Social media: help or hinder?
A Real-time connection between athletes and fans is a concept that even 10 years ago was unfathomable. Today, you can see what LeBron James thinks of his game a mere five minutes after it’s over. That being said, athletes have also gotten themselves into heaps of trouble over what they tweet. It seems like everyday there’s a news story about an athlete who has gotten themselves into trouble over an ill-advised post.
This past summer, a handful of athletes were disqualified from the 2012 London Olympics because of careless use of social media. Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou missed the Olympics because of a tweet that Greek officials saw as racist. It was the Greek team, and not Olympic officials who made the decision to disqualify Paraskevi.
Phoenix Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette—or as many know him, @BizNasty2point0—has built a huge following on Twitter, and is more popular for his tweets than his play on the ice. He often comes under fire for what he says, but being a fourth-line grinder and a constant healthy scratch, he keeps himself in the spotlight by being edgy and controversial.
The tagline on his Twitter page reads “Play in the NHL for the Phoenix Coyotes. Well sort of. Once played in the ECHL for the Wheeling Nailers, seriously, that was the name. Living the dream.”
On the flip side, many athletes utilize social media to show their human side. Athletes such as New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton often tweet about their families and how blessed they are to do what they are doing.
In addition to athletes, fans can stay up to date on all the news and scores on Twitter or Facebook by following their favourite sports network or anchors. For major league sports, social media enhances the experience by allowing them to be at your fingertips at any given moment.
The Weal took to Twitter to find out what people think about the role of social media in sports. An instructor in SAIT’s television program, Sally Haggis (who is also involved with the Shaw broadcasts of Trojans’ hockey games) tweeted, “couple of tweets per quarter/period. Don’t like ppl who try and tweet a play by play!” @AVReno tweeted, “used responsibly, it can be a great tool to connect fans with the pros. Used after a bad call or a loss isn’t such a good idea.”
A first-year student in SAIT’s Medical Laboratory Technician program, Jen Price doesn’t like the aspect of athletes on Twitter.
“I think it’s a dangerous aspect to the game in that athletes are now under such scrutiny over things they say on social media,” Price said. “It also provides fans with an opportunity to have their voices heard by athletes, mainly to criticize them.”
At SAIT, the use of Twitter can allow the student body to stay connected and updated with all of the Trojans teams. On the other hand, it could deter people from attending games when they can stay at home and just check Twitter for updates.
The attractiveness of home games to fans has been raised to a whole new level, but will it work?
“I would definitely attend a lot of home games this year,” Price said. “I wasn’t aware that the Trojans had a Twitter account, but I’d definitely follow them to know what’s going on and when the games are.”
What about the students who don’t even use social media?
“I don’t use Twitter at all,” said James McCorquindale, a first-year new media student. “I wasn’t even aware the Trojans had a Twitter account or anything.”
Social media helps promote the teams, but there’s still a large demographic that it doesn’t reach.
This year, new steps are being taken to draw in students like McCorquindale.
Trojans marketing and communications coordinator Lindsay English has big plans for Trojans games this year, along with new game and event coordinator Samantha Turbach.
“Her and I have a goal this year to get butts in seats and with the NHL lockout taking place, this is going to be a huge opportunity for us,” English said. “We’ve tossed around ideas such as a minor hockey program called Trojans of Tomorrow, which invites minor hockey kids to come out to a game and participate in an intermission intersquad game or coming out in the ice for player intros and standing on the blue line for national anthems etc. and then doing an autograph session after the game. We also have a few fundraising events we plan on executing throughout the year working with various alumni groups as well as charities.”
Social media will not likely deter students from attending Trojans games and cheering on their home squad. Anyone who says they can just listen to the game at home or follow it on Twitter likely wouldn’t attend a home game anyways.
On a large scale, the use of social media in sports is a tightrope walk over shark-infested waters. Here at SAIT, it can only help drive fans to games and to raise awareness of the team.
To hear more about this and other Penalty Box issues, tune in to Monday Night Free For All on Oct. 15 from 6 – 9 p.m. on Electric 103. Go to radio.sait.ca to listen.