Social Media’s Impact on the World of Sports

By Patrick Carr

It was August 31st 2011 when Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson fired off “The Tweet Heard Round the World.” The tweet that would have every sports talk show buzzing, ESPN analysts deciphering every word, and more importantly, the tweet that would bring the world of social media to the forefront, redefining the relationship between common man and professional athlete. Chris Johnson changed his rapport with all of us with the simple click of a button. “Can these fake Titans fans STFU off my timeline? I don’t have a regular job, so don’t compare me to you, and I can care less if you think I am greedy.”

What Chris Johnson did is exactly what he said he didn’t care about; he compared those “fake Titans fans” to himself. He invited the every-day fan into something that before, seemed much bigger than us. I have never felt closer to a player’s personal life than I did when I read that tweet. It showed that as much as we care about how our favorite players perform on the field, they care just as much about how we feel about them.

Perhaps the negative response that fans gave Johnson has no direct correlation with how he has performed on the field, but maybe it does (2.9 YPC on 69 attempts for 199 Total Yards through his first three games) These stats plant him just behind such running back juggernauts as Cadillac Williams and Daniel Thomas. Is there any correlation between these numbers and the relationship Chris Johnson now has with the “Fake Fans”? I’m not sure, but I’m certain that you’ve thought about it, and I guarantee that CJ2K has too.

In fairness I have to swing from both sides of the plate on the topic. For every social media flub, there is an athlete who uses their social media outlets for the greater good. Larry Fitzgerald regularly uses Twitter as a way to engage fans, encouraging them to support causes he is passionate about, and possibly helping them to discover new cause interests of their own. Players in every league respond to fan outreach, and often retweet their appreciation for their most passionate followers; the ones that put their blood, sweat and tears into cheering for their team day in and day out.

70,000 plus fans attend each NFL game on any given Sunday in 16 major metropolises around the country. I have been a fan of the game going on 24 years now and I feel closer to it than ever before. We used to think the game was bigger than us, but the emergence of the social media age has brought us closer to, and even injected us into the action; something that we never would have thought possible as recently as five years ago.

I hope that the message behind this piece comes through as clear as the Tweet Chris Johnson sent out on that late summer day. Athletes are not bigger than the game; some realize that, some don’t. The power of social media has given everyone an equal voice, a platform from which they can speak their minds and deliver their own personal message. Whether that message involves feeding your family, or working your nine to five grinder of a job to make ends meet is irrelevant, social media has given you that chance at a relationship with others that relate to your plight, or share your story of success. With the bond that fans and athletes have built through these channels, our message can come through louder than ever. And the athletes hear it, just ask Chris Johnson.

Follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickcarr24

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