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American Press

Friday, October 31, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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American Press sports reporter Rhett Manuel.<br>

American Press sports reporter Rhett Manuel.

Manuel Column: Learning social media boundaries

Last Modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 9:21 AM

By Rhett Manuel / American Press

Mostly gone are the days of bulletin-board material, at least in the traditional sense of newspaper clippings.

Sure, every once in a while schools and communities are given little nuggets of print goodness through local publications. That’s another story for another day.

We’ve evolved as a species to become more sophisticated in our smack talk. By sophisticated, I mean the land of typographical errors, silly photos embedded with one-liners and your know-it-all college roommate.

I’m referring to social media. In case you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years, websites such as Facebook and Twitter are how people communicate more and more with each passing day.

That’s only gotten easier with the advent of smart phones. Face it, we’ve all seen or been “that guy” checking the score for a favorite team while at a social gathering.

On top of that, we’ve all been that fan who has talked a bit bigger than our britches when a big game is around the corner.

Yes, I’m looking at you Southwest Louisiana.

I’m as big a fan of technology as anyone. In this day and age, I can appreciate the fact that opinions and discourse is at our fingertips in an instant.

But, it’s a slippery slope.

I assume our area coaches’ jobs have gotten a little more complex in the last few years.

Between the ubiquitous nature of social media and kids being kids, a coach policing exactly what a student-athlete says on the record has become near impossible.

A limit of 140 characters in one tweet seems harmless enough.

In actuality, it’s the perfect amount for an athlete to say just enough to get a player in hot water.

Go to Facebook and that limitation pretty much gets thrown out the window.

Any person can make a controversial comment or tweet, realize the error of his or her ways and delete the remark.

But to say it’s gone when the delete button is pressed is fool hardy. All it takes for that remark to live in infamy is a person tech-savvy enough to take a screen shot of the remark in question.

A person can realize the error of its ways within five minutes. In that five minutes someone could capture the tweet, save the photo on a hard drive and take the controversy viral.

Nationally, Johnny Manziel has become a dart board for this type of behavior from sites like Deadspin and SB Nation. So much so it appears Johnny Football has self-imposed an exile from Twitter.

It’s probably better for both he and Texas A&M.

Sure, it’s entertaining. It’s also a testament to the changing climate of sports journalism and a potential minefield for coach and player alike.

It’s not all on players and coaches, though. It’s on fans as well.

Fans as a whole have a tendency to overreact. Fans tend to believe their team is the best, the hardest working. They have a tendency to backlash on any dissenting opinion.

There’s nothing wrong with being a fan. There’s plenty wrong with being the fan who can’t see both sides of a coin.

Southwest Louisiana has athletes who give their schools 100 percent every time they step on any field, court or diamond. It also has fan bases that at times makes these kids more than what they are — kids.

They may be hometown heroes and the big man on campus. That’s nothing but fun. Every kid wants to see his face and name on the front page of his or her area’s publication.

I’m sure that extends to any well-wishes received online from parents, peers and boosters. It feels good to be praised for accomplishments.

The in-an-instant culture we now live in has done far more good than harm. It’s awesome to think about how a student’s father may be able to keep track of his offspring while deployed overseas or on a business trip.

But for both coach and player, when does the Internet Age become dangerous?

• • •

Rhett Manuel covers high school sports for the American Press. Email him at rmanuel@americanpress.com

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