Sunday, February 23, 2014

In Defense of a Hawkeye

Some might expect that I would enjoy watching a rival school and fanbase cannibalize itself over near-success but ultimate failure; however, I really don't. Iowa Hawkeye senior Zach McCabe missed a crucial shot at the end of a game against a ranked Wisconsin team, a shot which was set up specifically for him. His team lost because of it. People who watched the game questioned the play call and some, most likely a fraction of a fraction of one percent of the Iowa fanbase, took to twitter to state their feelings and mention McCabe. McCabe then fired back by tweeting, "The fact that I have Iowa fans saying s*** [to] me is incredible...you fans suck...suck a fat one all of you."

While I don't condone the tweet back, I know exactly what he's feeling. In the final game of the 2012 regular season against West Virginia (at home, on senior night, with the winner of the game essentially guaranteed to go to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego), we were driving with less than 2:30 on the clock in regulation, down by 7. Shontrelle Johnson was rolling at runningback, but once the ball got inside the 10 yard line, it was essentially my territory. I was substituted in with the ball at the 6 and given the handoff. I bounced right, got chopped by a defender and his helmet hit the ball squarely and I fumbled into the endzone. They recovered. Game over. I lost us the game. I was nearly inconsolable on the sidelines, sobbing, knowing that my lack of technique and their luck (I say luck, because there's no way that direct of a hit to the ball comes without a little bit of luck) cost us the game. My position coach, Kenith Pope, took me by the chin and said, "Get yourself up. You're better than that. There are so many things that happened by everyone on this team that gave us this loss. Keep your head UP!" I'll never forget those words-- why? Because they were positive. They got me off the mat. I apologized to every senior in the locker room after the game and they all said the same thing-- keep your head up. We wouldn't have even been in that position without you.

The reason I tell that story is this; there is NO ONE who feels worse about the situation than the one who didn't make the play. NO ONE. When I got on twitter after that game, I read some very supportive things. I read some mean, mean things about me also, most of which I don't specifically remember. What I do remember is how that made me feel. I wanted to tell everyone that I was sorry for the play that I made, and that all I wanted was to make up for it. But I also wanted to tell everyone saying awful things to shut the hell up.

The player is actually on the field (or court) and is actually part of the team. They have invested countless amounts of time, effort, and sacrifice to be where they are. They have formed a relationship with their teammates, coaches, and staff which can't be described as anything less than family. When a play doesn't get made, they feel personally responsible and, like I said, no one feels worse than them. All they need is to be lifted up. So when a fan, who isn't on the team, hasn't put in work, and hasn't sacrificed much of their life to get to where they are says something derogatory about a player, the ONLY possible outcome is negative, whether it be internalizing or lashing out by the athlete.

I'm not saying that fans aren't emotionally invested in games. Believe me, when I watch an Iowa State basketball game, I am as invested as a fan can possibly get. It's frustrating when things don't go well, and I get a huge rush when they do. And as a player, when fans are supportive, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that can improve your performance like that. With the advent of Twitter though, I have the ability to publicize all of those emotions and say exactly what I want, to who I want, the instant I want to. But I don't, unless it's positive. That's because I know what it's like on the other side. Trust me, athletes see what you tweet them, it's just a matter of responding.

Now that I'm removed from playing, I have a slightly different vantage point on all of this to add to the one I've already had. Without beating around a bush about this, saying rude things to a player after failure makes the person making the comment look like a complete ass. You look petty, you look desperate, you look like you have no idea that words will actually land somewhere, and most of all, you look like someone who's probably not that well liked because you are a negative person.

So don't say rude things to a player after a bad performance. Ever. Under any circumstances. On the internet, in person, or calling in on a radio show. If you have something to help or suggest, by all means, interact! We, as athletes, love to hear things like what my coach and teammates said to me-- keep your head up, you're still appreciated. We love to hear that even though we feel about as bad as a person can feel, we are still supported. We love to hear love. The bad parts will come out in film and practice, and it'll come out in ways that will be constructive by coaches and teammates.

Long story short; if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.



ps- If this gets enough pageviews, there is more than likely going to be someone that posts something negative about it/me in the comments box. Look at that person and what your impression is of them, and then ask yourself how you want to be seen with your comments.



11 comments:

  1. I was at that WVU game. When we got to that position, I told myself I would be upset if anyone but you got the ball. Then you fumbled and it sucked. But you know what? I still would have wanted you to get the ball 10 out of 10 times. Sometimes crappy things happen, but that doesn't erase your overall body of work. The Oklahoma State game didn't unhappen because of that fumble. You wore your cyclone colors with pride and the hard work showed, and that's all a fan can ask for.

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    1. Let me help you with that. You should handle it by understanding that everything isn't about you. You should handle it by understand that young people often say and do silly things. You should handle it by letting it roll past you and moving on with your life as if a young kid's comments really have no bearing on how your life turns out. In short, you should handle it by getting over yourself and finding more important things to feed your ego. NOTE: I'm as big a Hawkeye fan as there is so save the whining about being picked on by one of those terrible Cyclone fans.

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  3. Some fans are aholes, but the majority are decent people. McCabe lashed out at all Hawkeye fans and now everyone is trying to make him the victim. Then again, I dislike the Cyclones and honestly, your opinion of Hawkeye sports and our fan base does not weigh much to me. Is that negative allowed on your blog? Too "petty?" Are people going to judge me now like you instructed? Sorry about the WVU game.

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    1. Jeff pointed out that he does not condone McCabe's response. He didn't say one side was wrong or right. He explained what would cause McCabe to lash out like that and simply asked for fans in general to be understanding of players.

      He also didn't say anything negative about the Hawkeye fanbase, nor did he ask anyone to 'judge' commenters who disagree. He said to look out for personal attacks, think about what kind of person they come off as, and consider that before posting.

      Jeff, I think this was a great post. I'll miss rooting for you.

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    2. I actually don't have a problem with the vast majority of Hawk fans. I have a cousin who goes to Iowa and an aunt and an uncle who both have degrees from the U of I. The issue I have is with the "fraction of a fraction of a percent" of fans that verbalize their displeasure AT an athlete. That percentage is present in varying degrees with all teams. I gave an example of how I personally received vitriol from Cyclone fans, so I'm not singling anyone out. One of the things that do love about the internet is the ability to connect, when used properly. I have no issue with you not liking the article or how it made you feel. I also have no issue with posting something on here about it, since I am fully in my whits. I didn't just do something I feel badly about, nor did I do something poorly. I apologize if you took it that way, but I never meant to instruct someone on how to feel or judge, merely to notice your opinion of that person.

      Feel free not to like it, man. This is America. I was just trying to get my opinion about the situation out and how I think fans should act. A simple rule on criticisms was said by Lou Holtz, any criticisms of the play of the player is fair game. When those criticisms become about the player himself, you've gone too far.

      And thanks, CivBase!

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  4. Thank you for your observations, Jeff. They were spot on.

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  5. I completely agree Jeff. You had a hell of a career and helped this team win many games. One mistake should not erase the accomplishments of you and your teammates. I wanted the ball in your hands as well, and well, sh** happens. As for McCabe, I don't blame him. I believe he is lashing out at all the Hawk fans that are being so hard on him right now. What about the Xavier game? I am a die-hard Cyclone fan, can't stand the Hawkeyes and mostly because of a majority of their arrogant, a-hole fan group. But I also have friends and family Hawk fans that do not represent that group and its easy to cheer for Iowa with them (as long as they're not playing ISU). Unfortunately it is the negative comments/actions that make news.

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  6. What some wonderful words from you... just a young man but some really wise thoughts.

    Keep up your good work and may you be successful in what ever you do.

    I'm a Hawkeye and you are a Cyclone, but we are all Iowans.

    Unfortunately... all of us can be at times Idiots Outside Wondering Around..

    Then we reflect, are always kind, and always will be helpful and compassionate to each other.

    Love your thumbs up pic, Woody, you are the best.

    Go Hawks, Go Clones, Go Panthers and Go Bull Dogs and everything and anything IOWA.!!

    ANF America Needs Farmers





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  7. I am probably one of the biggest Hawkeye fans in the state but I can say this I would trust anyone on a field or a court to take the ball in any circumstances because I know for a fact that I would not have the strength or power to change what happen on the field or court because I can't tell you what pressure feels like I don't know what if feels like to be in a big time game so if I get mad at something that happens on the field or on the court I know that I would not have been able to even attempt to try to take on the plays or pressure of the games you all play I couldn't handle it and it is not what happens on the field that people idolize it is how you handle it off the field

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