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Sports consumption in the Twitter age: bipolar rage in a echo chamber

You saw it last night, didn't you? The burst of energy and excitement, followed by the unbelievable collapse of that excitement, followed by signs of extreme negative emotion? No, I'm not talking about the game (although I am in a way, of course). I'm talking about the reaction to the game, specifically reactions from fans on Twitter. Man, what a disjointed mess. Twitter (and other social media, for that matter) is a great flattener in our society. It connects us and facilitates interaction in ways we never imagined. But there is a unique way in which Twitter is used by sports fans, acting as one or both of two things: the hole into which we yell and throw our bipolar rage, or the echo chamber in which our ideas, irrational though they may be, find footing and support. Of course, the rage and irrationality found a catalyst Thursday night, as the Heat blew a 24-point second-half lead to lose to the Orlando Magic. I'll not repeat the details, if you want to learn more, go here. So, after the game was finished, the rage started. Rage at Chris Bosh. Rage at pretty much everything to do with the Heat (except for Dwyane Wade, who can do no wrong in the eyes of Heat fans). And especially rage at Erik Spoelstra. Oh boy, was there rage at Spoelstra. FireSpo.com and WeWantRiley.com were bantered about again, just like in November, right before the Heat went on one of the greatest road winning streaks in the history of professional basketball. So I guess this is a sign of good things to come, yes? I, of course, chose to reply to this rage. What did I do? Use rage, of course. Using words like "morons" and "I have no use for you." So what exactly were we doing? The same things sports fans have been doing for time eternal: irrationally venting. My venting came at the expense of those venting, but was ultimately a product of the same game. The only difference is now we have a place to gather and vent. With just one click to log on, we have our virtual mob to stoke our anger. And now, instead of waiting until the next morning to talk around a water cooler, we react instantaneously, meaning all of our silly ideas and impulsive reactions are right there. I got in a lengthy Twitter conversation with a fantastic follower named Azam Masood (Twitter handle @AMas92) which I think highlights the silliness of what we do on Twitter. After my "moron" tweet, I got a reply saying the following:
@mBunchHeat One game? I think you're delusional.
Not exactly a basis for a good conversation, no? I basically called him a moron and he called me delusional. But what followed was an in-depth chat about coaching styles and strategies, along with third-quarter lulls. Then, Azam had the moment of clarity which really put the finger on the whole night.
@mBunchHeat Yeah. Sorry I'm being such a cynic. I'm just another fan after all. It's tough right now.
And that Tweet, ultimately, is the basis for all of our reactions. Sports provides us our greatest joys (Silly though that may seem, really think about it. When's the last time anything made you leap out of your seat and yell?). When that breaks bad, of course you're going to be mad. Of course you're going to want to find a scapegoat. So you turn to a player (Chris Bosh) who truly was the cornerstone of the resurgence from 9-8 who happens to be having a bit of a bumpy patch. So you turn to a coach (Erik Spoelstra) who you don't yet have full faith in, all the while keeping the corner of your eye reserved for the Hall of Famer sitting a couple rows back in a nice suit. You look for excuses for your misery, when there really aren't any. The Miami Heat have a poor record in close games with top-tier teams. That's as much a function of bad luck as anything else. Will LeBron never make a late-game shot again? Of course he will. No one is better under 24 seconds trailing by less than three in the league. Will a play drawn up by Spoelstra ever work? Of course it will; Spoelstra leads all NBA coaches in NBAPlaybook.com's Clipboard Awards, which is a points-based system recognizing the best post-time-out plays each night. Eventually, things will regress to the mean. But for one night, against Orlando, none of that mattered. The Heat collapsed. And our rationality collapsed with it.