The Cowboys are at training camp without Jason Witten for the first time since before television was invented. It’s a big change, but they happen in life.
Witten is still employed near the game of football though. It’s been well-chronicled how he’s joined the ESPN Monday Night Football booth as their color analyst, I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s going to be a lot of fun to see what he has to say.
Apparently Gold Jacket Witt is going to do more than talking at ESPN. On Friday he released a written piece (Witt’s always welcome at BTB, just saying) talking about the perils of social media within an NFL locker room. It’s definitely worth your time.
This is the day and age of subtweeting and burner accounts. While there are definitely people who choose not to partake in any level of social media, the reality is that it’s a huge part of our culture and an even bigger part of the landscape in professional sports.
Witten addressed the pitfalls that he’s seen players fall into when it comes to this rabbit hole. He cited specific examples and seeing as he only ever played for the Dallas Cowboys, he’s obviously referring to things that happened within this organization.
I’ve seen the negative impact social media can have, particularly on younger players, who grew up with Twitter and Instagram as an integral part of life.
A player checking Twitter at halftime? I’ve seen it.
A player tweeting out a grievance with an organization about playing time or how he is being utilized? I see it far too often.
But the most concerning? Watching a really talented player corrupt his mind and confidence by reading all the critiques from anonymous football experts around the world. Negative social media can ruin a player. Reading your mentions? It’s poison.
When it comes to a player tweeting out an issue with playing time Witten notes that he “sees it far too often.” He could just be referencing seeing it across other NFL teams or even throughout the world of sports. Kevin Durant’s missteps in social media are hardly secrets.
Witten has only ever been in one halftime locker room, though, that of the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of things go on during halftime (medical treatment, hydration, individual meetings, etc.) and no one is saying a player shouldn’t look at their phone, but do you think they should look at their phone?
This will undoubtedly raise questions about the focus Jason Garrett may or may not command during the game’s intermission period, but let’s pump the brakes there. The Dallas Cowboys are not the only professional sports teams who’s players check their phones when they have a free second. It happens everywhere.
Checking Twitter may not even necessarily be a bad thing if it’s someone just giving it a glance, but as Witten notes the criticisms and negative comments all too often play a large role in the psychology of players. It’s not fun to read someone saying negative things about you, regardless of your profession or the context.
Hopefully the Cowboys players heed Witten’s advice and separate themselves a bit from the digital world this season, especially while playing games. I’m the first one to acknowledge how cool it is that players are expressing themselves and controlling their narrative on their own platforms, but the unfortunate reality is that they leave themselves susceptible to a whole different world in the process.