Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Harrassing The Opposition

The digital age has given birth to a new, more powerful motivator. Internet trash talking, and all the questionable antics that go along with it. Orlando Sentinel writer Josh Robbins covers a few of them in an article regarding moderation of comments on sports sites. Among them are:

Leading up to one of their biggest games this season, University of South Florida football players grew increasingly angry. They kept hearing that someone had insulted the wife of Bulls middle linebacker Ben Moffitt on an Internet message board for UCF fans.

A few days later, USF players made a statement of their own. They routed UCF 64-12.

"We had to just go out there and fight for him and get revenge on everything that they said," said Bulls defensive end George Selvie. "That really crossed the line. You never talk about anybody's family."


After learning the cell-phone number of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, scores of LSU fans left voicemail messages for Tebow. Some threatened him physically.

"Some people did take it way too far, farther than you should take it with sports," Tebow said. "But I think for the most part people were just having fun. Unfortunately, there are people like that everywhere."

When Tebow scored Florida's first touchdown against LSU this season, he celebrated by putting his hand to his ear, as if he were speaking on a cell phone.

It does raise a good question as to how much information should a person, especially an athlete playing for a popular college team, put on a site like MySpace or Facebook. Obviously, an anonymous poster putting up derogatory statements, or posting someone's private cell number is different than listing personal information in a semi-public setting. However, they all can be used to harrass an opponent during a game. You would like to think that fans would police themselves a bit with respect to heckling, but that definitely does not happen.

So where should the line be drawn? I'm sure that many athletic departments do their best to keep tabs on what their athletes post online, but how much should they police? And should they be allowed to ask to have things taken down? If it's not an illegal activity, then is there really that much they can do about it? It's an interesting situation that will only get cloudier as technology continues to advance.

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