Regular Dawg Sports commenter Mr. Sanchez has an interesting post up at Sports & Grits on University of Georgia athletes and their continued (mis)use of Twitter and other social media. The catalyst for the discussion was a recent tweet by Jay Rome quoting lyrics by Canadian hip hop/R&B artist Drake, which might have given me a heart attack if I were Rome's mother, whether it were a song lyric or not.
The thrust of Mr. Sanchez's argument is that nothing good can come from college football players tweeting. As this is only the latest of many thousands of unfortunate tweets from college athletes, I'd say his argument has plenty of empirical support. Twitter, Facebook and similar applications are a PR and compliance nightmare for college coaches. I'm really just waiting for a collegiate athlete to tweet something along the lines of "Dude jus give me a free meal/concert ticket/necklace/car jus 4 being a 'Dawg/Gator/Longhorn/Boilermaker." It will happen, because all other things being equal any given teenager is a threat at any time to complete whatever action he is doing in the most stupid way possible. It doesn't matter whether it's mowing the lawn, making a grilled cheese sandwich or breaking NCAA rules. Given enough time and enough teenagers, eventually someone's lawnmower, kitchen, or football program is going up in flames.
On the other hand, I disagree with Sanchez if we're making this social media ban a blanket proposition. Because, as Mark Richt has noted, there is something good that comes from players tweeting. They get to be actual college students not living in a guilded cage. Free speech is a good thing when exercised properly. And I'm not willing to take away that most basic of rights except where it's abused. As Sanchez notes, in the pantheon of things college kids have tweeted, Rome's is pretty tame. Especially when you look at his overall body of work in recent days, some of which is actually pretty inspiring coming from a kid his age. Some other guys have done worse, but on the whole UGA football players' social media activity isn't nearly as disconcerting to me as that of other nonfootball playing teenagers I know.
Part of being a college football blogger is following college football players on Twitter and Facebook. It's no longer an optional thing, because you pick up a lot of news that way, including news that comes straight from the source. Like when a Facebook friend congratulated Ray Drew on his commitment to Georgia. 2 weeks before he announced the commitment publicly, and with no refutation or denial from Drew. You also see a lot of things that make you shake your head and worry about what Bulldog players are going to get into on any random Saturday night*. But to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, it's a dangerous business, Frodo, being a college football fan. It's a safe bet that most of the stupid things college football players write on their walls or tweet are things that someone in Athens was going to know about anyway. So the risk isn't players doing more stupid things, it's actually the stupid things players do getting out quicker.
And to be honest, the increased scrutiny may not be a bad thing. As Coach Richt has noted, there are staff members monitoring players' social media usage, so if any bad behavior occurs and a player is dumb enough to put it up for the world to see, it will be found out. In the Donnan era (when some contributors to this weblog may or may not have actually stepped over Georgia football players on the sidewalk in downtown Athens who were literally too drunk to walk), that wasn't the case. So, yeah, there's an inherent danger there and I can't blame anyone for wincing when they read some of the things players post. And Sanchez is absolutely right that banning them from social media would certainly solve some PR problems before they happen. Because letting college kids tell the world what they're thinking/doing is dangerous. But then there's also an inherent danger to letting them walk around campus at night, eat Mexican food without taking an acid reducer first, go swimming, hug a wallaby, or take calculus. I'm not for banning them from doing those things either.
In addition to being your open comment thread for the weekend, this is also the de facto open comment thread for the ongoing U.S. Open golf tournament. Entering the second day of competition at Congressional in Bethesda, Maryland Ireland's Rory McIlroy is well in the lead after going nuts on Thursday with a 6 under par 65. Bubba Watson is tied for 18th at even par, Christo Greyling sits in 33rd at one over, and Russell Henley is tied for 44th at two over. Watson was not terribly happy after his opening round, reportedly refusing to answer questions about how he bogeyed the final three holes, or about anything else. I can't exactly blame him. It's not the kind of thing anyone wants to rehash. I'll be pretty busy today and won't be around to check up on the action. So police yourselves, don't correct each other about Bubba Watson's driving distances, and generally have mercy on each other:
*At one point I considered no longer reading Washaun Ealey's Facebook status updates because each one filled me with a growing sense of foreboding regarding the Bulldog football team and the youth of America in general. Like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.