Fortnite, Social Media, and Professional Sports

Most athletes growing up would sacrifice everything just to get a whiff of the professional level. I remember growing up how at times I would workout 2-3 times a day, or severely change my diet, just to see any action on my high school basketball team. Professional athletes endure some incredible road blocks to reach the pinnacles of success that are records, championships, and other personal accolades. Despite all the heroics, however, our favorite stars are humans too. All humans are gifted and plagued by technology, gaming, and social media; they don’t discriminate in their grab on young and old alike.

In sports, much of the focus of technology is around instant replays. As fans, we hate that certain missed calls blow key games, and technology seems to be the answer to adjusting for human error. Although technology aids officials, it can be a negative when not utilized in the best situations, or when it is over used. Personally, I am a fan of a little human error if it means that my favorite teams’ game won’t run another 30-45 minutes longer. I also believe that human error has been a part from the start of the sports world and is inevitable no matter what. Regardless of what end of the spectrum you fall under, the even more negative aspect of technology has nothing to do with the game; rather, it’s outside distractors like social media and gaming.

Social media connects the average sports fans to their favorite reporters, athletes, and former stars in so many ways. There are heartwarming stories every day about fans who connect with players through posts and tweets. Social media really shows the human and emotional aspect of these athletes; thus, fans create a lifetime bond with the sport and the player. Players in the past have sent signed memorabilia, tickets, and other trinkets to their devoted fans; it shows how much players really do rely on fans. While social media can have touching moments like these, too much of it, like anything, can be a huge distractor.

Whether its Kevin Durant’s burner accounts, players voicing their opinions on award races, or simply commenting on the negative words directed at them, it seems every player has some relationship with social media. Many people, including athletes, simply can’t go minutes or hours without tweeting or posting on Instagram. This was highlighted by the report that the Arizona Cardinals coach, Kliff Kingsbury, would be giving players cell phone breaks during team meetings. He noted, “You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus.” As a result, many people were divided on how this would either aid or hurt the team.

First, let’s examine the benefits. Giving players that break will allow them to have the time to hopefully interact positively with fans and create the above-mentioned bonds. It gives them a set time to organize, compose, and send out messages to the world and alleviate that “burden” of being disconnected from social media. By getting it out of their system, this allows them to be solely focused on the plays and film at hand, which may in turn boost productivity and team comradery. While it seems like there are many benefits to such a system, I am still not sold that this is a great move.

Allowing a player that opportunity to glance at their phones could be like opening Pandora’s box. If a player sees a funny video, they may be just replaying it over in their head instead of watching their coach. If a fan directs a nasty tweet at a player, they may spend the rest of the meeting thinking of a good response to “roast” that fan and get back at them. Once players get a taste, I feel like they will keep wanting more and more; five minutes will turn into 10, 10 minutes will turn into 15 and so on. It may be hard for players to go “cold turkey”, but for the sake of productivity, I feel like it has to be done. It simply isn’t just Twitter or Instagram being captivators to players focus. Gaming plays a role in athletes’ lives as well.

Fortnite, believe it or not, has caused some friction in professional sports. Many NBA players including Josh Hart, Paul George, Terrence Ross, and Andre Drummond have all been linked to logging extensive hours on the game. Drummond noted, “It took over my life from there.” Ben Simmons even joked with Karl-Anthony Towns that Towns would have “plenty of time to play” since he was playing the Hawks the next day. David Fizdale, head coach of the New York Knicks said, “Fortnite, that’s my competitor right now. Fortnite is tougher than the Boston Celtics.” So, Fortnite is just an NBA problem then, right? Not at all.

The MLB is just another example of professional sports evolvement with the Epic Games Fortnite dilemma. Carlos Santana, a former Phillies ballplayer, smashed a TV in the clubhouse when players were battling during the Phillies last series. The Phillies had an abysmal end of the season, so he clearly was frustrated due to the lack of enthusiasm towards the game and the bolstered focus on guns and “loot llamas”. According to Matt Kemp, Cody Bellinger even turned down a night on the town in New York so he could go play on his console. There are hundreds of other stories and multiple videos of players even imitating the dances in games, or even playing pregame on the jumbotron.

So, what is the answer to the social media and gaming debacle? There isn’t one. Players are going to get their fix no matter what and we have to accept it. Despite heavy Fortnite gaming, that wasn’t the reason the Knicks aren’t 82-0. Although a busted TV may relieve stress, it wasn’t going to erase the hole the Phillies dug for themselves due to poor hitting. It is a scapegoat, but not the scapegoat. We are all human; we are going to say something dumb on social media or let games distract us from schoolwork, our jobs, or even other responsibilities. As long as it’s done in moderation, it won’t blow up in anyone’s face. Once integrated into society, technology and new advancements are here to stay. The only way to properly mitigate their effects is to keep a good, firm grip on them and not let them become a major deterrent.

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