McCarver, Mahan and the Twitter trap

October 17th, 2013 | by Larry Bohannan | Comments

It’s not often in the middle of a baseball game that a baseball analyst decides to take some shots at the game of golf. But apparently Fox’s Tim McCarver couldn’t help himself.

In the middle of last night’s American League Championship Game Four between Boston and Detroit, McCarver, who is retiring at the end of this season as an analyst, decided to take issue with a tweet by pro golfer Hunter Mahan. Mahan had posted a tweet about how the St. Louis Cardinals seemed disturbed by some reactions by Los Angeles Dodgers players after getting big base hits against the Cardinals. Mahan’s entire point was that he was tired of listening to players talk baseball’s “unwritten rules.” If you don’t like Adrian Gonzalez of Yanseil Puig celebrating after hits, just get them out.

Golfer Hunter Mahan's comments on baseball were unwelcome by baseball analyst Tim McCarver (AP file photo)

Golfer Hunter Mahan’s comments on baseball were unwelcome by baseball analyst Tim McCarver (AP file photo)

McCarver, a guardian of the old school of baseball even when people aren’t asking him to be that guardian, apparently through Mahan was speaking out of turn. So McCarver and his willing sidekick and lead commentator Joe Buck decided to point out some of golf’s unwritten rules. Like not wearing shorts. Which by the way is a written rule, and oh, by the way, why don’t baseball players wear shorts, Tim?

Anyway, the incident, as feeble an attempt to defend baseball as it was and as awkward as it was coming in the middle of an important playoffs game, whose out just what happens when someone says something on Twitter. Mahan is a fairly active tweeter and does engage people on Twitter. McCarver, who does not have a Twitter account, was surely told about Mahan’s tweets by a producer.

Mahan took the high road is offering to debate the “unwritten rules” idea with McCarver and said he likes Twitter just because you never know who you might engage. But the entire episode seems a little silly and frankly forced by McCarver. And it shows that no matter what you tweet, you might just draw some wrath from someone.

Take, for instance, the case of golfer Stacy Lewis. Lewis played in China two weeks ago and fell a little short of Shanshan Feng, who is a Chinese player and certainly had the support of the home crowd. Lewis send out some tweets after finishing second that, while honest, were not that flattering to the gallery or the key shot that Feng hit in making an eagle on the final hole to win the tournament. And the Twitter heaven opened up and rained down on Lewis. It was so bad, in Lewis’ estimation, and she just shut down her Twitter account entirely. So her voice, relatively refreshing in a time when athletes are overly protective of their comments, is now silent on Twitter.

So, is Twitter a way for celebrities, including athletes, to become better known by fans and to engage people, or is it just a trap that allows haters to hate from 2,000 miles away? Is it a way to stir up a little controversy, or a way to open yourself up to unwarranted criticism?

In the end, the Mahan-McCarver dust-up won’t mean much, because McCarver is leaving soon and Mahan will be concerned with golf tournaments again. And the folks who tweeted their opinions, legitimate or not, last night about the incident will find something else to focus their negative comments toward.

But the dangers of Twitter as a way to express an opinion were in full view last night when a golfer with a point of view riled an cranky old baseball player enough to get a televised response. Ah, ain’t social media grand.


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