Frookie Speaks Out: “Yahoo! Sports: If You Can’t Stand the Heat Stay Off the Internet”

John Evan Frook, aka Frookie, is senior editor for MobileSportsReport

Apparently, sports social media is too much for one Yahoo Sports contributor to stand, and Yahoo Sports editors are clueless when it comes to timing.

In a column titled Where Did the “Classy” Sports Fans Go?, Yahoo Sports contributor Elden Hardesty today writes about going online after Sunday’s Baltimore Ravens versus Pittsburgh Steelers game on Nov. 6 and being shocked by online discussions encountered on ESPN, and Yahoo! Sports.

“Hatred and the lack of class seems to have no boundaries and is becoming a disturbing trend on the discussion boards,” Hardesty writes.

Hardesty complains that people posting to online forums after the Ravens beat the Steelers on national television in a three-point squeaker bitched too much about the officiating. In addition, Hardesty took offense that some people participating in forums reveled in helmet-to-helmet contact likely to produce three separate fines from the National Football League office.

“It looks like a majority of the people who go online to discuss a game now only go there to slam everyone else, guess it makes them feel more like a man,” Hardesty writes. “The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner and it appears both have taken control of the sports discussion boards.”

Hardesty’s outrage is simply misplaced. Sports social media is akin to sports radio of the 1980s, except it is unfiltered by producers. There are no bleeps and no 10-second delays. And NFL football is a world of passionate patriotism for a specific team. If you go on the websites of such major sports providers as ESPN, and Yahoo! Sports right after an NFL game, you are going to find jingoism, sour grapes, and blood lust. This is the NFL, where early in life the average sports fan swears allegiance to a team and spends the rest of that lifetime living and dying with that team’s successes and setbacks.  As they have been for greater than a decade now, online forums are where the tribes gather after a war. After a war, there are no cool heads. That’s not outrageous. That’s reality.

And, as the column’s title suggests, Hardesty wonders where classy fans went, the answer is nowhere. They are still in the corporate suites, top-deck seats, at bars, in front of televisions at home or at work. The difference is that a growing number of them have mobile devices, and use them to find the people with whom they’d most want to interact. Some of them use handles like RayLewisSucks, BensADouche or Steelersin2012, and others don’t. They all have something to say, and most of them say it. Just don’t expect them to say what you want, or you’re going to be disappointed.

Hardesty is really not to blame. He had no back up. If Hardesty proposes there ought to be a place where bitching about officiating or expressing blood lust isn’t allowed, he should consider working with some of the better sports social media applications already on the market. Those apps allow you to easily pick and choose with whom you participate. For Yahoo! editors to pass the column off to the general public without getting Hardesty to insert analysis of sports social media applications for mobile devices is just piss poor editing. Sure, Hardesty’s column appeared on Yahoo!’s contributor network, and contributor networks are simply a place for a media outlet to get a few more eyeballs. But allowing decent writers like Hardesty to publish without enough quality control to recognize the boom in mobile sports applications is more than myopic. It is downright blind, relegating Yahoo! to the lowly status of content farm.

And here is the kicker. And not that idiot Ravens’ player Joe Flacco, who benefited from poor officiating and ought to have been knocked out by Steeler’s James Harrison’s helmet before he got a chance to engineer a last-minute, 92-yard drive that defeated the Steelers on Sunday night. Flacco is a quarterback. Here’s the real kicker:

The timing by Yahoo! Sports editors in posting Hardesty’s column was awful. Hardesty’s column appeared second in Google search results on the same day news that Joe Paterno would resign as head coach of Penn State broke as a national news story.  The Penn State story, including Tweets by Joe Paterno’s son amid questions whether his father would resign, was a story that took sports social media to new levels. If Ravens-Steelers commentary was profane and loud, as Hardesty asserts, Penn State commentary was four times more profane, and four times louder.  Hardesty’s uninformed column appearing on a day when the biggest college football story of its kind advanced in one of its most significant ways, underscores that sports content producers are going to need to watch every gate they keep, or appear embarrassingly out of touch with a rapidly changing sporting world.