The technologically impaired segment of the population has been decreasing in number exponentially every year for well over a decade. The Internet, which was once just a fascinating novelty, has been a transformative force that is now firmly intrenched in most of our lives.
Which is why it's hard to believe that in this day and age, there are still so many people who don't seem to fully grasp the Internet. Athletes, in particular, seem to have trouble comprehending the vastness of its recesses.
Or the full scale of their audience.
Or the speed at which their boobery is disseminated.
Or that just because you click "delete" after saying something terrible, that doesn't mean it ceases to exist.
Or even the simple fact that not everyone on the Internet is exactly who they say they are.
It all seems so simple, yet there seems to be a ridiculous Internet controversy every other day. Athletes mouthing off on Twitter are the main offenders, but there are also technologically deficient dummies with a striking lack of self-awareness.
Let's take a look at some athletes who just don't seem to get the Internet.
San Diego Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips has found himself in the center of a Twitter scandal a number of times already, but remains passionately committed to being an idiot.
He first attracted some attention in 2009, by asking his followers to tweet him a link to an infamous scandalous video. Phillips quickly backpedaled, insisting he didn't want to end up with a computer virus.
In early 2012, Phillips tweeted a shout-out to a teammate who (apparently) married his "jumpoff." I wonder what Phillips' wife thought about his very public shout-out to the teammate who married her husband's girlfriend?
But it was Phillips 2011 tweets about Tim Tebow that truly displayed the depths of his delusion. After tweeting about his desire to trash "Teabow" every time he sees him, Phillips quickly clarified that it's only because he's such a good person and suuuuuch a good player.
Uh, okay. (That awkward moment when the stupid guy in the room thinks everyone else is stupid and he's super smart.)
The entire nation became captivated with Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, during the BCS Championship in January 2013. Among her throngs of new male admirers, the public advances of Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett made national news.
Dockett tweeted about Webb during the game and then offered up his phone number and the promise of an interesting night, in what he claimed was supposed to be a direct message. If the message was actually an accident, then he deserves a place on this list.
But, as someone who has been following Dockett's antics online for years, I have my doubts about this "accidental" DM. In recent years he has made headlines for taking a shower live online and live tweeting an encounter with the police.
Dockett strikes me as someone who is very knowledgeable about social media, who enjoys the attention brought on by his shenanigans. Then again, I've been wrong before. So...maybe Dockett doesn't get it…or maybe he's a mastermind. He likes the attention either way.
For those that don't know, there is one definitive rule of the Internet that everyone should know: When you have a large enough audience, nothing can be erased.
Athletes tend to have very large audiences on social media, so they should be especially careful not to engage with fans when they are feeling heated.
That's a lesson that New York Knicks big man Amar'e Stoudemire learned the hard way in June 2012. On the heels of a disappointing season and an embarrassing loss to the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Stoudemire lashed out a fan on Twitter via a direct message—perhaps thinking it would remain private.
The gravity of the message sunk in about 10 hours later and he attempted to smooth things over. Stoudemire's eventual apology didn't carry much weight, nor did it help him avert a $50,000 fine. But at least he didn't deny his mistake and it seems like he may have learned a lesson.
The "I was hacked" defense is something very common among athletes who simply don't get the Internet. Some hacking claims are so ridiculous that you have to wonder what the whole decision making process looking like along the way.
Although it's safe to say that Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt doesn't often map out his actions to determine long-term repercussions before pulling the trigger. If he did, he'd probably get arrested a lot less.
In 2011, Britt's inability to think sequentially was on full display, trying to downplay an incendiary tweet about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that also announced his retirement. Here's went down:
- First Post: "Retiring From the NFL. F*** You Goddell."
- Second Post: "Change of HEart.. My family is always here for me. I made mistakes and i am sorry i am going to change and become a better person and mentor for all my young fans.. I will accept any penalty like a man.. The road beings Sept 11 in Jacksonville.. ill be ready!!!"
- Third Post: "my Facebook was hacked with those past 2 status's.. i am not retiring and do not have any hate toward the commissioner."
How nice it was of the hacker to take responsibility for the hacker's actions, apologize, and promise that the guy he hacked would become a better person! So ridiculous. Clearly, Britt quickly realized he was in over his head with the better person nonsense and found a way to worm his way out of it.
At least he learned a lesson about apologizing. That lesson being...don't do it.
The hacking defense online is so popular because it provides an athlete plausible deniability for their own stupid actions. Hackers exist. Hackers have been known to hijack social media accounts. Therefore, it's possible, although not entirely plausible, that an athlete's Twitter account could be hijacked.
We all know that these claims are lies, but they create a plausible deniability that usually kills a story. New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony cried hacker in 2011, after he offered a $5,000 cash reward to his Twitter followers for beating up Kat Stacks, a female groupie type who tweeted about him.
'Melo quickly deleted the threatening tweet and replaced it with an "I got hacked. My bad!" tweet. It would have been an easier sell if his wife, Lala Vasquez, wasn't still bragging about the "roll" that he was on and menacing the very same girl herself.
Hopefully the next time Anthony has to orchestrate an elaborate lie to cover up online threats to a woman, he'll remember to clue in the wife too. And something tells me…there will probably be a next time.
There are so many things that Jose Canseco, the self-described "godfather" of steroids, doesn't get. For one thing, he doesn't understand that calling yourself the "godfather" of steroids isn't a good thing.
It may have started from a relatively reasonable place—owning his steroid use, rather than denying the obvious—but he's definitely taken it too far. After the long overdue confession of cyclist Lance Armstrong, Canseco took to Twitter to support his fellow juicer.
Since his past makes him an authority on the subject, Canseco insisted that he would have been a much better choice than Oprah Winfrey to conduct the interview. He also offered a helping hand to Lance and publicly tweeted out the email address of his agent—which I'm sure his agent appreciates!
Canseco doesn't seem to understand that now he only exists on the cracked-out fringe of sports pop culture, because he's always reaching out (and being ignored) by relevant athletes like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He always says he thrives on "the haters," but I don't think he knows that's all he has left.
After a few years flirting with the possibility, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant finally joined Twitter in January 2013. And this time it looks like it's for real. Back in September 2011, Bryant briefly joined Twitter, but disappeared within hours. According to his people, the release was "premature."
Which I interpreted as, Kobe was initially excited about joining, but he really got ahead of himself, because it turned out he had absolutely no idea what it was when he got there. We all know he's a perfectionist. Kobe wouldn't be Kobe if he was comfortable working out the kinks in front of an audience.
He's been learning about the power and reach his own words have in the Internet age for years now, dating back to the controversy he created when he suggested the Lakers should have traded (former) teammate Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd in 2007. Never one to mince words or sugarcoat a situation in years past, today Kobe seems more aware of how long his words can resonate on the Internet.
When Andrew Bynum accused Kobe of stunting Andrew's growth in December 2012, Kobe's response was surprisingly introspective and reserved. He conceded that he and Bynum had the same kind of problems that he and Shaq once had, and expressed confidence that Bynum would excel in a Kobe-less environment.
Perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks, after all.
The simplest explanation is almost always the truth.
For instance, retired Yankee Chuck Knoblauch was arrested for choking his wife in September 2009. He is a known drug user and was drinking heavily the night of the assault. Then in October 2011, someone tweeted out a hateful message directed at Knoblauch's fiancée, Cheri Olivera, in the wee hours of the morning.
Olivera has been known to be on both the giving and receiving end of such language in the past. Knoblauch later deleted the tweet and lashed out at the "coward" who tweeted that "nonsense" about his fiancée. Admirable stuff, right? But the question here is, what is the most reasonable explanation?
Did a stranger go out of his way to hack Knoblauch's Twitter account for a couple of minutes just to say something nasty about a woman unknown to him, before Knoblauch regained control of his account minutes later? Uh. Not likely.
How about a loaded Knoblauch and Olivera, both of whom are known to be combative, get into a fight, prompting him to vent his rage publicly, before realizing that wasn't the best idea and concocting a story to cover it up. Sounds about right.
The saga of University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and his imaginary dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua is still playing itself out in the media, so who knows how all this will end.
At present, the general consensus seems to be that Te'o was an unwitting dupe that fell victim to an online "catfish" scheme. And that he may, or may not have, remained complicit with the hoax for publicity reasons after realizing that he had been taken.
Claims that have been strengthened by revealing tweets, which date back months, from people boasting about their involvement in the hoax. But like I said, the story is still a convoluted mess, lacking resolution.
Whether it turns out the Te'o is the victim or the mastermind of this hoax, he should probably be kept off the Internet forever. He's either gullible enough to fall for such an elaborate scam, or he's dumb enough to think he could get away with concocting one.
There may be no other athlete in professional sports that is more tone deaf to his own words than Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. He first created a stir in May 2011, when he took to Twitter to bemoan the public for celebrating the death of notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Mendenhall scolded people for being insensitive about bin Laden's death, insisting only "one side" of the story was being told and that the only thing linked him to 9/11 was the word of the government. The ensuing backlash he received would have been enough to keep most of us of the interwebs forever, but Mendenhall has a pathological victim complex.
He went on a one-man media blitz in October 2012, writing two blog posts for the Huffington Post. Mendenhall first preached about the importance of having an open mind, presumably so he can tweet about his adoration of Osama bin Laden with impunity. In the second post, he blamed the harsh criticism he received for killing his love for football.
And in between Mendenhall took to Twitter to lecture Steelers fans, explaining that fans who criticize the team aren't really fans at all. So apparently we are supposed to live and let live, and keep an open mind, but never criticize him. Got it.
Mendenhall doesn't seem to get any of this. He doesn't get how poorly he comes off. He doesn't get what a wide-reaching audience he's finding. And he doesn't get that every post online is just making his "problems" (as he seems them) much worse.
Florida State defensive back Tyler Hunter is an excellent example of doesn't get the Internet…or anything else. How else would you explain his decision to go on a Twitter rant about killing cops after a traffic stop in July 2012?
Hunter was old enough to understand the basics of how Twitter works and that people would actually see what he was saying. Presumably, he was also old enough to understand that murdering cops isn't a conversation fit for such a broad audience.
And that's really being too nice—since murdering cops isn't a conversation most of us ever have, even with a limited audience. If not tweeting about murdering people is a lesson you have to learn as an adult, it's probably never going to fully sink in—which explains why his account no longer exists.
Two Florida State players in a row! Jimbo Fisher must be running a pretty tight ship down there in Tallahassee. At least wannabe cop killer Tyler Hunter is off Twitter, or was smart enough to change his name.
Kenny "Child support is worst than aids" Shaw is still vomiting every incoherent thought, that briefly passes through his brain, directly onto Twitter—no less than 20 times a day!
Probably the most amazing thing about Kenny "Child support is worst than aids" Shaw is that actually feels shackled by all of your prying eyeballs, which prevent him from tweeting what he really wants to.
So all the amazingly horrible, shockingly stupid, and head-slappingly incoherent dribble that he produces around the clock? That's Kenny "Child support is worst than aids" just giving it about 50 percent. Heaven help us.
Retired quarterback Brett Favre is of an age that you wouldn't expect him to have fully embraced the Internet, but would assume that he picked up a fundamental working knowledge of a computer and the existence of the web. He's got kids, after all.
Then in 2009 Deadspin broke the story about Favre's awkward attempts to woo former New York Jets employee Jenn Sterger, and it became clear he had no clue what he was dealing with.
Why else would a married, future Hall of Fame quarterback, who has kids, carelessly leave voice mails for, and send cell phone pictures of his junk, to a woman he has absolutely no relationship with?
Yes, we all know Favre is an arrogant jag that probably just assumed Sterger would be super into him. But that's not why this all happened. It happened because, in his mind, the worst case scenario was he'd get shut down.
He never thought for one second that he could be shut down, publicly humiliated, and that those photos of "little Favre" would be online for all eternity. Favre never would have been able to comprehend what happened to him, if it hadn't actually happened to him.
Retired slugger Sammy Sosa has been attempting to reenter the public consciousness in recent months via social media. So far the journey has been a bumpy one.
After an awkward introduction to Twitter last fall, Sosa seems to have gotten the hang of tweeting recently. He posts photos regularly and corresponds with the media and fans on a regular basis.
But his first few months on Pinterest haven't gone as well. He joined the site in December and announced it via Twitter, tweeting: "Sammy Sosa. Yes, I'm the real Sammy Sosa, and this is my Pinterest."
That tweet pretty much sums up his entire Pinterest page, which is nothing more than absurd staged photos of Sosa that are all captioned: "Sammy Sosa. Yes, I'm the real Sammy Sosa, and this is my Pinterest."
Thanks for the reminder, Sammy! At least Sosa and his people are owning their boobery, confirming the authenticity of the page and confessing "We're learning social media, we're not pros at it yet, but we're working on it."
Well you have to appreciate the honesty. Let's just hope they are putting in a lot of long hours, because there's a lot of work to be done.
So many current athletes have struggled with figuring out how to navigate the Internet without bringing shame on themselves and their families. Which means we have to accept that it's a problem that needs to be addressed on the high school, collegiate and even professional level.
Even if most athletes manage fine when left to their own devices, there are enough screwing the pooch to constitute a problem. But it's difficult for their coaches to seriously address something they have absolutely no understanding of. Coaches tend to be older, set in their ways, and extremely busy.
Which is why they only deal with Internet catastrophes on a case-by-case basis, rather than address the broader issue and ultimately solve the problem. God forbid they take a lesson from the kids around them and attempt to actually learn something.