The Captain: Twitter's for the birds
The use of social media in our everyday lives is now so much a part of our collective psyche that it is often easy to forget what things were like just a few years ago.
Before the rise of Facebook and Twitter, there was a certain air of mystique surrounding some of our sporting heroes.
The fact that the Wayne Rooneys and Andrew Flintoffs of this world were, to a certain degree, unattainable and moved in celebrity circles that we could never hope to be a part of, meant that when we did hear from them, what they said carried more weight.
Back then the role of a sporting icon was more substantial; they were figures sports fans could aspire to emulate, and we could truly admire and respect them for their feats of athletic prowess.
Sure, that the wider media will crawl all over the private lives of 'Hollywood' sports stars like David Beckham is inevitable – people like that sell papers - but we could almost ignore the fact that he can scarcely form a coherent sentence because any public appearance he made was carefully staged, and anything he said was rehearsed.
How things have changed. Now, anyone with a computer can read the semi-literate witterings of any number of Premier League footballers anytime they want: just log in to Twitter.
Whether it’s Joey – sorry, Joseph – Barton’s continuing struggle with life as an existentialist thug with a dodgy accent, Rio Ferdinand’s opinion on the ‘CHOON’ he’s currently listening to, or a running update on Michael Owen’s racehorses and his mind-bendingly dull life (because let’s face it, reading the Stoke striker’s tweets is like having a weapons-grade sedative pumped directly into your brain through a garden hose) it’s all there rendered in 140 characters of unadulterated dross.
But worse than that - worse even than Michael Owen’s Movemeber tache - is the way the public tries to engage with these sports stars, either by firing banal, pointless questions at them, showering them with the worst kind of dribbly, knock-kneed compliments, or in some cases threatening them with violence. Now every Neanderthal with a keyboard is able to throw any sordid insult they like at whomever they like, knowing that they have a public platform upon which to do so.
Take, for instance, the darts player Ted Hanky.
He was comprehensively beaten in a Grand Slam of Darts match by Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen a fortnight ago, to the extent that he actually missed the board twice, averaging a rather paltry scoring rate of just 59 in the process.
Anyone who has any knowledge of top-flight darts will know that’s almost unheard of.
But, despite apologising vehemently on Twitter for his sub-standard display and citing the fact that he was unwell as the reason behind it, he was subjected to a torrent of abuse from a minority of mindless dolts on online forums and on Twitter.
The general theme of these cretins’ insults seemed to be based around the fact that they were convinced he was drunk whilst playing. And despite there being no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claim, hundreds jumped on the band wagon.
So what was the real reason behind his abject display?
Well, he'd had a stroke shortly beforehand, and rather than let his fans down, Ted soldiered on through what was a potentially life threatening ordeal.
Once this was revealed by his manager a large portion of these bottom-feeding lowlifes scurried back under their damp little rocks never to be heard of again. For others, there was a palpable sense of guilt expressed on online forums and on Twitter. Tweets were removed, and some even apologised for any offence caused. Fancy that.
Well it simply isn't good enough.
The immediate nature of social media platforms means irreparable damage can be done in just a few seconds, and with just a few keystrokes.
As good as it is to be able to question a footballer, boxer or whoever else directly online and get an immediate response; I firmly believe that ignorance is bliss. Think before you tweet.
As for me? Well, I’m leaving Twitter to the twits.