Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Which Historic Sports Moments Would Have Been Affected by Social Media?

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The most common question I get during the Friday chat is, by a great margin, some version of this:

“Why does [sports radio host, usually Felger or Minihane] have [a job/good ratings/an unpunched face]? I can’t stand him. You should write a column about this.”

Those are not my favorite questions, not just because of the repetitiveness, but because the answer is contained within the query.

You’re listening. You’re talking about him, whoever it happens to be. You’re asking about him. You’re doing exactly what the station wants.

It’s straight out of the Howard Stern play book. They’d rather have you dislike them and yet have every word stick in your mind like the Kars-4-Kids jingle than have you like them while their voices evacuate your mind as soon as the show signs off.

Hell, I might just save that text and paste it as my answer every time it comes up from now on. It’s an understandable question, but one where the answer will always remain the same given the way sports radio generally operates.

I’m glad you think to come to me with it, but I have to say, I much prefer a different sort of question, one that comes from the what-if? or would-you-rather-this-or-that? genre, one that requires context and more consideration than the condensed chat format allows.

They also often require your input, since my wee brain refuses to supply more than occasional decent answer to a question that could have many.

We just happen to have one those questions in The Mailbox this week. I began to answer it in the chat, but I couldn’t help but repurpose it here for wider discussion. Given that it’s a question that involves social media, it seemed only right to take it to social media. So here it is, followed by my thoughts — and many excellent crowdsourced replies from you folks on Twitter as well after I threw it out over there.

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Any particular sports moment, whether it be a Boston sports moment or on the national stage, that social media would have drastically altered?
— Ted

Love this. Love, love, love this, though I have to say, I’m not sure how many events would have been altered by social media. It’s more that they’d be enhanced in the moment, stirring real-time reactions and emotions. That’s the best thing about Twitter, really, that instant online barroom communal aspect of watching sports when something exceptional happens, such as Malcolm Butler’s interception.

Now quick: What was the first event or person that came to mind the millisecond you finished processing the question? Perhaps it was some subconscious reaction stirred by the questioner’s name, but the first name that came to mine was Ted Williams. Not just one event, mind you, but the various experiences of his extraordinary life. Can you imagine Twitter during his chase for .400 — especially that last day — or during his various feuds with media and fans, or when he didn’t tip his cap, or hell, when he crash-landed what was left of his burning plane in Korea? #teddyballgame would have trended constantly. And some #*#** Yankees fan would have trolled you by saying that if it had been Joe DiMaggio in the cockpit, he would have gotten the landing gear to work.

The other event that came to mind is one that is in our consciousness today since it occurred 35 years ago. It’s one many of you cited, too, a Miracle we will never stop believing in:

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Of course, the US Olympic hockey team’s 4-3 win over the seemingly invincible USSR squad didn’t air on live television. We found out what happened via word of mouth and various hints that you might want to watch the taped broadcast later that evening — in essence, that’s what passed for social media and and a spoiler alert in those days.

I’ll save the best answer — and maybe the most obvious — for the end. But man, there were some great suggestions. A few: Broadway Joe’s guarantee (can you imagine if he’d had Instagram in his Bachelors III heyday?) … Jackie Robinson’s arrival in ’47 … the McGwire/Sosa homerfest in ’98 … Wilt’s 100-point game … Don Denkinger’s blown call in the ’85 World Series … Raymond Bourque switching from 7 to 77 to honor Espo … Ali. Everything Ali … and pretty much everything Orr and Pedro ever accomplished.

And there are so many more that we probably should break them down into categories. For instance, consider the feats of Larry Legend and friends …

The Bird/Nique shootout, or Larry’s 60-point game, or “Eat [expletive], Moses,” or especially the infamous Chelsea bar fight would have blown up Twitter.

We can’t forget those basketball stunners and tragedies along the way too …

I found out about Len Bias’s death from my high school gym teacher, and didn’t believe it until I saw it my local afternoon newspaper. We heard about Lewis’s death when Sean McDonough broke the news on that night’s Red Sox broadcast. Such a different world then. In both cases, confirmation came long after the rumors began buzzing.

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Many of you suggested various Olympic thrills and agonies, some relating to sports, some of utter cartoon villainy, and many of much greater social consequence …

There would have been times where as a group we tried to make immediate sense of various NFL rules and regulations. Sound familiar?

I can just imagine Bob Kravitz standing outside the vans yelling “Nothing to see here! Move along!”

How about some in-the-moment collective reactions to a couple of Game 6s and the Red Sox’ journey to the ultimate redemption?

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Speaking of marathons, Twitter actually would have changed one thing besides Rosie’s temporary “victory.” Very well-played, this:

But the winner? This is the winner, the one event that would have been ridiculous to follow on social media as it unfolded — yes, even more ridiculous than it was conventionally, and that was a cataclysmic media event that spurred irreparable change for the worse in how television covers dramatic events …

Yep. That’s it. That’s the one. Can you imagine? When OJ was AWOL, people would have been tweeting about seeing him at various places. There would have been a #juiceisloose hashtag.

There is no doubt — none — that Al Cowlings would have been tweeting while driving the White Bronco.

And god — or someone much further south in much warmer climes — only knows what the Kardashians would have been up to.

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