So there I was…going about my business…doing my day job, when a co-worker, Larry, sends me an instant message that said exactly this:
“Ian Fitzimmons is reporting on the radio in Dallas that within 3-4 hours the NCAA is going to suspend Cam Newton.“
My heart sunk. I couldn’t breathe. Was the stuff that I had denied for days actually going to happen? At the time, I was sure it would because every time I hear a rumor I believe it whole-heartedly for at least the next five minutes. No matter what. It has happened with every allegation against Cam Newton and it probably will continue to happen for the next fifty “developments” that come out over the next few weeks. You would think I would have learned by now.
Once I gained a little composure, I did what I always do when someone sends me some big news: I copied the text, opened up Google chat, and sent it to 8-10 of my Auburn buddies. Most had the expected “ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I’M GOING TO THROW UP!” responses, but a few came back with “yeah, I know“, or something along those lines. Given the fact that others had heard what I had heard, it immediately, and subconsciously, began the validation process of the statement in my brain.
By the time that I had explained to my buddies what I thought was the only reason that Cam would be suspended, to keep Auburn from having to forfeit the next two games, Larry had responded to my first question to him, which was obviously “where did you see that?”. I already knew the answer, but I asked anyway.
You see, Larry is a message board guy, and while some very good information can be attained from perusing the forums, the public opinion is that boards are just a bunch of people spitting out what they heard from a guy who knows a guy who dated a girl who knows a guy. I knew this, and have always known this, but this case was different. People that I trusted had heard it too, so it had to be true, right?
I still had doubts in the back of my mind, but Larry struck again. He then pasted a few lines from a post that had been circulating around multiple message boards (AuburnSports.com, ShaggyBevo.com, TideSports.com, TigerDroppings.com, and others). That post read as follows:
“And Scott Moore allegedly just claimed this on radio somewhere…
“Cam Newton will likely be benched very soon and Auburn will be stripped of their wins before the season is over. He says this will be a speedy process because the NCAA doesn’t want an ineligible team winning a national title…
He also says the FBI is involved because of large sums of money involved, tax evasion…Scott also confirms that Mullen and Meyer pulled the trigger with the NCAA.”
He also asserted:
“This is the most reliable source I’ve heard…I believe this 100%….It’s about to get really ugly for Auburn…Personally, I hope it goes down in time for LSU to get a shot at Atlanta”.”
You can imagine what that statement did for the Fitzsimmons rumor circulating in my head. Yep, you guessed it. It was all true. Two guys were supposedly reporting very similar things, and although the claims were very strong, they weren’t that much more outrageous than anything that we had been told by ESPN, The NY Times, or FoxSports in the past week. This made it very believable to me. My heart sunk again.
Just for final clarification I went to my ultimate source for sports information: Twitter. There was nothing. Not one tweet. Why were all the message boarders all over this and nobody in the know seemed to be talking about it? Maybe, just maybe, I had found this out before any of the big guys, the ones who get paid to do this, became aware of the alleged reports. I immediately heard Ricky Bobby’s father’s words: “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
So I copied Larry’s first message, pasted it into Twitter and then stared at it. I read it over and over. I wondered again why no one else had posted it, and then clicked the ‘Tweet’ button.
For a split-second, I panicked. This was a humongous statement. Cam was being suspended, and I had just let my 2200+ followers know, but at this time I felt like I had read and heard enough that what I had tweeted was for real. Besides, I’m just some dumb blogger who does this stuff as a hobby, right? What could it really hurt?
What happened next was unlike anything that WarBlogle.com, or at least my Twitter account had ever experienced. First off, I got a few re-tweets from my normal followers, followed by lots and lots of replies from upset Auburn fans, which I expected. Then I noticed a few big-timers like CBS Sports NCAAF Blog, EDSBS, and a few Birmingham sportscasters citing my tweet as well.
Moments later, Paul Finebaum’s Twitter handler (probably a intern) posted my exact tweet, with no credit. How did I know that it was copied and pasted straight from my account? Well for starters, it was word for word, but the kicker was that it also included my accidental misspelling of Fitzsimmons’s (“Fitzimmons”) last name. None of that actually matters to this whole thing, but I just wanted to point out that the “SEC’s Most Influential Member of the Media” took my tweet and posted it without any sort of credit. But I guess I really shouldn’t be talking about Twitter etiquette should I?
If you don’t live in or around the Birmingham, Alabama area, you may not know that Ian Fitzsimmons used to be a co-host on WJOX’s Roundtable Radio Show. Fitzsimmons left the Roundtable and moved to Dallas to take a spot with ESPN Dallas a little over a year ago. The show currently consists of sportscaster Jim Dunaway, Ryan Brown, and Fitzsimmons’s former co-host Lance Taylor.
I’m telling you this because following what seemed to be one the quickest dispersions of sports information in Twitter history, Dunaway tweeted that he had spoken to Fitzsimmons, and that my “report” was false. Clay Travis tweeted something similar. For the third time in one hour, my heart sunk. I was about to become that guy. A rumor spreader. An idiot blogger. An “asshat”. Yes, a few actually called me that.
So even though I immediately retracted what I tweeted and then re-tweeted Fitzsimmons’s denial via Dunaway, for the next 3-4 hours I got all kinds of replies from Auburn fans and others, but mainly Auburn fans, asking me why I was spreading rumors, why I was fueling the fire, and why I was posting things without credible sources while bashing ESPN for doing the same thing. I agreed with some of them, but some were out of line.
Most importantly, my love for Auburn was brought into question. I was accused of trying to bring down Cam Newton and the team’s quest for a national championship. Nothing was further from the truth.
For any of you that read my blog or my tweets, you know that I am the most passionate and optimistic Auburn fan you will ever find. Literally ever. I defend Auburn in everything they do, sometimes to a fault.
Want proof? I ranked Auburn in my top-15 when they had 5 losses last year. Call me a homer or whatever you want. I’m a fan, a graduate, and I love Auburn, and nobody should ever question that.
I do understand, however, why most of the Auburn family reacted this way. For a week, we’ve heard allegations followed by denials and the emergence of plot-holes. We’ve read completely asinine reports by certain opinion columnists posing as reporters that obviously have it out for Newton, his family, and Auburn. Every night there is a new “development”, and every night they get crazier and crazier. I know that I’m tired of these stories, and I know the rest of the Auburn family is as well. So to say that the Auburn family might be on edge would be the understatement of the year.
Contrary to what most believed, I meant no harm to anyone. I just saw something and thought that Auburn fans would want to see it as well. I had no idea it would take off like it did. I just thought I was posting yet another “development”, but when I look at it now, there is a big difference. What I posted was a claim of something that was supposedly going to happen. Every other report had been an allegation with no real backing and just another story to stick in Auburn fans’ sides.
This just goes to show the power of social media. What started out as a tweet seen by 2,000 or so followers, quickly turned into a report being talked about by what seemed like millions, all in a matter of five or ten minutes. I don’t mean this as a brag at all, but I had no idea of the power that I held with my tweets. I know now. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Again, I’m not really claiming to have “great power”, but as we all know, rumors spread like wildfire and this is just another case of social media playing a part.
So although my intent was to inform and not to further this madness, I will apologize if it gave you a heart-attack. I know how it made me feel when I first read it, and I’m sorry if I made you feel half of that. This is a lesson learned and I assure you that I will quadruple check any report that I come across from this point forward.
Now that I got that off my chest, back to the story…
As I was sifting through all of the tweets that were calling for my head and my keyboard, I noticed that I was “mentioned” (Twitter-speak for replied to) by ESPN Dallas. They told me that my “reports” were completely incorrect and that Fitzsimmons’s entire, unedited broadcast would be posted soon after.
So what did Fitzsimmons’s actually say? Here you go:
“With this story, something big could happen in 3-4 hours.“
Obviously, he was speaking to the fact that this story has been so crazy that we don’t know what to expect. Anything could drop at any time. I totally agree.
Of course, this actual quote was news to me because I ran with the message board fodder, but I can see where some could make assumptions and stretch this to their liking.
On a side note, I thought it was funny that ESPN was very quick to make sure that one of their employees wasn’t misquoted or being linked to false information when there seems to be a lot of that going on with the Cam Newton allegations.
So not only was a few of my Auburn brethren hating on me, I had ESPN hating on me as well. Sure they just told me that my tweet was false, but they are the last company that should be telling anybody what to do with false claims.
Needless to say a few of these “haters” got under my skin, so I started to get defensive. I was later called out by a few other news outlets for reporting that Cam was being suspended. While my tweet ended up being completely inaccurate, I never reported that Cam Newton was being suspended, so my defensiveness turned into a little bit of anger.
When I get angry on Twitter, I use sarcasm and jokes to get my point across. Here’s an example:
“This was all a social experiment. To the media guys blasting me for reporting something with no true source, biggest gotcha ever…“
I’ve said all along that Twitter needs a sarcasm button more than anything because of the loss of tone when reading random thoughts on a screen, and this case just proves my point even more because sure enough this tweet was taken as fact. One blogger told me I needed to grow up, and others tweeted back to me saying that I was sick for playing games related to this situation.
I realized that the misunderstanding went even further when I listened to Fitzsimmons’s radio show later that afternoon. I missed the beginning, but picked up right when they were talking about my “social experiment” and how other reporters had gotten in big trouble for similar antics. Fitzsimmons even used his first tweet ever to mention my “ploy”:
“Received 287 texts and 68 voicemails…Thanks to the blogger’s “social experiment” this morning…at least now I’ve joined the twitterverse“
The mood on the show was pretty jovial, but Fitzsimmons seemed pretty peeved, or at least worn out. Apparently, ESPN questioned him about the claims, and wondered why he hadn’t reported them to the head office first. That probably made for some pretty intense phone calls until things were cleared up, so I guess it’s understandable as to why he may have been a little upset with me. I can’t even stand when I have more than five unread text messages, and he had 287?!?
I have since replied to his tweet, apologizing and telling him that I jumped the gun, but I haven’t gotten a response by the time I’m writing this. Ian, if you’re reading this, and you’re not, sorry, it was nothing personal.
However, even though my “social experiment” tweet was probably somewhat ill-advised and fueled by anger, I was still just making a point that news outlets were calling my credibility into question when credibility has been an afterthought in most of the national media’s latest reports. It was a joke. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry some didn’t get it.
Now what’s all of this about Vegas?
Hours after all this Twitter mess went down, there were reports that the betting lines in Vegas had been pulled for the Auburn-Georgia match-up. Although one report stated that it was due to one very wealthy individual wagering a healthy sum of money on the Bulldogs, the majority of the reports stated that it was due to the possibility of the suspension of Cam Newton prior to the game. Those are two very different stories, but they have one underlying factor: the suspension. Why would this guy make such a huge bet, if he didn’t think that the best player on either team would not be playing? He wouldn’t.
No one has officially reported that the wager was actually made, but even if it was, the suspension talk was obviously the reason he would have made such a bet.
Bloggers and other columnists began wondering if Vegas knew something: if they knew that Cam Newton was going to be suspended. You know what they knew? They knew what the ‘Blogler tweeted.
Now although I am not proud of my unfounded and completely incorrect tweet about the suspension of Cam Newton, I have to admit that I think it’s pretty funny/awesome that there is a possibility that in less than 140 characters, little ol’ WarBlogler could be responsible for the all-powerful Las Vegas completely removing the Auburn-Georgia from their boards.
Do I feel bad? No. Gambling is wrong. However, I am looking for bodyguards for the next few days. I heard a guy named “Tiny” wants to talk to me. Seriously though, this Twitter thing is powerful…
Bottom line, I shouldn’t have tweeted what I tweeted (imagine someone from 1995 trying to understand that sentence). I’m sorry Auburn family, I’m sorry Ian, I’m sorry Tiny. I was just posting something that I thought was real.
I realize this is many people’s first exposure to WarBlogle.com and we all know what they say about first impressions, so I know that some will never trust anything else I say from here on out. However, I know that some have already forgiven me, and are laughing with me at the craziness that one line of text brought to the sports world for a few hours. I know that some people don’t really care either way. I also know that good, bad, or indifferent, I gained about 500 followers in about four hours, so I got that going for me. Join the revolution.
Let me be clear: I’m not a reporter. I don’t want to be a reporter. I’m a guy with a day job who probably spends a little too much time on this blog. I enjoy the freedom of posting whatever I want, without any rules, but I believe it is human nature to want to be the first to tell someone the breaking news, and I got caught up in that. It probably won’t happen again, but I can’t make any promises. Just know that I am a guy who loves Auburn and everything about it, and I will continue to post my thoughts as I always have.
War Damn Eagle.