Dark Side Of Sport Emerges After Missed Punt

The dark side of social media showed on Saturday after a botched punt cost University of Michigan a 27-23 loss versus Michigan State and led the punter, Blake O’Neill, to become the most hated man at U of M.

Picture available from Wikipedia via a creative common license
Picture available from Wikipedia via a Creative Commons License

With only seconds left remaining in the game, U of M opted to punt the ball away to eat the rest of the clock. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it worked out.

After Blake O’Neill’s fumbled punt, frustrated fans alike took to Twitter in immediate response to demoralize the U of M player.

While most of the outlandish tweets have since been removed, collegspun.com and 247sports.com were able to note down some of the threats O’Neill received:

“go to the equipment room and start chugging bleach my friend”

“[J]ump off of a cliff into a pool of spikes and cyanide,” one person wrote at O’Neill on Twitter. “[Y]ou might as well cut your hands off,” another one said.


“whatever scholarship you’re on I hope you lose it, why couldn’t you just fall in it instead of trying to punt it Blake. Why.”

While the words themselves are troubling and down-right nasty, there’s two more pressing issues.

The first issue is that the sport is just a game, and not a life or death situation. The second is that people are quick to judge.

Let’s look at the first one. Sports are business, but it should not override the fact that they are also games. People create this winning at all costs mentality, which is doing anything it takes just to post a win, but there’s a problem with this. Being so conceited causes people to “tip” when they lose and respond with harsh criticism. Look at Darrelle Revis — he received death threats because he held out for a contract. And with O’Neill, this shows that people melt down when things go wrong and are quick to say things they will later regret, or in this case, delete.

The second problem is that people are so quick to judge, and that any error causes a total meltdown. That is the difference between spectators and coaches. When something goes wrong, a spectator will tell you what the coach should have done, and they get caught up on one play, but coaches see the bigger picture and move on. Also, spectators rarely see all the good that is done by the player. For example, earlier in the game O’Neill was sung in praise by fans for an 80-yard punt, but one mistake caused him to become the most hated man at U of M.

Look at Super Bowl XLIX, when Pete Carroll opted to pass the ball instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch — immediate criticism came upon Carroll. He was the most hated man in Seattle because fans thought he cost them a ring when in reality, going into that situation, the game plan was to pass.

So the moral of the story is not that O’Neill suffered death threats after the botched punt. It is that when something goes wrong people are quick to jump to conclusions or force their opinions on others. Just as Pete Carroll received harsh criticism for his play call, Blake O’Neill received death threats for his botched punt.

In the end, we need to realize that sports are just a game.

 Featured image by Wikipedia, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

Tanner Bisbee hails from the great State of Maine. He's a full time college student and serves on the football staff at school. His most notable work to date is his book Modern Day Sports Blog. To read more check out my blog http://moderndaysportsandpolitics.blogspot.com/