Cyberbullying & Sports Media

So by now, most if not all of us have seen the Michigan State play that look liked it could only have been planned by the Michigan kicker. I was in the stands with my roommates waiting for the game to start and we were checking the ESPN Scorecenter app for that game. We saw that Michigan had the ball with a minute left and quickly turned our attention elsewhere. Then ten minutes later we all get an alert saying that MSU had in fact won the game. If you haven’t seen the play, here is a video from field level.


Anyway, the punter Blake O’Neill has come under a lot of pressure. There have been death threats and the school also gave him the next week off from classed so he wouldn’t be given a rough time by his classmates (and even possibly professors). And in this lies the problem. The second most people saw that play the first thought was “Oh damn, it’s going to be rough for that punter”. Isn’t it messed up that a 20 something kids is going to change someone’s world enough that they feel like they have to threaten his over a game? This is the state of affairs today however when you have people whose whole job is to simple cover this team. Michigan is an extremely rich program in both terms of finances and also history, so the fan base expects the best. However, does that justify putting your insecurities on the back of a kid?

Coach Harbaugh put it best in a post-game interview when he made the statement that the lose “wasn’t heartbreaking or devastating”. Michigan is still getting its feet under Harbaugh and maybe the fans were expecting a little much after the three straight shutouts. But this all still leads to the problem of forgiveness in college sports. With the internet such threats have become unveiled and people who would be embarrassed to say such things in public are more than fine with publishing them online with fake names to protect themselves. How does an event such as this point to us as the media controllers?

As the future of sports media, we need to walk a tightrope. We have to remind the public that while sports can be intense and we want to funnel people to our sporting events, we also need to show that it is all-temporary. To do this lets say after a big lose, we can offer benefits for fans. So if you have a ticket to the game, after the game you could get a special at a restaurant. This would get people to sit down and possibly be worried about what’s in front of them and maybe having a good time with their friend they will see the vanity of sporting events.

Another way is to push info about the next event. This is what Harbaugh did in his post-game press conference. He pointed to the fact that this is all about growth. Show the fans that the lose is just a stepping-stone. Tim Tebow did this in 2009 when they lost to Ol’ Miss at home on a 4th down that Tebow should of done. He went in front of the media and made the famous “Promise”.

Ultimately we need to remember that athletes are people, not gods. We may put them up on a stage and praise them and such. For goodness’s sake I grew up with a poster of Bear Bryant over my bed. But at the end of the day we must remember that they are humans just like us and will fail. Do not base your happiness on them, but care and love them for their own well being.

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