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Think before you tweet

| Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Sitting at home on my couch, watching the Notre Dame basketball game against Indiana, I could not help but continually yell at the television. Things like, “Juwan, why would you do that?!” and, “Hubb is a turnover machine,” flew out of my mouth at a constant rate. Was there extra pressure for Notre Dame to win this game because they were going up against my parents’ alma mater? Absolutely. But there was no reason for me to rip apart these student-athletes while I sat on my couch eating chips and guac on a Saturday afternoon during winter break. After all, Dane Goodwin, Rex Pflueger, and the rest of the basketball team did not have the free time over break that I was going to have. They may get three weeks off from school, but they do not get time off from basketball. I need to remind myself of this when I get caught up in the emotions of the game. 

Although my comments may not be heard by any of the players, they definitely heard noise from other critics on Twitter. Take Pflueger, for example. After coming home from a game against Florida State in which he turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes, he was already disappointed in his performance. Yet, when he checked Twitter, I am sure he saw exactly what I saw: hundreds of tweets saying how he cost us the game. “Notre Dame solely lost a chance to add a sizable road conference win against the No. 5 team in the country to their resume solely because Rex Pflueger choked horribly down the stretch despite being handed amazing opportunities,” one user said. As if that needed to be stated. As if Rex was not already aware that he turned the ball over in crucial times. 

Here’s my piece of advice to anyone at home snacking away on their couch while watching a Notre Dame basketball game: Think before you tweet. These athletes might read your tweets, and it might truly affect them in ways that you don’t know. If you are tweeting about Notre Dame basketball, you clearly care about the success of the team and (hopefully) care about the success and maturation of the players. If you do, then you should know this. Criticism is more impressionable on younger athletes, and, according to one case study, that “criticism directed at college athletes fractures their identity and raises questions about how to deal with the onslaught of often very hateful messages.” Think about that for a second. The message that you are sending from your couch on a device thousands of miles away from South Bend can directly affect the mental health of these student-athletes. If you truly care about Notre Dame basketball, be careful with what you tweet.

Now sure, these college athletes are definitely open to criticism. They’re members of one of the best athletic conferences in the NCAA! However, we all need to remember that they are student-athletes. That’s right; they’re students too. They are not getting paid millions of dollars to do what they love. Instead, they go home after a long, hard practice and have to compete with students at a top 15 university whose entire job is doing schoolwork. They have to go to class every day, go to practice, study and even travel across the country, to places like Tallahassee, Florida, and Syracuse, New York. All together, that is probably more work than any of us will ever have to do in our entire lives. Let’s not forget that. 

On top of these academic stressors, these athletes also have a personal life. They have other things going on in their lives besides just basketball and school. Pflueger, for example, had an incredibly tragic offseason, with his mom passing away from cancer. He did not have to come back and play another year for Notre Dame. Yet, he picked himself up and has played his heart out this season. We should be applauding the fact that he is still on the court, not criticizing the fact that he made a crucial mistake in the Florida State game. He is a huge part of what has made all of these games so close up until the end.

I do not think that criticism is bad. It’s probably a large part of what fuels these college athletes. Plus, in the real world, everyone is going to face criticism. Still, we all need to be more conscious about what we say and tweet during games. None of these athletes are perfect, and they are working incredibly hard every single day. We celebrate them when they win, and we should support them when they lose. After all, they want to win more than any of us want them to.

Tommy Diehl is a freshman from the Chicago area majoring in science business and global affairs. When he’s not writing for The Observer, he can be found playing guitar, running or cheering for the Cardinals and the Packers. Tommy loves feedback and can be reached at [email protected] or at @tommydiehl5 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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