Friday, April 29, 2011

MLB Needs to Grow Up About Social Media

Major League Baseball is a bit like some grandparent with a computer down in a Florida condo. While they think they are approaching hip status for finally joining the computer age, they are hopelessly out of touch with the new world we all live in. Nothing brings this home more intensely than the two game suspension MLB just announced for Ozzie Guillen for "tweeting during a game" after he was ejected from a recent baseball game. The ejection came in the first inning.

To show how confusing this all is for MLB, their Twitter feed announces almost on a daily bases the latest ball player who has joined Twitter. But heaven help those poor suckers should they use their Twitter service in a way that MLB feels is unbecoming.

Let's face it, this Fan thinks that getting fined or suspended for criticizing umpires is un-American. Free speech is one of our greatest tenants. And yet organizations routinely fire people or suspend them for speaking their minds when they disagree with decisions being made around them. The Fan has no problem with an umpire throwing a player or manager out of the game. But to expect blind and quiet obedience on what is a human element of the sport is wrong.

So imagine, then, if the Fan already feels that fining players and managers is un-American, how much more so is it to do so when those free speeches are made in a private medium. Perhaps you can argue Twitter as a public mode of conversation. But the follows and followers of a person on Twitter are personal choices. But perhaps that is a lame argument. In fact, it feels so already. The basic point here that isn't lame is that Twitter and other forms of social media are here to say. They are the new world. They are where we are on this planet. Does the league have rules against using the telephone during a game? Don't know. Can't imagine it, but don't know.

What MLB needs to understand is that Twitter is a major development on the free speech frontier. It gives everyone a voice to say whatever they want. It has also become how many of us get our breaking MLB news because that news comes nearly instantaneous. And barring a major meltdown of our communication and Internet system, this is how it is now done. The only difference is the timing of the communication. In the "old" days (say three years ago), Ozzie's comments would have had to wait until after the game and perhaps they then made their way to SportsCenter. But this is a new world.

Pat Neshek announced to the world that the he was heading to San Diego before his teammates even knew and before the Twins had a chance to announce the story. How did that happen? Twitter. This is the world, MLB. Get used to it. What does it ultimately matter when Ozzie says what he says?

To sum up the Fan's feelings on all this: A player or manager should never be fined for stating how they feel about what happened in a game UNLESS those statements include racially or sexually insensitive sentiments or character or a direct question of an umpire's character. And secondly, Major League Baseball can't be promoting the use of social media and using it in their own propaganda and public relations work only to then turn around and bust people for what they say on that media and when. Get with it, Gramps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kinda like in 2009 when MLB fined the Red Sox's owner $500k for daring to criticize revenue sharing!

The tweets weren't even inflammatory,to me anyways. Besides, that's the whole point of people having an account: to speak their minds.

Baseball is the polar opposite of China. Don't mess it up.