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Bobby Wilson and the counterproductive side of tweeting

The Angels catcher shut his Twitter account down a month ago after receiving nasty stuff from fans.

September 08, 2012|Bill Dwyre
  • Bobby Wilson has been off Twitter for a month after negative comments from people on the social networking site.
Bobby Wilson has been off Twitter for a month after negative comments from… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Bobby Wilson has been Twitter-free for a month now.

His daily utterances have regularly exceeded 140 characters, but he has remained strong. No rehab has been necessary and a relapse is not likely.

Wilson is the Angels reserve catcher. He is a blue-collar guy with a wife and 9-month-old daughter. He is grateful to be in the major leagues and understands that if he ends up in Cooperstown, it will not be in any hall.

As a matter of fact, that was exactly what he expressed on Aug. 9, when he said he was kicking the habit, that he was closing down his Twitter account. @BW46 would no longer be a vehicle for expression by the Angels' No. 46. Nor would it be for those who expressed back in less-than-reasonable terms.

His last word on the matter in @BW46 was: "I'm done with Twitter. Try to be fan friendly and all I get is criticism. I wasn't blessed with 5 tools. I worked hard to get here."

Baseball's five tools are running, hitting for average, hitting with power, fielding and throwing. Wilson has degrees of many of those, but when you are 29, out of options, a part-time player and batting .223, your best approach is a sense of reality.

"I was a 48th-round draft choice," Wilson says. "I'm not blessed with all those skills, so it took a lot of hard work just to get here."

Once he made it to the big leagues, he wanted to work hard at being friendly to the fans. And so he entered the brave new world of social media, tweeting to a perceived Angels fan base "so they'd get a better sense of what things are like in the clubhouse, what the conversations are like with Trout and Hunter and the other guys, what goes on in here."

Those were honorable intentions, accepted honorably by most fans. But when the Angels struggled, some fans converted their anger at the world into anger at Wilson, who was certainly less responsible for the Angels slumping than perhaps any other player.

"I'm a positive person," Wilson says. "I don't feel the need to have people knock me every day."

So he shut his Twitter account down. The only tweeting he knows now comes from birds.

Wilson says most of the Angels forgo Twitter. "A lot of guys stay away from it for the same reason I got out," he says.

He says he got up one morning, on an off day, and the first thing he saw was some of the same nasty stuff from fans.

"It had been going on all year," he says. "I'm grateful for the fans and their support, but there are always a few who ruin it. I've got a daughter and I don't want her growing up and reading that. So I shut it down, got rid of it."

Wilson is not a whiner. Some of the things being tossed at him by faceless, anonymous people was clueless vitriol. The Internet enables that and things such as Twitter embolden it. Twitter attracts too many people with nothing to say and a compulsion to do so, anyway.

To be in the public domain is to expect some pushback. That is part of the deal. But the hordes of angry people who once had to write a letter or at least make a phone call are now given a free pass to nastiness. Behind a convenient wall of anonymity, they snarl and snark, with no fear of response or reprisal. Some dictionaries might define that as cowardice.

Movie stars, athletes, even columnists are in the line of fire. One local sports columnist kept getting emails calling him stupid, fat and old, but he made his wife stop.

Wilson just got mad as hell and decided he wasn't going to take it anymore. Good for him. Maybe he'll start a trend.

Twitter is not going anywhere. It is a reflection, and apparent need, of a generation that has the attention span of a gnat. But, like most things, it needs tweaking, and actions such as Wilson's bring attention to that. Twitter is not totally without value. Put it in the hands of, say, longtime author and celebrated sportswriter Dan Jenkins at a golf tournament and it is a delight to behold. Crisp, quick, clever and fun, 140 characters of Shakespeare and Dave Barry.

But Jenkins has the advantage of actually knowing what he is talking about and knowing the difference between a noun and a verb.

Oh, incidentally, the Angels beat the Detroit Tigers on Friday night, 3-2, on a walk-off single by pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo. Wilson didn't play, but if Callaspo hadn't come through, it would have been Wilson's fault.

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