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Aaaand the power of social media.

September 28, 2010

I’m going to try and write this whole post without sounding like a know-it-all, but when I sort of listen to myself in my head, I don’t know how well I’ll be able to pull it off.

So, yesterday the adorable Tampa Bay Rays played what could possibly clinch them a spot in the postseason. This is a big deal for a little team that faces an uncertain future. In 2011, many of their lead guys will be free agents – Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano top that list – and the Rays as a team do not have the money to hold them in. The 2011 Rays might look very different that might not be a very good thing. Now, personally, I like the Rays. I think they’ve got a lot of great talent and a lot of awesome players and they’re just an easy team to like. They’re fun to watch. They hit hard, they field well, and they have one great starter and some question marks (You thought I was talking about the Yankees, didn’t I? Nope! Really, the Rays).

But their attendance is awful. AWFUL. DOWNRIGHT. AWFUL. And for a POSTSEASON-CLINCHING GAME. Their official attendance was ~12,000. the Detroit Tigers played the Cleveland Indians, both teams long since eliminated, and their attendance was ~26,000. The attendance of the Yankees/Red Sox game two nights ago was ~50,000.

So. David Price, the Super Ace Awesome Pitcher of the Rays, had something to say. He posted to his twitter, “Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands….embarrassing.” (link) apparently, Evan Longoria, who people are already calling a Hall of Famer, also said something to a newspaper.

Now, what do the public do when they see a star complain about things? Well, they talk about it. They complain to each other, they analyze his reason and why he’s wrong and why he’s right and all the things that lead up to the complaint. Do I think David Price posted that thinking people would start reblogging it and talking about game attendance and looking at eachother in their shocked internet-faces and judging him? No, I don’t. I think he was complaining about being on a great team that (sadly) might not be great next year, a team that has fought some major juggernauts (and currently beating them!) and having no live turnout. It’s fucking depressing going to a game with no one there; I can only imagine how it would feel playing in such an important one with no goddamn crowd.

Yeah, baseball players live a good life. They don’t work in a fucking factory all day. They play baseball and they get paid good money (major league minimum is what, 400K?) and they take a lot of charter planes. And the Rays – a lot of them – are going to get paid more in the future. But there’s a standard for ballplayers just like there’s a standard for any other job, and to the ballplayer standard, what the Rays have is not good for them. And they’re gonna complain about it.

So, word spread, people on the twitter added their opinions. Even Adam Jones, the center fielder of the Orioles, needed validation of that the O’s fans wouldn’t be like the Rays when the O’s became contenders again – which, if Showalterization continues like it has been, will be sooner rather than later. (They said they would, by the way.) You had people agreeing with Price that it was ridiculous that the Trop was so empty (for whatever reasons), people rationalizing why it was so empty (bad traffic, bad season ticket plans, shitty Tampa economy), people getting pissed at Price for complaining (like this fellow). It was a mess. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault. It just sucks. If you’re interested on why the Rays have no people in the stands, The Yankee U does a really good breakdown of it here.

So after this fires through the internet, Price realizes it’s gotten a bit out of hand, and he apologizes. Good PR move on his part. I mean, it sucks that he has to apologize for speaking the truth, and I think everyone was basically agreed on this. The Rays are a good team – a fucking amazing team, considering everything about them – and they deserve to play to a packed stadium. But they don’t. For whatever reason, circumstances conspire against them, and all the lifelong Rays fans (and all the bandwagon fans who dropped the Marlins for ‘em) aren’t showing up to the Trop, and this just makes the games less fun to play. I can wholeheartedly find out how that would work. You’re working your ass off against The Evil Empire with more than double your payroll and it seems like no one gives a fuck. Yeah, I’d be pissed off too.

So, I’m a total social media nerd, we’ll say that. I mean, I’m really just a nerd in general, and social media tends to be one of my nerd habits, which might be more accurate, but whatever. And I (like the rest of the twitter world) has seen the way twitter can amplify a message a thousand times. Two essential problems with saying anything on twitter:

1) Text doesn’t have any tone. Obviously, this is not just twitter-centric, but the general internet.

2) You have 140 characters or less. It’s not like Price could have said, “Embarrassing that Rays fans didn’t come out, but this doesn’t count all the people that did show and all the people that have come to games or had previous plans because we didn’t know exactly when we were going to clinch,” or, “Damnit, we lost, I’m frustrated, and on top of that, no one was going to see us win,” or “you know, here we are, beating a team with less than half their payroll (and god knows if we’ll be this good next year), so if you come out and see us do it, i bet that would make you really happy, and us really happy too. please?” Or, you know, anything else.

So, I tweeted, “Aaaaaand @davidprice14 learns the power of social media.”

And then David Price retweeted me.

Ok, I’m an attention whore. Did I say it for the attention? No. Honestly, I didn’t expect Price to notice or RT me. But did I really enjoy being noticed by a really, really good baseball player? Hell yeah. Did I love random people talking to me on twitter. Also, that was the second Ray to retweet me tonight (Reid Brignac got me first), so I was on a little bit of an attention high. And then I got all these new followers – it’s like every internet nerd’s dream. Blah blah, fifteen minutes of fame and so forth.

But I found myself defending what I’d said a lot. I wasn’t trying to be offensive or disagree with him – in fact, I couldn’t agree more with what he said. I wasn’t trying to call him an idiot or say he was wrong, just pointing out that it was a little amusing to observe a celebrity realizing the power of his own words, no matter what he might have actually meant with them. Twitter operates like word-of-mouth and not a PSA, ad, interview or video. Word of mouth almost always distorts meaning, be that amplified or changing it. And here I then noticed that like Price, what I said was being spread, being changed. Like Price, I was having to defend and back up what I’d said. You don’t have to be a professional ballplayer for people to overanalyze what you said on twitter. How about that. I guess I could have tweeted. “Aaaaaaand I just learned the power of social media.”

I really hope this doesn’t turn Price off twitter. I LOVE watching athletes tweet about themselves. I love just the ridiculous pictures and silly glimpses into their lives. I love the response. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if his tweeting went from Logan Morrison-level coolness to CC Sabathia PR.

If you really read all this, I’m impressed. You could check out Buster Olney’s view of it, he gets paid to vomit up his opinions. I personally think his analogy is a bit off (first off, I would totally buy Evan Longoria cupcakes, and secondly, a commodity is different than purchasing entertainment), but he gets paid and I just lay in bed and think about this kind of stuff.

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