FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 20-23. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
How should sports media members respond when confronted with fans making outrageous demands of Boston sports teams? Has social media created spoiled fan syndrome? Media columnist Bruce Allen weighs in.
It used to be that sports writers only had to deal with spoiled athletes.
Now, at least here in Boston, they must deal with spoiled fans, as well. More than ever before, fans have access to the media that covers the teams they follow. It used to be that if you wanted to sound off to a media person, you'd have to sit down and write a letter, or perhaps even pick up the phone and call the sports desk at the newspaper. The effort it took to do this usually discouraged the person from following through and registering the complaint.
The sports media was somewhat insulated from criticism - or opinions from fans. Nowadays, they solicit opinions from fans in the form of mailbags, chat sessions and polls. When they join public social networks such as Twitter, they open themselves up even more to feedback, and at times, attacks. The instant access these provide allowed unfiltered anger, complaints, criticism and hostility to be sent with little effort.
They also have to deal with the unrealistic expectations of fans who have become spoiled with success. These fans feel a sense of entitlement and demand perfection as well as flash and sizzle from the teams.
No more is this evident than when perusing the weekly chats or mailbags of Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. This week for instance, we saw this question:
Who is Jonathan Fanene?Mike, I am 15 yr season ticket holder and and extremely frustrated and I am seriously considering giving up my tickets. I am tired of paying top dollar for the tickets only for the Pats to go shopping for free agents at Wal-Mart. The Pats need Mario Williams, he is what the defense has been lacking. The have the money and the cap space to bring him here and they are going to let him sign in Buffalo. He will make the secondary a lot better by increasing the pass rush, he will make Vince Wilfork a lot better. I know that is not going to happen. It is frustrating to see the Pats spend so much time on special team personnel (signing 3 special team players the first couple of days of free agency) and so little time on defensive personnel. The defense needs to big improvement, they were 1 defense stop away from winning the Super Bowl and they just didn't have the talent to stop the Giants. If Julian Edelman plays one down on defense this season, the Pats have failed this off-season. You don't see the Steelers or the Ravens playing their 4th WR on defense. If the Pats didn't draft so poorly when it comes to selecting defensive players I would not be so annoyed. Bill Belichick is a great coach, but not a very good personnel guy. I can't watch another season of the "Bend but Don't Break Defense" only to watch it breakdown in the playoffs.
Of course, you didn't see the Steelers or Ravens playing in the Super Bowl this season either. Sadly, a few questions of this type come in each week. An angry "fan" who feels that he knows better than an organization that has been to five Super Bowls in 10 years, while winning three. There is no pleasing them. They feel they are still owed the perfect 19-0 season.
In the last two days, I've seen literally dozens of posts of similar content posted on Twitter, messageboards, comment sections and mailbags. One called the Patriots' not signing an impact player in the first 24 hours of free agency "shameful." Attempting to reason with these types does no good. They return week after week with the same bitter gripes. Ignoring them only makes them yell louder.
Having to deal with "fans" of this sort is one of the new requirements of being in the sports media in the 21st century. Certainly not one of the more enviable parts of the position.