Aaron Moorehead and Laremy Tunsil: Football fandom in the age of online spectacle

on

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f82092%2fthumb

The sports world was treated to a meltdown in real time Wednesday night, a toxic brew of schadenfreude and absurdity that’s also an apparent first for college football. Pull up a seat — they’re all front row in this digital arena — as a man becomes undone.

This is the ballad of Aaron Moorehead, who never should have tweeted at all. His folly is just the latest example of football’s most absurd spectacles being further twisted by social media drama.

Moorehead, who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, is now the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M. The Aggies had secured a verbal commitment from Tate Martell, one of the top high school quarterback prospects in America. But Martell announced late Wednesday night that he was re-opening his recruitment and intended to pick a new school for his college football career.

Moorehead’s reaction was not cool, calm and collected. Rather, he went off, deciding to fire up the ol’ Twitter application and release his boiling rage into the digital void.

The rash decision would have disastrous consequences for Texas A&M — and make Moorehead a laughingstock in the process.

“Scared for this next group of kids,” Moorehead wrote in a tweet that he later deleted. “There is no accountability and no sense of positivity when it comes to adversity. #selfish #allaboutme”

He didn’t stop there. Here’s another since-deleted tweet.

Then Moorehead tried to walk his rant back slightly, claiming that everyone had misinterpreted his meaning. Too late. (These next two tweets have since been deleted, too.)

Moorehead did not have whatever impact he looking to make: Mannie Netherly, a highly-touted wide receiver prospect, immediately announced via Twitter that he too was reopening his recruitment after previously committing to Texas A&M.

Netherly left no doubt about the reason behind his change of heart. He blamed it squarely on Moorehead’s outburst.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Netherly even added multiple emoji exclamation points for emphasis. Damn. You know he’s serious.

But we haven’t even accounted for all of Moorehead’s self-inflicted damage yet.

Tyjon Lindsey is another blue-chip wide receiver prospect. He’s also reportedly close with Martell, the quarterback whose de-commitment sparked Moorehead’s meltdown in the first place. Lindsey had been considering Texas A&M, among other schools — but said that changed Wednesday night.

“I would like to say thank you to TAMU & fans but due to some tweets subtweeted towards my brother, I will no longer be looking at A&M,” Lindsey wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted.

So, to recap: High school athletes change their minds sometimes. That’s what happened with Martell. But Moorehead’s deranged reaction ended up costing the Aggies another previously committed recruit, as well as their shot at a third stud prospect.

Nice job, coach!

The Internet, no surprise, was merciless in drawing every ounce of derisive joy from Wednesday night’s events. Wikipedia, for example, identified him as Texas A&M’s “subtweeting coordinator” as of Thursday morning.

Some speculated Moorehead would be fired for his meltdown, but that didn’t seem to be the case Thursday. Moorehead returned to Twitter to post an apologetic message, writing “I need to do better & I will.”

Let’s step back for a second, though.

This whole thing is extremely odd on a great many levels.

Most of all, it’s weird that the college football sub-sport of recruiting — a process in which grown men woo teenage boys with sweet nothings and promises of glory — has become such a spectacle. We were all sitting there staring at our own backlit screens, gleefully reacting with each successive cringeworthy tweet from Moorehead. (This fascination with recruiting certainly didn’t begin this week as coverage of Martell’s short-lived commitment to University of Washington as a 14-year-old in 2012 shows.)

Such is the modern cycle of 24/7 sports #content, for better or worse. Simple games and backstories are not enough. Everything is spectacle, including previously minor events like college football recruiting and the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft now sprawls into an marathon affair that runs from Thursday through Saturday. Fans are delivered breathless reports on proposed trades, mulled offers, prospects on the rise and those whose stock is falling. Players get drafted, then walk across a stage and pull on a hat repping their new team. Analysts bloviate. For three days! It’s the epitome of what the bloated sports-content industrial complex has become.

This year’s NFL Draft, held April 28-30, delivered its own twisted take on the symbiotic relationship between social media and sports spectacle. But this is an even darker tale than Moorehead’s.

Laremy Tunsil’s mistake cost him millions of dollars.

Tunsil is a 6-foot-5, 305-pound absolute beast of an offensive lineman from the University of Mississippi. Many prognosticators had him going in the top five picks of Thursday’s first round.

Then something astonishing happened: Less than half an hour before the draft officially began, Tunsil’s Twitter account tweeted out a short video that appeared to show Tunsil smoking marijuana out of a bong that was connected to a gas mask, which he was wearing.

It bears repeating: The weed-smoking video came from the NFL prospect’s own account! Minutes before the biggest day of his professional life!

We’ll get to how this is even possible in a second, but more than anything the leak was costly. Tunsil fell from being a probable top-five pick to getting plucked by the Miami Dolphins with the draft’s 13th pick. The tumble cost Tunsil about $8 million.

So what happened? Tunsil’s camp says they are investigating, but it seems clear someone whom Tunsil once trusted used that trust against the football star to sabotage Tunsil on his most important night. A former business manager seems to be the prime suspect, at least for now — but the damage done on draft-night can’t be undone.

In Tunsil’s case, the sports media circus created by cable television and ‘roided out by social media had a dark underbelly. In the case of Aaron Moorehead, it had more comedic overtones, yet cast a stark new light on one of the seedier areas of sports coverage.

In both cases, the rest of us couldn’t look away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *