Friday, January 20, 2006

Self-"I Think The Internet Stinks"

That's Self as in Bill Self, the head basketball coach at Kansas, not self as in myself. I just wanted to be very clear about that.

Self utted that statement to an AP reporter while talking about how Kansas fans have reacted to his team's last two games, losses to rivals Kansas State and Missouri. The latter loss was the most painful after Kansas' Christian Moody clanged two free throws with four seconds remaining in regulation of a tie game. The Jayhawks eventually lost in overtime, and some of their fans didn't take it very well and expressed their angst in no uncertain terms on Internet message boards. They were the primary target of Self's comment, as Moody has been the target of their frustation and anger.

"One thing I think has hurt college athletics more than anything is the technology age," Self added. He also said how he learned not to read the message boards and counsels his players to follow the same course. That's pretty good advice from the coach, but I think his broad statement about the technology age is something he should feel silly about ever having said in public.

More coverage of college basketball generates more interest and excitement among fans, which creates more demand for tickets and increases television ratings, which increases television contracts and demand for officially licensed school products which means more money in the school's coffers (and a higher salary for the basketball coach).

See, everybody wins. Except when they lose, that is. Then, it can get ugly. Very, very ugly, especially when a school with a long record of success hits a rough patch. Fans of programs like Self's Jayhawks and Kentucky, for example, feel winning teams are practically a birthright. When their heroes stumble and lose, as both programs have done this season, fans scream louder than a little baby that just had their binky yanked out of their mouth.

When a team I root against loses, the first place I go is to a message board at one of that school's popular fan sites on the Internet and watch the implosion with glee. For cheap, tawdry entertainment, it just doesn't get much better than that. The venting that goes on at these boards, particuarly within the first hour of a loss, is not for the faint of heart. I would like to think that these fans direct their hostility into their Internet posts, but I suspect some of them still have enough anger left over to log off and then go break something.

Of course, there is one sure way for players and coaches to avoid the worst of this phenomenon-don't ever lose. Even then, though, a win that is too close for comfort will annoy some fans, and they would not hesitate to share that feeling with the Internet world.

That's okay, Coach Self. When you should worry is when they don't bother to post. Anger is not your biggest concern regarding your fan base, apathy is. As long as you're at Kansas, I doubt you'll have much to worry about in that area. I would continue to stay away from the message boards, though.


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