By Ryan Hiles–
If you watched any of the NFL wildcard games recently, what you witnessed was a spectacle of the human experience in its entirety. You saw tremendous expectations built and dashed in seconds. But, probably most of all, what you saw was pain, both physical and emotional.
What was startling about these latest examples of particularly heartbreaking losses was that it was the emotional pain in the players that seemed to strike a not-so-compassionate cord with fans. And when you’re feeling upset or dejected, what better place to share the syrupy darkness coating your insides than Twitter?
This is meant as an observation, not a recommendation. By no means am I advocating for people airing out their innermost frustrations for the world to see on social media. But I do find myself fascinated with this particular social phenomenon. The one that was on display after these said wildcard games, in which a high profile person makes a mistake at the least-opportune moment, and then has the absolutely soul-crushing weight of the Internet dropped upon their unsuspecting head. There may not be a name for this pattern, as it pertains to sports, but there’s no denying that Internet shaming is now a part of sports.
Everybody knew exactly what would happen as we watched the placekicker for the Minnesota Vikings, Blair Walsh, hook that field goal, or as we saw the ball slip from Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill’s sopping-wet fingers. You could see the paralyzing horror on their faces. Then, after the initial shock, a look of defeated recognition. And right then and there, you knew that snapshot of perhaps this person’s lowest moment was about to be ripped apart and toyed with in much the same way my cat savagely mangles crickets. It was about to become an object of entertainment.
This isn’t new. The Internet has never been known as an empathic place, and being a celebrity has never been an attribute that attracts a lot of empathy. I don’t know why it was that I was so caught so off guard by the swiftness of Walsh and Hill’s respective eviscerations. But it’s worth noting when we as a society become comfortable with a certain level of emotional sadism mixed into our daily lives. Sadly enough, we can all be deemed guilty of this sadism to a certain extent.
It’s become almost a sport of its own to revel in the pain of someone far off with whom we share no relationship or connection. We’ve all chuckled at the Steve Harvey jokes, or more pertinent to this discussion, the Blair Walsh jokes featuring Steve Harvey declaring the Vikings victorious. But that’s the lighter side of the whole affair. Jokes are one thing, but a lot of the messages sent Walsh’s way was kind of horrific trash.
This isn’t a plea to stop hurting the feelings of millionaires. They’re grown-ups, and they can handle their own. They don’t need the kind of crusader-like defense that some sports often inspire. Perhaps it’s still worth it to think about how eager we are to exploit human misery for a laugh. More importantly, to those of you that take the time out of your day to take to social media and add to the madness, chew on this: what’s the point?