Commentary

Overzealous fans connect quickly

Updated: April 9, 2010, 2:49 PM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

Daniel Orton has a hater.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Orton
Mark Zerof/US PresswireKentucky center Daniel Orton artfully brushed off a fan's angry criticism he received via Facebook.

The Kentucky center, who has entered his name for June's NBA draft, received a Facebook message from a man who doesn't think Orton should even consider leaving Kentucky after just one season. On Sunday, Orton posted a screen grab of the message off his iPhone on his Twitter account with the words "Crazy huh?!" attached to it.

Meta enough for ya?

The man, Mark Hamilton, told Orton he hoped he'll "fail in the NBA," to "grow up and quit living in your daddy's shoes" and "thanks for nothing but fouls."

There was nothing racial or vulgar in the message, which was time-stamped at 2:40 a.m. And Orton certainly isn't the first college basketball player to receive a note saying he's making a mistake by entering the draft.

All the way back in 1999, before blogs, Facebook, Twitter and online video dominated our browsers, former Duke star Elton Brand received an e-mail from a fan chastising him for making the leap to the pros.

But this Orton example is new-school. It highlights one unavoidable truth in the social-networking age: As an athlete, if you decide to play the game (like the millions of others worldwide), you must also accept that the heightened and easy access that total strangers have to you can be used in a negative fashion.

It's a necessary evil.

So often, when discussing athletes and social media, we talk about their missteps, their saying something out of turn or controversial and forgetting that a tweet to one other user can be read by anyone with an Internet connection. It creates unwanted trouble and negative attention -- something I've covered in this space before.

But that's not the case here.

Orton didn't do anything wrong or dumb; he had a fan send him an angry note. By merely existing on the service, he draws this kind of stuff because he's a public figure.

Call it the evolution of hate mail.

Before the rise of social media, getting an athlete to hear your words in all their vitriolic glory was a much more difficult process. You'd have to track down an address sans Internet, then handwrite or type something up or (for the more deranged) cut and paste letters from magazines ransom-note style, toss it in an envelope, stamp it and get it in the mailbox.

Depending on where you live, it could take a few days to get to the destination. Then there was no guarantee it would get to the athlete in question. If you're able to drum up only a team or stadium address, would the athletic office want to pass off something like this to a freshman?

And even finding a public figure's e-mail address is oftentimes a daunting task.

But on Facebook? Type in Daniel Orton's name. Click "send a message." Type what you want to say. Hit send. It's now in Orton's pocket on his cell phone. Instantly.

You can do it from the toilet. On the couch. From an airplane.

And Orton -- like many other college kids -- appears to be checking Facebook round the clock. His response to Hamilton -- a simple "Thanks Mark" -- was a little more than an hour later at 3:45 a.m.

Of course, there are exceptions to this: Orton could have blocked his name from search to non-friends in his privacy settings, and access wouldn't have been as easy. But he didn't. And he also has a fan page where fans' ire can be directed, as well.

Technology has made us a hyper-accessible society. And the easier it is for us to reach out and touch someone, the easier it becomes for communication we might not otherwise receive to pop up in our message folder.

Sometimes, it's for the good. And sometimes, a ranting stranger can send you an angry, rambling message in the middle of the night that you instantly receive on your person.

This is the world we now live in.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.

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