No, you’re a long title.
Let’s think back to a more innocent time. A time of whimsy and laughter. A time before the words “Sean” and “Avery” had entered our lexicon. A time when we…well, okay, I guess we still hated Gary Bettman. Yes, ye olde lockout of 2004 was a very different time for all of us. Yet, as it was and will be, it still totally sucked. However, there was a key difference back in those days of yore and that was a difference of access.
I mean, think about it, social media has absolutely exploded in the last eight years. So much so that if I had said the phrase “social media” to you in 2004 you’d think I was some sort of crazy person. Or a person who could make you rich. I am neither. Well, kind of the first thing. I’m getting off track. Point is, I’ve run out of things to blame the NHL lockout on so I’m just going to blame the Internet instead. Because why not?
Obviously there has always been some sort of social media as long as the Internet has been around. Remember ICQ? That counts. But never has social media so revolutionized the world of sport quite like with the advent of Twitter. Remember back in 2004 when you wanted news about the lockout? You had to stay glued to Lockout Center 2004 or whatever the hell TSN called whatever the hell they were putting on the air that year (times were tough, guys, it’s not like they could just throw repeats of old World Junior games on every week). You had to wait for Elliote Friedman to totally upstage Peter Mansbridge each night on The National. While the lack of information was frustrating at times, I truly, truly miss it.
Look, I enjoy Twitter. I enjoy having constant access and updates to pretty much anything I want. But all the access we have to news about this year’s lockout is just making it all hurt more. Last week, as we all awaited the NHLPA’s reaction to the NHL’s take it or leave it proposal, I found myself frantically refreshing Twitter as the tiniest bits of news came trickling down the series of tubes and felt my heart break slowly, 140 characters at a time. In 2004, this wouldn’t have happened. Twitter wasn’t yet a thing and we merely had press conferences and Darren Dreger’s Blackberry to tell us what we needed to know. Yeah, it’s slower but it also leads to so much less agonizing over analyzing. Yeah, there were blogs, but it wasn’t the constant, instant stream of news that we have now.
Then there’s Reddit. Insert /jailbait joke here. Yesterday, an unnamed NHL executive staged an AmA (Internet speak for Ask Me Anything, real world speak for Ask Me Anything That Doesn’t Disparage The Owners or Gary Bettman) to answer fans questions about the NHL lockout. Seeing as how this was not only the Internet, but Reddit, it was amazing that 90% of the questions weren’t “fuck you.” I know it would have been mine. Anyway, whether or not you look at this and see unprecedented access to a person of importance (it wasn’t) or just another NHL PR stunt (it was), it was certainly a new way to pass along information. It didn’t really pass along any new information (Bettman deserves our respect, the owners feel horrible for what this is doing to the fans, Donald Fehr has the negotiating tact of a dung beetle, etc.) but it was, at least, an attempt.
The larger problem with social media and the lockout, however, is the fact that it has increased the ease with which the NHL and NHLPA were able to turn this into a PR battle. And let’s not kid ourselves, this thing has become almost exclusively a PR battle. Who can look better? Who can posture more? Which one is the bigger jackass? Oh, I hope the fans buy into our bullshit! Why do you think that is? It’s because of these magic things on the Internet. Bettman has always been a smarmy jackass, this is not news, but now this smarmy jackass has unlimited access to the fans of his league. Now he can try to look like less of a smarmy jackass by throwing one of his lackeys onto Reddit. Now he can leak proposals and flip the script, or attempt to, and we all have to just accept that. I would argue that this whole thing could have been, if not solved, at least further along were it not for the access to the PR machine that is Twitter. It’s so easy to posture now, why not try and make your side look as good as possible? Does anyone really think that Bettman would have leaked the league’s proposal if there were no Twitter to analyze it and pick it apart? Twitter and Reddit and the like have allowed this to be a very public PR battle and, because we are now all witnesses, it’s a battle that is going to go on for a lot longer than it should. Because it can. You know that old cliche that the Internet is made up of vulgar, stubborn 12-year-olds and Bettman and Fehr are doing their best to keep that cliche alive.
Obviously, it’s not all bad. There’s something enjoyable about being able to hear an athlete’s political beliefs and then see said beliefs get completely torn apart by the rest of the Internet and, I mean, if anyone specializes in nonsensical bullshit it’s professional athletes. Twitter was practically made for them. But there’s just so much additional nonsense that has come with the lockout because those behind it have the ability to make it so. There’s nothing we can do about it, either. Because now we need our access. We need the constant updates. Without them, we’d probably just be complaining that there was no news (well, there isn’t any news even with the constant updates but you know what I mean). But the fact remains that social media has negatively impacted this lockout and it’s going to make it so it gets a lot worse before it gets better.
Although, I mean…
You Know You’re a Pizza when Everything Looks Good on You
— Pizzacat (@catpizzas) October 19, 2012
Pizzacat, you guys. Pizzacat. There is hope for us yet.