On Nov. 9, 2013, the Wittenberg Tigers traveled to Crawfordsville, Ind. to face the Wabash Little Giants. Showcasing classic Wittenberg football prowess, we ended the game with our longtime rival with a score of 35-17. The stats and the score prove that Wittenberg won in terms of passes and touchdowns. Yet, a slew of tweets containing the words “fuck Wabash” from Wittenberg football players and students show that we lost in terms of sportsmanship and respect. We can’t be proud of a win that exploited our longtime rivalry through what Division III football says is a “shameful” and “disrespectful” use of social media.
It’s easy to see how things got out of hand a few Saturdays ago. The rivalry between Wittenberg and Wabash, that goes back generations, doubtlessly fueled the abrasive trash talk on Twitter. Only a lack of sound judgment and respect for our opponents could have caused the use of the f-word when we got a hold of Wabash’s Twitter handle. The fact that we had the phrase trending further demonstrates the widespread lack of respect that we showed Wabash.
Every time we don a Tiger uniform, our behavior on and off the field reflects the University; using the phrase “fuck Wabash” reflects poorly on us as individuals. Coming from a good school like Wittenberg, the things we say on social media before any sporting event or competition need to be positive. Why would we berate our superior athletic tradition by using coarse, ugly profanity? The football players’ abuse of Twitter paints the wrong picture of Tiger football and Wittenberg University as a whole. When we direct rude, hateful hashtags to our opponents, we tarnish our reputation as scholars and athletes. Instead of respectful, educated adults participating in a fun football game, we seem like immature kids trying to stir up some high school drama on Twitter. Come on, guys. We aren’t paying for a Wittenberg education to use “Blue Mountain State-“profanity. Choose a hashtag that accurately reflects your level of education and maturity.
Surprisingly, several of the tweets tagged with “fuck Wabash” were very positive in nature. One football player tweeted “So proud of my brothers today #fuckwabash,” conveying a sense of brotherhood and good sportsmanship while crudely putting down our long-time rival. Another Tiger proudly proclaimed his college choice, saying “Games and opportunities like these are why I came to Witt. #fuckwabash.” Were it not for the offensive hashtag, we might have quoted his tweet in Admissions materials. We cannot build ourselves up and tear our opponents down in the same tweet. While directing these mean-spirited words at our opponents might have temporarily increased our pre-game fervor, they leave a permanent bitterness in the Wittenberg-Wabash rivalry. Our opponents, who chose not to use profanity on game day, definitely deserved an apology.
Ultimately, all football players had their phones checked at practice, and everyone who used the phrase “fuck Wabash” tweeted this apology: “Sorry for using poor judgment on Twitter. I respect our opponents and did not mean to cause embarrassment to my team or school.” Coach Fincham’s response to the issue does reflect well on Wittenberg; when we make a poor choice about what to post, we apologize and move on. Regrouping and issuing the same apology statement as a team demonstrate’s the football team’s institutional, if not individual, understanding that the use of the f-word was not appropriate. If Coach Fincham wants to make sure that the team’s social media use never gets out of hand again, he might want to consider a stronger penalty than enforcing a standardized Twitter apology statement. At least he communicated that what happened on Nov. 9 wasn’t acceptable. In this highly anticipated and highly followed matchup between two Division III rivals, the hashtag #tigerup would have been a more tasteful choice.
Hopefully, this incident will remind the whole university to be wise with our social media usage. Will we post positive words that accurately reflect Witt’s community of respect? As we move forward, let’s remember to consider the implications of what we say on the web. Let’s harness the power of social media to build each other up and restore Wittenberg’s reputation of academic and athletic respect. #tigerup