Fighting with people on Twitter is about as pointless as it gets. In general, you both come off looking like douchebags, and no matter how heated your discourse becomes, there is no governing body to determine who wins and who loses. You can’t really out-debate one another in 140-character blurbs, and about all you’ll end up doing is pissing off the people who mutually follow you and your sparring partner, victims of timelines filled with petty drivel. You can punch and kick and scream and get worked up over words on a screen and you’ll be no better for it when the day is done.
It doesn’t matter if you have 10 followers or 10,000; the size of the dog in the fight (or perhaps the size of the dog in the fight’s posse) doesn’t necessarily predispose either party to so much as a moral victory. Big or small, with entourage or without, one can find themselves receiving the brunt of another tweeter’s tweet at any given moment. And in those moments of fervor directly before one must decide whether to return fire with similar vitriol, reply with unexpected grace, or neglect to respond at all, there are likely no fewer than a hundred different thoughts running rampant through one’s brain. Ultimately, one’s fingers are forced to take action upon a keyboard or remain still, content to fold for the time being.
As an alumnus of the University of Washington, there’s no denying I love my school. I’ve been a fan of the Huskies since I was born. I grew up wearing purple and gold. I applied to no other university when I was in high school; I knew where I wanted to go to college. I’ve always known I was a Husky at heart.
In spite of all that, my love isn’t blind. No school, no institution, no organization is perfect; that includes UW. Were we relegated to incessantly believing in the perfection of all those things we truly care about, we’d be nothing more than thoughtless zombies, complacently satisfied with whatever came our way, determined to do nothing more than flat-line through our respective menial existences.
But we’re not that. Not at all. We’re human. And in being human, we live, we strive, we aspire, we dream, we think, we move, we act, we do. And so I implore you, before I go on, to consider the fact that you have been designed to be better than the product of a system, to be more than a servant to an organization, an idea, or a belief. You can choose to see the world through rose-colored glasses if you wish. But in doing so, you’ll never reach the potential you’ve been designed to achieve.
I love the University of Washington. But in the past few years, the University of Washington’s Athletic Department has done some stupid shit. I’ve alluded to this once before, but it’s a discussion that deserves to be brought up again. Because no one wants their school doing stupid shit. Especially not me. We need to talk about these problems that persist so we can solve them. And even if you’re not a Husky fan, you may want to follow along. These are issues that plague every school, every athletic department, every alum and every fan across the nation. So we’ll talk about this. And when we’re done talking, hopefully we’ll find ourselves on the path to resolution. Hooray, resolution.
These were the unsolicited tweets I received on Saturday night, shortly after the conclusion of the Husky Men’s Basketball game against Arizona State:
.@alexssn understand the frustration and will make sure I communicate what I’ve seen on twitter about the white shirts..
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
.@alexssn but you might be taken more seriously if you weren’t bashing our student-athlete 24/7. Especially Abdul. Just my opinion.
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
In typical emotional fashion (well, typical for me, at least), I had spent much of the game lamenting the play of one Abdul Gaddy, disaster of a point guard that he’s been this year. Similarly, I had mentioned that I found the attire of the student section to be questionable, at best. While half the kids wore the standard purple, the balance had been dressed in unfamiliar white t-shirts. It wasn’t a big deal. But on TV it just didn’t look right.
The student section, the Dawg Pack, they wear purple. That’s just how it is. That’s how it’s always been. And on the rare occasion that they don a different shade, the continuity of that visiting color spans the continuum of the bleachers we see prominently displayed on our TV screens. Baseline to baseline, the students usually wear the same color. I helped build that Dawg Pack. I’m familiar with how it works, I’m up to date on its legacy, and I care about what goes on there. It’s important to me. And so on this particular evening I expressed my frustrations — we’ll call them frustrations, but I wasn’t frustrated so much as I was compelled to just opine (imagine that) — on both Gaddy and the look of the student section.
It was then that the responses you see above were prompted. I thought for a minute about whether to fire back, reply graciously, or follow the Thumper rule (if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all), before deciding to lob grenades of my own.
I did a little quick research and found that Daniel Hour is a 2007 UCLA alum who is currently in charge of New Media and Recruiting Services for the University of Washington. UCLA sucks, so that was strike one. This guy clearly doesn’t grasp the “social” aspect of new media, so that was strike two. And he had kinda pissed me off, so that was strike three.
But that wasn’t all. This morphed into like two full at-bats.
Strike four was Hour bringing Gaddy directly into the conversation by mentioning the young man’s Twitter handle. Here you are trying to protect a student-athlete from criticism, so your way of doing that is by exposing him to the venom felt by fans? Makes perfect f**king sense, right? (No, it doesn’t.) Now even if the kid wants to avoid the negativity surrounding him, he can’t. Because a member of the athletic administration, of all people, has forced him to face it head-on. Brilliant.
Strike five was Hour telling me I “might be taken more seriously if…” As if my goal in life and on Twitter has always been to be taken more seriously. I’m not you, dude. I don’t have sex through a hole in the sheets.
And strike six was Hour alluding to the idea that I bash Gaddy 24/7, which is ridiculous because even if I wanted to bash Gaddy 24/7, Twitter would be over capacity at some point along the line and I wouldn’t be able to do it. Plus, Hour doesn’t even follow me on Twitter and never has, so how would he know that I spend most of my time taking jabs at the Mariners, cracking jokes at almost everyone’s expense, initiating dialogue on Saved By the Bell, and just generally being a grab-ass, smarmy, semi-antagonistic, arrogant punk most of the time? He wouldn’t. So why he pretended he did was beyond me.
Oh, and one final thing. You’ll notice those first two tweets start off with a period. They don’t read “@alexssn,” they read “.@alexssn.” Seems innocent enough, but that’s a big deal on Twitter. Those two dots preceding each of those tweets allow everyone who follows Hour to view said tweets on their timelines. Were he to omit those two dots, only those few individuals who follow both he and myself would see these particular tweets. The reason Twitter acts in this way is so that two parties can carry out a back and forth conversation without polluting the feeds of their entire combined following. Hour structured his tweets in such a way that he wanted everyone to read them. He was hoping for support in his attack on me. It was a bitch move. He got one person to publicly agree with him. Dozens upon dozens of others, however, began to tear him a new asshole.
The problem with the UW Athletic Department is that they’re just slightly out of touch to what their customers, the fans, want. Sure, they’re giving us a new football stadium, and that’s great, but that project was well underway long before the current regime came to power. This was an undertaking that Todd Turner put into motion. He was the starting pitcher and we’ve now tapped the bullpen to close this out. In fairness, the relievers are doing a great job.
The new stadium has cast a shadow long enough to obscure many of the warts of the current Athletic Department. That’s not unprecedented with an infrastructural upgrade of this magnitude, but at the same time we shouldn’t allow the administration to rest on its laurels simply because of one massive erection.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing the Athletic Department right now is the attitude of absolute entitlement that seems to rain down upon all of us laypeople. The administration isn’t afraid to impose its will upon, well, everyone, whether they’re dealing with students, alums, or (especially) media.
Media interactions are perhaps best exemplified through the department’s now-infamous “Twitter rule,” as well as the friendly banter I shared with Hour. Those are seemingly forgivable transgressions from a fan’s perspective; who really cares about the media, anyway?
But the missteps in dealing with students and alums? That’s a different story. Let’s start with the students.
While Saturday night’s t-shirt episode is one isolated incident, the purveying feeling from members of the Dawg Pack is that the administration only cares about them because a) they’re a source of revenue, and b) they’re marketable as all hell. In fact, that t-shirt episode served as Exhibit 1A for the marketability of the Dawg Pack. It also served to display the resistance of the students, who aren’t content to just guzzle the Kool-Aid the admins are trying to force down their throats.
The counter-argument would of course be that in order to pay for projects like the new football stadium, the university needs to uncork previously-untapped revenue streams. That’s certainly true, and definitely understandable. But messing with something as organic as a nationally-recognized student section that kind of sprung up on its own seems to go against the spirit of college athletics. I’d wager that most students would probably be willing to pay a little extra in ticket fees if it meant they didn’t have to be exploited. And you can’t tell me there aren’t other ways to make money, ways that won’t noticeably hurt the fan experience on gameday.
Failing to respect the students now will come back to bite this regime in later years. Those students will grow up to be potential donors who won’t have any reason to give back to UW Athletics if they felt mistreated during their time on campus. That’s a dangerous path for any administration to embark on.
In addition to how the students feel, there are semi-recent alums like myself who see through the glitz and the glamour of that structure coming to fruition near the corner of Montlake and Pacific. When we compare our own college experience to that of those current students, we notice a clear difference. As someone who grew into adulthood while jumping and screaming with my friends in that student section before it became a meal ticket, I can tell you how impactful that experience was. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for all the blemishes on Todd Turner’s record at UW, the one thing he was great at was relating to students. He made us a priority, and as a result we delivered on gameday. What reasons are there for students to deliver now? That’s a question I doubt the Athletic Department is prepared to answer.
For many alums my age, the biggest issue we all agree upon is that the administration seems to be over-saturating the game environment with its ongoing quest for cash. That’s not really anything new, but perhaps it’s just more glaring than it used to be. There’s a certain purity to amateur sports that’s being threatened. Maybe it’s all across the board and Washington’s just part of this machine. Either way, the fan experience has taken a back seat to dollars and cents. And as fans, we have to hope that doesn’t become the trend.
What Daniel Hour represents is the elitist attitude perpetuated by the current UW Athletic Department. It’s the idea that the shopkeeper can tell his patron what to buy and he’ll simply buy it. That he doesn’t have to understand what his patron may want or may need, because at the end of the day, he knows more than his patron ever will.
This is an attitude that may not have affected all Husky fans, but certainly affects my contemporaries, students and alums alike. They’ve told me so face-to-face, on Twitter, and via email. They feel this every day. They feel like they’re being ignored and talked down to by the Athletic Department. That’s not good, and it’s certainly not sustainable for the long-term success of UW Athletics.
There’s no Husky fan who wants to see the school suck at sports. Our football team has improved in recent years (some would say it hasn’t improved enough), but in many other areas, most glaringly Men’s Basketball, the level of play has declined. There will always be ups and downs with any athletic program; to expect perennial success might be ideal, but it certainly isn’t the status quo.
That said, the success of the football program has come as a direct result of funding and money — the current administration has shown a commitment to devote financial resources to football that the previous administration could not or would not display. Again, this is all great, but where’s the sustainability in that financing? The university has seemingly patched together funds on the fly (thanks to donations, et al) that won’t be there five, 10, or 15 years down the road because of one simple fact: the customer isn’t being serviced the way he or she needs to be. And if the customer isn’t being serviced the way he or she needs to be, then the customer will be unhappy. If customers are unhappy they won’t come back, and if they don’t come back they won’t spend money. Which leads us to a whole new set of problems of what to do when the money runs out. Because seriously, what do we do if and when the money runs out?
I’m not saying this will happen, but it could. Just look at Daniel Hour. For every person like Hour working in the Athletic Department, there are bound to be a few pissed off fans. I know I don’t like the guy. I know a number of my Twitter followers don’t like the guy. So what happens if he’s just following orders? That means there are others like him, willing to burn their customers for…for what? For the good of the program? To “protect” underperforming student-athletes who won’t even be here in a year? There’s no method to the madness — it’s just bad customer service, pure and simple.
The reality is this. As time goes on, the younger generation will continue to grow up. We will replace the rich, old people who donate bushels of money now. We will become those rich, old people. And if we’re unwilling to part with our cash as rich, old people because we don’t like how we were serviced way back when? That’s an issue that begins to take on plague proportions for the university.
I’m not here to tell the Athletic Department how to do their job or how to treat people. But they should know that in a few years, they’ll need us a whole hell of a lot more than we need them. If that’s not reason enough to change the culture, then what is?