young man I wonder at our capacity to make anything into a weapon of mass destruction. Death threats were sent to another NFL player, Kyle Williams, last year when he fumbled two punts during a playoff game for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. The young man was only 23 years old and yet some members of the Forty-Niners section of the Twitterverse decided the right thing to do would be to terrorize him when he was probably already feeling like the smallest person in the world.
Twitter shouldn’t be a weapon; it should be a forum to share, to entertain, and to learn. It can only become a weapon when we give in to our basest selves and vent our anger before we have time to calm down and really see that what we are livid about doesn’t really matter. The fans who felt the overwhelming need to run to Twitter and attack Morgan need to look in the mirror and smile, see that there are much more important aspects of life to become incensed about. The reflection they're casting now is an ugly one, and it's frightening the children. Remember; it’s only entertainment.