Yesterday Jay Cutler lost twice: On the field and online. His poor performance early in the NFC Championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers was overshadowed by his apparent injury, a topic that the blogosphere jumped on and attacked with the fury and ruthlessness of a swarm of piranhas.
Watching a major nationally televised sporting event is a more engaging experience than ever for any viewer. In an instant, anyone can find out what everyone else around the world is thinking about something that everyone is seeing together for the first time. It is a unique moment that only started to develop in the last year.
At one point on Sunday, seven of the top ten Twitter trends were about the game. Unfortunately for Cutler, they are mostly about him.
Today the top story from the two big games yesterday is not the outcomes of the games, but about whether Cutler has the heart to play. Former and current athletes, retired coaches, and sports analysts alike are speculating to varying degrees if Cutler was actually injured. Here are some of the many negative tweets from yesterday.
- Linebacker Derrick Brooks “There is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart”
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew: “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee… I played the whole season on one.”
- Former NFL lineman and current ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth:, “As a guy how had 20 knee surgeries you’d have to drag me out on a stretcher to Leave a championship game!”
- Former NFL cornerback and current NFL Network analyst: “Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart. Truth”
- Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett gets the win however. “If I’m on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT.” That tweet was followed by “I never questioned Cutler injury! But I know in a NFC championship game and I’m the QB? I’m gonna deal with the pain or whatever to win!” The ‘but’ is what makes it great.
And it goes on and on and on. Perhaps Rich Eisen of the NFL Network captured it best, simply writing: “Maybe we eventually find out Cutler has something other than knee injury cuz he’s not icing. But court of public opinion has convicted.”
Just a few years ago, none of this would have happen. Real time criticism of a player was not a possibility, and it wouldn’t be until well after the game that fans would have their voices heard.
Appearance is everything, and unfortunately for Cutler, everyone watching the game was seeing the same thing. They saw a downcast QB sitting on the bench without ice, bandages, or crutches. He was not seen cheering on his team or visibly helping anyone. All of this, and his preceding reputation for being careless and unengaged, made him an easy target.
Twitter allows for a mob mentality to erupt with ease. It requires no effort to send out your opinion online, and it becomes easier to be negative when you can follow the lead of someone else. Once a few tweets were out there questioning Cutler’s injury, it was time to let impulsiveness reign. It was reported today that Cutler did indeed hurt his leg, and has a MCL sprain and possible tear–news that Twitter cannot wait for.
Social media allows unparalleled company when watching something unfold live on TV. Be it breaking news, a reality show, or a sporting event, fans around the world can unite at the same moment and share their thoughts and get feedback from others. Just as Cutler was negatively trending, backup Caleb Hanie was being hailed and light-heatedly joked about (his Wikipedia page was locked and at long last accurately updated following the game).
For better or worse, this is the world in which we live in. With the NFL playoffs already earning a record amount of viewers, look for the Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, two of the most storied and popular franchises in the league, to send Twitter into yet another feeding frenzy. Players and coaches should be careful, lest they be the next target of ire.