Be careful what you wish for, boys and girls.
It wasn’t too long ago that I had openly campaigned for Phillies players to join Twitter. DeSean Jackson, many Sixers, JVR, Matt Carle, Dan Carcillo, and some other local athletes had taken the plunge, but save for Cole Hamels’ foundation account and a few minor leaguers, the Phillies, the city’s most popular team, had almost no presence on the Tweets. That all changed this summer.
Mike Stutes joined.
Then the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence, a notorious Tweeter. Him and Stutes convinced Vance Worley to join. Then Jimmy Rollins started actually using his account. Then Michael Schwimmmer corrected me. Then Shane Victorino joined.
Then Shane Victorino joined.
At first this was all really cool and worked the way it was supposed to: athletes with a direct connection to their fans. But with that unfiltered access comes some risk.
No one wanted to see this (a day after Game 5):
or especially this:
To us fans – even if this sentiment is unfair – we interpret that as: “They don’t care that they squandered a golden opportunity."
What Shane, Jimmy, and Hunter don’t understand is that their loss to the Cardinals is painful for us. Any Philadelphian under 30 has experienced a lifetime of losing, save for the 2008 World Championship. This year, the city fielded the greatest baseball team in its history, and we watched it fall short of even making the semifinals. That hurts, stings.
We don’t want to see J-Roll™ talking about what a beautiful day it was two days after the season ended. We don’t want Pence to tell us the positives of offseason surgery (because it’s not supposed to be the offseason, in our minds). We don’t want to see Victorino talk about his golf game, and we certainly don’t want to see him openly rooting for the Brewers when most of us can’t even stomach watching baseball right now (!!!).
As fans, we are, by nature, irrational. We expect and demand things from players that we would not ask of human beings in any other circumstance. The current group of core Phillies players (Utley, Howard, Victorino, Rollins, Hamels) took on larger-than-life personas when they won the World Series in 2008. Like we do with good brands, we assigned specific traits and personalities to each of them, even though most of us have never met or spent any time with the Phillies (disclosure: both Hamels and Utley were very gracious in my brief dealings with them). To us, they’re ballplayers– not fathers or sons or fans or surfers or movie gurus or pilots or whatever else they do in their spare time. They’re ballplayers. That’s why they have hundreds of thousands of fans, fancy cars, nice homes, and 80,000 Twitter followers. They need to understand that’s their audience. Their audience is fans. Fans are the audience. Audience is fans. Einhorn is Finkel. Fans are the audience.
You catch my drift.
As an example, I have many thoughts on politics, technology, history, and stand up comedy, but I rarely share them with my roughly 7,800 Twitter followers. Why? Because I’m guessing 99.9% of you (with perhaps Ms. CB, my mother, and a few adult website bots being the exceptions) clicked “follow” because you read, like, were told about, or are interested in my blog. Or hate it. So I stick to sports, because my audience is sports fans– not hipsters or moms or even Shane Victorino.
The same goes for the Phillies. Nearly all of their fans and followers are interested in what they have to say because they play baseball… for the Phillies. That’s their audience. I love the fact that we get to learn more about these guys through social media, but they’re not doing themselves any favors (especially you, Shane) Tweeting about how much enjoyment they’re getting out of some extra time off and watching postseason baseball from afar.
Do whatever, guys. By all means, you’ve earned it. But right now, your audience hurts and is a bit pissed off. Everything will be fine come spring training, we just need some time. We spend our hard-earned money to watch you play and invest more time in being fans than is probably socially acceptable. So just keep that in mind the next time you broadcast a message to your fans. And please, please stop Tweeting about how great the postseason has been. It’s killing us.
Warning: this post is like the Bat Signal for trolls. The comments might get hairy.