Just two weeks after telling the story of New Mexico basketball coach Steve Alford banning his players from using Twitter, in what will likely be a futile attempt to prevent them from embarrassing themselves and their program, here we go again with another case of the little blue bird that destroys careers.
More specifically, the weekend fireworks between the Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies — punctuated by the “Tweet Heard Round the World,” or at least from San Francisco to Philadelphia — have given us yet another example of why sports and social media mix together about as well as rum and castor oil.
Syndicated sports talk host Tony Bruno, of whom I am a big fan, let his fingers do the talking for him and forgot what has become the cardinal rule of tweeting: Never text to the world what you wouldn’t say into a microphone.
“gutless #!@%*# Giants,” Bruno angrily pounded into his keyboard after Ramon Ramirez drilled Phillies outfielder in the back in Philly’s 9-2 win. “Bochy is a coward for having his illegal alien pitcher hit a guy since mighty Frisco boys ...”
Bruno apparently deleted his tweet as quickly as he had sent it, but cyberspace is like Vegas: What happens in cyberspace STAYS in cyberspace. Forever.
Screen captures and other technological wizardry made certain that Bruno’s insulting words toward Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic, were etched in virtual stone.
In other words, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, there’s no jamming it back in.
And now, the ethical and moral guardians of the sports media world are out for Bruno’s blood. A fireable offense, they’ve declared. Bruno used indefensible, career-killing words.
Maybe. But at the risk of sounding like a defender of the indefensible, I’d like to ask one question:
Certainly, I do not condone nor agree with Bruno’s knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk, if you like) commentary, but is there not any context into which we can place this “crime” of his and come up with a sentence more appropriate than “career death” in this court of public opinion?
How many times has each of us shouted at our TV screens words far more vile and profane than those chosen by Bruno whenever we’re angered by a hated rival’s score/victory/cheap-shot? We say things we immediately regret, pull them back in, apologize to those around us for getting carried away, are forgiven and then continue to vent our frustration and anger among like-minded fans.
Twitter, however, changes all that.
When those heat-of-the-moment words of frustration are typed, instead of spoken, apologies are never enough for the online arbiters of offensiveness.
Of course, Bruno’s apology won’t exactly stop the torch-and-pitchfork crowd in its tracks, since he basically reaffirmed his loathing of Bochy in the process, while calling his critics “classless and vile.”
Still, are we so afraid of mere words that we’re willing to destroy someone’s livelihood over them?
We are talking about sports here, and I can guarantee you that the players themselves scream far worse things at each other in those on-field scrums while tensions and testosterone levels are higher than the national debt ceiling.
Regardless of the outcome for Bruno, the episode should serve as a reminder for all tweet-happy athletes, media personnel and other assorted public figures: The keyboard can be a deadly weapon.
Just remember, if you wouldn’t say into an open microphone on national television what you are about to type into cyberspace, then find the “backspace” key before you spot the “send” button. The career you save might just be your own.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.