Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been on a roll lately when it comes to press conferences. Last month at Northwestern he told us about how we’re in a “soft society.” Izzo added “everyone gets a trophy, give ‘em a trophy for 23rd place.” (full harangue here).
Today, on the Big Ten coaches conference call, Tom Izzo was extremely critical of Facebook, Twitter and social media in general. Yes, he’s been derisive of these institutions in the past, but that was always more subtle. And Tom Izzo has not bashed social media on a level like this.
Izzo was asked about fan behavior, and fa-player interaction (obviously in the wake of the Marcus Smart incident at Texas Tech).
“I have a different take on this whole thing. I’m a social media basher, I hate it. I don’t think there’s any question that things have changed in the last three years,” Tom Izzo responded.
“Telling a kid not to read it, is telling a kid not to breathe. I think it’s created a whole new problem. I don’t think fans are much different than they were, except maybe they’re so ignorant on Twitter, that now they figure they can do a little more face to face, but most love hiding behind a keyboard…If you read anything into this (Marcus Smart), it talked about he was getting killed on Twitter. That pressure got to him. Cuz that kid’s a helluva kid, I know him a little bit myself. Uncharacteristic of him.”
He was then asked a follow up (full audio available on BTN website) if Twitter has changed the way that fans interact with players, has it emboldened them to say things they would never say before?
“a little bit, because fans get so cocky now because they can hide behind their little computer and say things, so maybe they’ve acquired a little more courage now face to face…Talk radio you can shut off, the newspaper you can not read, but you can’t not look at your phone. You ain’t gonna win that battle. I tell my kids stay off Twitter if you can’t handle it, and 90% of America can’t handle it. If you have a son or daughter, and they were saying to your son or daughter what they’re saying to some of our players, you would be fighting too.”
In 2011, I asked Tom Izzo if he thinks we as people have gotten a better understanding of Twitter yet? Today, have we learned how to better control the technology?
“No, it’s in his infant stage. I think it’s going to destroy some people, I really do. I know there’s reasons for it, I’m not old-fashioned or new-fashioned, you guys (the media) got reasons for it, But I think it’s going to hurt you guys, it’s going to hurt our kids, because no one is that perfect where they’re going to be able to say the right things all the time.”
“Pretty soon you’re going to see tweets of college guys on ESPN, you’ve seen them with pro guys. And that’s going to be a problem, and I’m not a fan of it for that reason. But I know there’s an educational part to it, an informational part to it, but I just think on a day-in, day-out basis, you’re asking a 22-year-old to be perfect, and as far as I’m concerned, none of us are. And once that mistake is made, can you pull it back? No.
Tweeting to me is more about self-improvement and individual build-up, but I think we’re missing the boat. When NBA guys are telling you keep your kids off Twitter and Facebook, there’s a reason. When big time employers are telling you be careful, there’s a reason. You think on a day-in, day-out basis they’re good enough to handle it?
They didn’t grow up with it, they just got it at 16,17, 18. If you had grown up with it, then maybe you’d have a better view of how much it can damage you.
Nobody’s that good. Not you, not you, not you (Izzo points to all the journalists at the table) and definitely not me that every day we’re going to say the right thing. And how do you construe what I’m saying?”
I then reiterated that we journalists treat anything tweeted exactly like we treat a statement made in a press conference.
“Right,” Tom Izzo responded. “We’re trying to tell our guys: ‘would you say it on tv? I mean nobody would say half the things they say on Twitter on television, they wouldn’t even speak that way.”
“when you hit the send button it’s like a bullet leaving a gun that you can’t get back.”
In addition to Tom Izzo’s comments, I implore you to read what Tubby Smith said at the same Media Day about Twitter.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBC, CBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Follow paulmbanks