When I saw Ohio State tight end Reid Fragel tweet late Tuesday evening that new head coach Urban Meyer had banned his players from Twitter, I was thrilled.
I was happy to hear that the new sheriff in town was going to get rid of the potential embarrassment this university faces on a daily basis every time one of its football players decides to share his opinions with the entire world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the First Amendment. I love being able to tell Michigan fans what I’d like to do with their ugly-looking jerseys when they visit Columbus every other fall, express how I feel about any person, place or thing in the world and as I close in on 4,000 tweets myself, I certainly love to express how I feel in 140 characters.
I can get as nasty as I want.
But there’s a reason for that — no one cares about who I am. Without looking at the byline right now, most of you reading this story probably have no idea whose words you’re reading.
Buckeye football players, on the other hand, are going to receive a lot of attention when even the slightest controversial phrase comes flying out of their mouths — or in this instance, their fingertips.
This isn’t a team that needs any new distractions, and this isn’t Meyer’s first rodeo when it comes to dealing with Twitter distractions.
This is a lesson one of Meyer’s former recruits from Florida learned the hard way.
Will Hill – ESPN’s second-ranked high school football prospect in the nation when he committed to play for Meyer’s Gators – faced national criticism when he decided to let his Twitter followers know about when he received oral sex in his car while he was “blowing on that sour.”
Using context clues from his other tweets, I believe that “blowing on that sour” is slang for smoking weed.
Five months later, Hill tweeted that a “chick” was trying to give him oral sex for “father’s day.”
He followed that up later in the month by telling his followers that was he was “Taking a sh-t in the airport.”
Don’t get me wrong. I know that not everyone is going to be as extreme as Hill. Hopefully, for the well-being of our country, we never see anyone quite as graphic as Hill on Twitter ever again.
But the fact of the matter is no one is going to think any player is a great individual by what he puts on his Twitter feed.
I mean, really, has anyone ever seen an athlete’s tweets and then seen him in a national headline, praising that person for his greatness?
The answer to that question is no.
But from former Buckeye wide receiver Santonio Holmes telling a Twitter user to “kill yourself,” to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s girlfriend hacking his Twitter and accusing him of cheating, when it comes to athletes at both the professional and college level, it’s been proven time and time again that the downside is far greater than the upside.
The lesson to be learned is that in the world of football, players need to make statements on the field, not the keyboard.