It has become a late season tradition in recent years.
As the Indiana basketball season turns sour, a small but nasty vocal minority of the IU fan base turns ugly on social media.
“Fu$%ing horrendous coaching,” said one commenter on Twitter in response to the official IU men’s basketball Twitter account’s posting of the final score of the Wisconsin game on Tuesday evening.
“Mike Woodson ain’t it,” said another.
“Woody has been mostly trash this year,” said the next.
Those were just the first three of a 181 comment toxic sludge cesspool thread no player, parent or coach should ever have to experience.
Mike Woodson, for one, sees none of it. And he has a more direct way of calling it out for what it is.
“If you want to sit and read that shit, excuse my language, that’s on you,” Woodson said earlier this week on his radio show.
“I don’t fool with social media. … That’s just not my makeup. I think I’m a little bit above social media, but it’s what it is, it’s out there, it’s not going anywhere, and I don’t entertain it at all. I seldom even read the paper.”
Woodson is more than 40 years older than his players. He grew up with rotary phones attached to the wall. So the idea of not obsessing over what anonymous strangers are saying about him on social media comes fairly natural at this point.
But as he has transitioned from coaching professionals to younger college-aged athletes, he finds himself wishing his players would adopt his approach to social media.
“I wish our players would follow that same note in what I’m saying,” Woodson said. “Leave it alone and concentrate on getting an education and playing basketball. That’s what it’s all about.”
When a player posts on social media at a time like this, when things aren’t going well for IU basketball, the toxic trolls invariably find their way to the comments section of those posts as well. Most of the players manage to avoid posting during the season, but many no doubt still see what is being said about them. And it ain’t pretty sometimes.
Unlike Woodson, many of his players have grown up watching their parents attached to their phones, and thus have been conditioned to do the same. Even the parents of recent IU players past have been vocal social media instigators of their own brand of negativity in recent years. The mother of Troy Williams and father of Justin Smith are two examples.
One thing is certain — it isn’t easy to know people are talking about you in a public way, and just shut it all out and ignore it.
Because of that, Woodson knows it would take extreme and impractical measures to eliminate the negativity that social media brings to his team.
“I say it all the time, but the only way you’re gonna do that is strip them of their telephones and lock ’em up,” Woodson said.
Some players are better than others of course at ignoring social media. Trey Galloway famously didn’t have a Twitter account, but he caved recently and now has nearly 7,000 followers despite being on the platform for just a few months. New financial opportunities brought about by name, image and likeness rules are making social media harder for players to avoid.
But while that following can be financially lucrative, the mob can turn on a moment’s notice. A player would have to turn off notifications, post, and then immediately log out to avoid getting caught up in whatever might come their way.
When assistant coach Dane Fife was hired by Woodson in April, one of the things he seemed to want to take on proactively was something he benefitted from as a player, and that was people in and around the program protecting the players from outside negativity.
“There’s a certain component to Indiana basketball, it’s a layer of insulation that I like to call it, that protects the program from when they’re struggling,” Fife said last April, acknowledging that there are many more outside paths that can reach the players with negativity than even 20 years ago when he played.
The only sure way to avoid it is to never engage. Woodson has that part down. Yes, he has a Twitter account, and “he” posts on it from time-to-time during the season.
So how does he insulate himself from the noise?
Those Tweets might be Woodson-approved, but he never sees them.
“I know I’m on social media, and we’ve got in house people to handle all of that, but I couldn’t tell you what they do,” Woodson said.
Woodson of course isn’t going to round up his players’ phones.
But right about now would probably be a good time for them to follow his example — and voluntarily shut that shit out.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”