Message Board Madness: College Football Fans Need a Dose of Reality

Justin Goar@@tigertangentsSenior Writer ISeptember 17, 2008

The great thing about the Internet is that it allows anyone with differing opinions to get together and voice them to the world. The bad thing about the Internet is that it allows anyone with differing opinions to get together and voice them to the world.

To think that a single fan, most under the guise of anonymity, can express his or her most heartfelt sentiments about their beloved team and post their loving thoughts for the entire world to see just gives you that “Rudy sacked the quarterback in his only play even though that didn’t happen in real life” kind of feeling.

Thought-provoking, point-counterpoint football discussion makes me proud to be an American. But sometimes there are thoughtless drive-by posts that seem to just be cheap shots for the sake of being negative. I think the kids today are calling these net characters “trolls.”

But there’s a big difference between trolls and those actual fans that are just a bit quick to hit the panic button. There seems to be a wave of negativity sweeping the message boards this week. I noticed it with my LSU Tigers.

The catastrophe syndrome. Chicken littles. Call it what you want, it’s out there, man.

What I have for you today is unedited (save for language and some grammar and spelling) statements made from actual fans regarding their own team. All posts are in italics.

We start off with LSU:

“With bad QB play and DB play to go along with USC and Oklahoma blowing their teams out, I feel just down today.”

Pretty harmless, right? Not much venom to it and it only seems a little strange because the poster is mentioning a game in which their team won 41-3.

But then we have...

“If we go 6-6, do we still get invited to a bowl game? I hope so.”

Whoa?! 6-6? The defending national champions? I think most sane fans expect a drop-off, but I think this is a little too panicky.

What about...

“Can't wait till next week when we get our a***s handed to us, you guys are just pure HOMERS!”

And there we are. The lines have been drawn. You’re either way too negative or you’re a homer.

Well, put me down as someone who thinks there is a rational middle ground. I’m someone who thinks that a fan can point out the bad parts of a game or season and still be optimistic that those things will change.

Nevertheless, those supposed “homers” on this particular LSU message board coined a term for those Tiger fans whose perpetual perception of reality is glass half empty.

“Nega-tigers.” Cute, huh?

“Homers” tend to be labeled as such because of the ardent defense of their team and coaches no matter what’s going on around it. While “nega-tigers” are quick to push the panic button, homers don’t have a panic button. It’s the lack of middle ground that has these two groups at odds.

So now we have one side attacking the players and perceived lack of talent at a position, and the other side attacking those attackers and dismissing their opinions as invalid because of their negativity. But what if the criticism is valid?

College football is a passionate sport fueled by passionate fans. Some of these things are said in the heat of the moment. Is it possible to be able to criticize my team without being called a “nega-tiger”? We’ll come back to this in a second.

But first, with doomsday on the horizon and an ever-important meeting with Auburn on the road this week, you must think the purple and gold Tigers have the market cornered on negativity.

Think again.

Enter Auburn fans. I found this next post on an Auburn message board in a thread about whether to boo or not to boo their own team this weekend against LSU...

“If the offense tanks again I think we’ll be past the time for booing. It’ll be time for the rotten tomatoes.”

Then some of the discussion turned to the QB play and the new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. I mention Franklin because he gets paid, unlike college kids.

“Maybe if we didn't have Brandon Cox Jr. as our only QB we wouldn't go three and out.”

Different post, this time about the OC:

“More excuses. You need a script in order to tell you that inside the five-yard line, to line up in the jumbo package and punch the ball in for a TD??? Maybe we should start calling him Teflon Tony...”

Welcome to Auburn, Mr. Franklin—don’t unpack.

The good thing is for the most part this is the fringe. It’s like the guy 10 rows behind me in Tiger Stadium who apparently didn’t need to pass a football IQ test to obtain season tickets and whose football knowledge is inversely proportionate to the volume in which he verbally displays it.

LSU fans are well aware that a national championship may not be in reach this year. Auburn fans need to understand that implementing a new offensive system with a new quarterback is a work in progress. Most fans get this.

One thing’s for sure: I wouldn’t want to see the message boards of the losing set of nega-tigers this weekend.

Football doomsayers don’t just reside in Auburn and Baton Rouge.

“Hate to say it but we are horrible. Worst Michigan team I have ever seen in 30 years of being a fan. Are we better than ANY Big Ten team? I will suffer faithfully with our team and hope for better days, but am fully expecting a 10th or 11th finish in the Big Ten.”

And from our friends in Tempe:

“...But when you can't even get a first down on offense at home 'cause you're afraid to open up your playbook! Give me a break! We need to delete National Rankings and BCS from our vocabulary for a couple years! And it's somewhat ironic that our seasoned, experienced coaching staff would let this happen to them. Seriously, what's wrong with our OC? I don't know the guy's history like some others on this board, but who's calling the predictable three and four-yard running plays up the middle when we need seven or eight? This is the worst I've felt since the USC game last year.”

I think the biggest problem on message boards is anonymity. Everything you read from me here has my name on it. The line should be drawn on the way we criticize.

Anonymity gives us this cloak of invisibility to attack without knowing who it’s coming from. So those attacks can be either vicious or without merit. It’s the main factor as to why message board banter and information is so easily dismissed sometimes.

Let’s come back to whether or not it’s possible to criticize a team without being branded a negative fan.

If I were to blast the LSU quarterbacks for staring down receivers (which is a popular knock right now), it matters how I say it and how I back it up. It also helps to have a little football perspective and not be so reactionary.

When that thought crosses my mind, a rational thought response would be:

“Well, JaMarcus Russell, Matt Mauck, and Rohan Davey all did similar things in their early starts.”

That would be an even keel approach.

A “nega-tiger” talks in absolutes and might say something like:

“Well that’s it, we’re ****ed for the season. If they look bad now, I’m sure they’ll look the same as the season progresses. Mark my words, this is the downfall of LSU football as we know it!!!”

On top of this, you have trolls who cheap shot and run. Negative fans care about their team, but their defense mechanism is to attack now to later avoid the pain of their self-fulfilling prophecy. Trolls just look to spew venom and are probably much happier when their team’s hopes are in the toilet. Misery begets misery.

Now, most message boards have moderators who try to toe the line between allowing frustrated fans to vent and removing inappropriate content that doesn’t contribute to the spirit of the site.

On that note, we head to Columbus for some examples of posts that will get you banned from a certain Buckeye fan site:

“The boys must have been chugging a big case of Choka Cola again. I can’t take this [censored] anymore.”

I want to add that I do not condone calling out any college player so I’m going to delete the player’s name:

“Why are we keeping up this charade? He just isn't good. Zero poise. Zero talent. Zero smart.

"He's an embarrassment to this team.”

And a final parting shot from Buckeye country...

“It's time for (player name deleted) and Tressel to go.”

Now I’m not saying you can’t point out your team’s weak points. One must keep in mind that we are talking about college kids who are not professional athletes.

And despite warnings from just about everyone involved with their team, many players visit the message boards, and some players must find it hard not to take to heart what is said by some guy typing in his underwear while eating Fig Newtons by the sleeve.

I try to temper my opinions with a dash of reality, but deep down I’m just a guy who wants what’s best for his team. If I see a problem, I’m going to say something about it, but hopefully not in a disrespectful way, and try to find the positives and ways the team can improve in the meantime.

I wouldn’t consider myself a homer or a “nega-tiger.” I’m a pessimist at heart. I believe the coin will come up tails a half second after I call heads. But deep down, I still believe in the purity of the flip.

That comes from being a Saints fan since age six.

When it comes down to it, the Internet is a lot like life. There are a lot of stupid people and a lot of angry people in this world. And sometimes there are stupid angry people. A good fan knows to avoid this group as much as possible.

Lastly, don’t take every statement from every person seriously, whether they’re a troll, a homer, or a “nega-tiger.”


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