If you feel the need to harass college football recruits on Twitter, please do us all a favor and immediately remove yourself from any and all social networks.
In fact, take it one step further. Unplug your Internet, heave your computer into the nearest dumpster and set it ablaze. You don’t need it anyway.
We’re better off without you, and you’re better off without it.
It’s both sad and telling that the following needs to be reiterated time and time again. By now, you’ve heard this preached before—and the message has perhaps grown tiresome to some—but it doesn’t matter. Despicable behavior such as this makes us all look bad, and it needs to change.
Just how many times can we say "don't be an idiot" to a group unwilling to listen?
As many times as it takes.
Internet bullies cozied up behind an avatar still feel the need to express their frustration with the actual source, otherwise known as an 18-year-old making the biggest decision of his young life.
They curse, wish for injury or failure, and spit venom at a high schooler simply because their team wasn’t the one he selected.
Some of the top recruits in the 2013 class are already well aware of this. National Signing Day is the culmination of a long road—one that has come with plenty of positives, but also an incredible backlash from fans along the way.
ESPN.com documented just a handful of the responses.
Top-overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) received everything from hate mail to death threats following his decommitment from Clemson in November. So did Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy) when he chose to part ways with Texas in June.
"When I decommitted, it was crazy," Seals-Jones told ESPN.com in July. "I got death threats on Twitter. A couple cars in my neighborhood we didn't know would drive by the house real slow. I live in the country, so the cars that do drive by, you know who's in them. I guess for some people, it's that serious."
Social media provides a medium for all of this: A way in with no accountability for what’s actually being said. As much as I cherish Twitter—one of the reasons I have my job—it also provides an avenue of communication, an open line that some simply shouldn’t have access to.
With National Signing Day upon us once again, we need to discuss how to behave, or more specifically how not to.
We’ve touched on the coaches, discussed the players’ roles in the madness, and now we need to talk about us. Yes, we have a role in all of this beyond taking a day off of work and cheering for various hats to be lifted off a table.
Our role is to not have a role at all—to sit in front of the television with our laptop and cold beer, and to enjoy the hell out of an extraordinary day just by watching.
Anything beyond that is too much.
Please, by all means, be excited. Get into it. Embrace your inner football nerd. Be overly enthusiastic over that 4-star talent you didn’t expect to land and spend the day watching his highlights on YouTube.
That might seem odd to those who don’t speak football, but we understand. National Signing Day, and recruiting is general, is all about the optimism, regardless of who you root for. Outsiders think we’re weird—and they’re not wrong—but that shouldn’t stop you.
On the other side of this equation, it’s fine to be disappointed. If a player your school has been targeting decommits or picks up another hat with the bulbs flashing, you can be bummed. Again, those of us who have signed up for this cult understand the feeling of losing out on something you never had to begin with.
With that being said, there’s an obvious way to handle it: like an adult—or better yet, a human being. You can react, but that’s where it ends. Once you interact, you’re embarking on unacceptable territory.
We'll all see it on Wednesday: A player will make his announcement, and fanbases will flock to Twitter to express their disappointment in his decision. These athletes will be cursed at, perhaps even threatened, all because a handful of sick individuals can’t handle disappointment.
And it will expected, which makes it all the more frustrating.
Athletes are putting themselves out there by having an active presence on social media networks—one that may not last much longer if some of the behavior keeps up.
I have always been pro-social media and against such bans when it comes to college football teams, but it’s for their own good if the decision is taken out of their hands. They don’t deserve this kind of response, no matter what.
Should programs keep athletes off social networks?
So don’t do it. Don’t stoop to this level. While 140 characters may not seem like much, imagine how you would feel if this was your son.
It really shouldn’t take a hypothetical to understand this, but again, I’m willing to try anything at this point.
For the majority of you, it won’t be a problem. You will enjoy National Signing Day for what it is: A look at the future, and one last bit of football before the offseason truly starts up.
As for the unfortunate group incapable of being a bystander: Go find something else to care about. We’ll gladly help you get rid of that computer.