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Threats and the Perversion of Sports

A few thoughts on the Twitter threats directed at David Akers.

David Welker

I don't need to provide rational reasons for why Twitter death threats against players are wrong. No matter how many field goals he misses, David Akers in no way deserves to be harassed online. This should be obvious to every rational person who isn't a fifth grader trying to get attention in the growing public forum that is the internet.

But for a moment, let's try to imagine what the motive of that idiot is. What post the tweet? First off, it's probably a joke. The guy wants attention and thinks he can brag to his friends about this or whatnot. Maybe, though, he thinks of this as some sort of sick way of motivating a player. What this clearly demonstrates is that the man is emotionally invested in how well the 49ers do. He is willing to threaten another human being if that will make his team do better. This is, perhaps, a slightly obvious point. I mean, what fan isn't emotionally invested in a team?

I think, though, that this is a crucial point. It helps us get to the root of why we find a text like this so horrible, beyond the horror of one man threatening another. I cannot emphasize enough that that is, in and of itself, terrible.

In addition, though, this threat doesn't just threaten Mr. Akers, but it also betrays the Football institution we hold so dear. Sports should up uplifting. A win produces the greatest feelings ever. I love winning. And while losing sucks (a lot), there is always solace in next week. We can always look forward to when the team can come back, maybe after a good week of practice or maybe after a great draft. Being a sports fan necessitates long-term optimism, even if the short-term looks very dire. This is why we don't give up on a team after one week and why we didn't give up on the team in 2003.

This threat, though, debases that hope. It says that loses are unacceptable and the way to mitigate the feeling of despair after a loss is to threaten a player; it is to turn away from the hope sports can provide; and, it is to ignore the realities of what players do for a team.

This may be too rational a response to an irrational threat, but I think it behooves us all to find this recent threat unacceptable and to articulate why. We should promote a healthy culture of fandom, not one that involves hurting another.