"I hope you and your mother get AIDS and die"
I am a self-proclaimed football fanatic. I have never denied the fact that the NFL is one of my biggest passions. I have been to NFL games, I have had subscriptions to NFL Sunday Ticket and NFL Game Rewind, and this season will be my 15th year playing fantasy football. I live for the NFL, and I will be the first to admit that, at times, my passion has gotten the best of me. Many times I have let the successes or failures of "my" teams get the better of me. Whether it be the Miami Dolphins or one of my many fantasy football teams over the years, when things go wrong I'm a wreck. I have shouted many an obscenity at the television, and even thrown things in my utter disgust. I am by no means alone either. But when does showing your displeasure at a team or individual's performance cross the line? When does it go from being a passionate fan to something reprehensible?
I don't know about you, but I think that first sentence more than qualifies as "reprehensible". That quote is but one of the many vulgar tweets that San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has received since coming into the league as the heir apparent to the legendary LaDanian Tomlinson. On a somewhat regular basis, Mathews has to weed through abhorrent, vile, derogatory comments just to use a social media website, something that most of us have never had to, and hopefully will never have to face. What exactly, you may ask, is Mathews crime? Has he been accused of murder? Has he repeatedly been in violation of the league's drug policy? Just what has Mathews done to deserve being on the receiving end of such venom from his so-called "fans"?
He hasn't been quite as good as the guy before him. He hasn't led the Chargers to the playoffs. He hasn't been an MVP or even a Pro-Bowler. Mathews has been a serviceable running back for the Chargers, averaging 4.4 yards per carry over his career with one 1,000 yard season and 14 career touchdowns in his three seasons as a Charger. As the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, it's fair to expect more production from Mathews. One season over the 1,000 yard mark isn't befitting of a top-15 draft pick. Mathews has had many injuries in his three years, never playing a full 16-game season. He has also had numerous turnover issues, totaling 11 fumbles, six of them lost, in his career. But does his lack of production warrant such hateful commentary?
The answer should be fairly obvious. It's a resounding NO. It's not often that I'm ashamed to call myself an NFL fan, but it's stories like these that make me say just that. Let's forget for a minute that the NFL is a team sport and no one player can be solely blamed for a team's poor performance. Let's also forget that over the same amount of time the Chargers starting quarterback, Philip Rivers, has accounted for 72 turnovers, a number that is 12 times the amount that Mathews has been accountable for. In the grand scheme of things, these numbers are irrelevant. At the end of the day, these men are playing a GAME. They are putting their bodies and future well-being on the line for our entertainment. What gives us the right to wish a deadly disease upon one of them? A disease that has so devastated many communities and ruined countless lives over the decades since it's discovery.
If you are a fan of the NFL, or even just a decent human being, I beg of you...please have a bit of forethought when using social media to talk about your teams and their players. Just because a player has millions of followers does not give you the right to say any disgusting thing you can think of to or about them. Whether you think it or not, they do see it. They are human beings just like us with the same emotions and vulnerabilities. Treat them like it.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.