Posted At: December 13, 2013 11:00 a.m.
by Brian C. Hoff
The Iron Bowl is one of the most celebrated games in college football between cross-state rivals, The University of Alabama and Auburn University. Every year, fans drop everything they are doing during their Thanksgiving weekend and make time to either attend the game or watch it on television.
This year did not disappoint. The fourth-ranked Auburn Tigers upset the undefeated Crimson Tide in a (literal) last second touchdown. Okay, so maybe this year did disappoint if you are an Alabama fan, but the level of competition has never been greater.
Unfortunately, some of those disappointed Alabama fans found a target to unleash their frustrations on, Cade Foster, a senior placekicker for the Tide who missed three field goals in the game. Tweets and Facebook posts littered the Internet. “Iron Bowl” trended worldwide on Twitter. All focus was on the state of Alabama and most, if not all, of the negative posts were aimed at Foster.
Some even sent the young man death threats. For example:
Drink bleach @Foster_43
— Chris Taylor (@_CTaylor8) December 1, 2013
And other told him never to return:
@Foster_43 STAY OUT OF TUSCALOOSA YOU ARENT WELCOMED THERE ANYMORE
— Mosby (@HosbyJones) December 1, 2013
For a football program most of the nation can’t stand, fans like Mr. @_CTaylor8 and Mr. @HosbyJones are not doing the school or state’s public image any good. Some critics say Alabama fans are spoiled by the endless success the team has seen recently. I think these critics are right.
Sure, being passionate about sports is fun and appropriate at times, but when it turns into singling out an individual and wishing him harm, there is an ethical line that has been crossed. For a state like Alabama that has been riddled with a history of hate, what kind of good can come from a fan’s harmful words?
I petition Alabamians, Tide or Tiger, to take a step back and realize that your beloved rivalry or next shot at a national championship carries far less impact on the world than verbally abusing a player and tainting the image of a whole state.
The Crimson Tide fan base has work to do to recover its public image. One public relations student at UA, Kaitlin Goins, has already taken the first steps in trying to repair what damage was done. In her blog post “Dear Cade Foster” that went viral, Goins apologizes on behalf of “fake Alabama fans.” Doing so was a brilliant strategy for the public image of the Alabama fan base because of its ability to separate the “true” fan from one which spouts hate on individual players.
Sports fandom needs more Kaitlin Goins out there. It’s a sad day when a sports team’s, school’s or state’s image is tarnished simply by people lashing out over something that was no direct effect on their lives.
However, Goins isn’t the only one reaching out to support Foster. Fans with the same ideology as Goins started using the hashtag “#BamaFansForCade” to show their support. Former President George W. Bush even sent a hand-written letter to Foster encouraging him to keep his head held high.
So whether you’re an undergraduate or a former president of the United States, remember that quiet encouragement can go a long way — typically viral these days.