This is the second in a series of sponsored posts. The content of these posts has not been dictated to us, other than that they must bear some relationship to technology. Unfortunately, last week's developments in the IU football program provided an obvious topic for this post.
The widespread popularity of the Internet in general, and social media in particular, have changed the way fans follow sports and the way fans and players interact. Certainly, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the advent of message boards and blogs changed the way fans follow their teams, and allowed fans from all over the world to interact and discuss their favorite teams. In the last few years, Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity, and it's not uncommon for fans to become "Facebook friends" with players, and certainly to follow them on Twitter. That has blown up in the face of IU defensive back Andre Kates. Kates is a highly regarded junior college transfer who was expected to start at cornerback for IU,but has played sparingly. In the days leading up to the Northwestern game, Kates tweeted complaints about his playing time and criticism specifically directed at head coach Bill Lynch. Kates, finally exercising some discretion, now has protected his Twitter page, but he accused the coaching staff of "_______ with his career" and following up with "People Say Dre You Actin Like OchoCinco I Say No Bro Im Getting My Point Across That My Coach Don't Want Me 2 Play." It seems fitting, then, that IU fans learned of Kates's suspension for the Northwestern game not from the traditional media, but from Kates himself: "I'm Suspended For The Game 2morrow For My Tweets, and Facebook Being Media Attention, and Also A Distraction Toward Him!" Kates, according to Adam Rittenberg, continued to tweet during the Northwestern game, although in a positive fashion. Kates now is suspended indefinitely, and it appears likely that his IU career is over.
The question that the Kates saga raises is, how different is what Kates said from what any disgruntled player might have said 10, 20, or 50 years ago? The current generation of players certainly isn't the first to complain about playing time. The major difference is the medium. Before, players would go back to their dorm rooms and complain about the coach, or call a friend on the phone. Now, given the way people use social media, it's nearly inevitable that such comments will find their way back to the coach. I certainly don't mean to absolve Kates. The "OchoCinco" post quoted above makes clear that Kates's friends were telling him to shut up, and he was brazenly ignoring that advice. I'm no luddite. Overall, the Internet had enhanced my experience as a sports fan and that of millions of others. Still, connectivity has its costs. Today, Andre Kates is off the team, and his career in FBS football likely is over. The main reason for this is Kates's own lack of judgment. Still, if the medium by which his transmitted his dissatisfaction didn't exist, if he had simply been complaining to his friends and family, it's likely that he still would be on the IU football team. Hopfeully it will be a lesson to Kates, his teammates, and his classmates.