Sticking Together Despite Scotland’s Social Issues

Last night Nick De Luca withdrew from the world of Twitter.

It was a move that was brought about because of a torrent of abuse pumped out through the social media outlet. Some fans, angry about the way things had been going and looking for a target, decided to abuse the centre, who had been yellow carded for his senseless off-the-ball tackle of Jonathan Davies in the defeat to Wales.

This is a point of contention because it brings back arguments made a week earlier when Dan Parks was said to have retired following a torrent of vitriol. He has since stated that he did not retire because of this, but because he felt the time was right.

The upshot of this was that several quarters rose to defend Parks. They also offered several reasons as to why he was abused. Some said it was because he was Australian by birth. I tend to dismiss this as nonsense. I wrote a piece about Parks for Talking Rugby Union where I appealed for a balanced view of the player and I tend to give most rugby fans more credit than labelling them sheep or impulsive drones. I feel that most did a primitive SWOT analysis, of sorts, and decided Parks’ weaknesses outweighed his strengths. However, what is important is that he was faced with abuse and no professional in any vocation should have to face that.

On the way to a press conference with Steve Scott, rugby writer for the Courier, we discussed Parks before the squad to play England was even selected. He stated his view that Parks was the pragmatic choice and I tended to agree. We both accepted he had had his fair share of sledging from the fans and that he would never win them round. At this point I ventured forth with a prediction that Nick De Luca would share the same fate.

For my clairvoyant sins, I wish I was wrong.  My argument was that with a similar SWOT analysis most would see how steady he was, how good his 2011/2012 Edinburgh form was and compare it with his list of blunders from a missed pick-up in the World Cup to his past performances where he chased a game too hard.

It seems that it has come to pass and a select minority have acted upon this analysis and vocalised their dismay. To the player himself.  With expletives and hate.

The issue with this is that De Luca is no Parks. He still has time to translate his Edinburgh form for Scotland. If nurtured he could be Scotland’s 13 outside a new 12. He has the skills and he has been ever present in Edinburgh’s good Heineken run. Yes he has made mistakes and is yet to do that one brilliant thing to win us all over. With support he has more of a chance of getting there.

With Twitter it is a place for players to voice their opinions. Sometimes. I have heard some players state that the Union sometimes exerts a bit too much control on them in terms of what they say on social networking sites, but by and large it is a good forum for players to interact with their fans.

Unfortunately another player, like Rory Lamont, who had something different to say and did not just harp on about Nando’s and Xbox has been forced to silence themselves. Even more worrying than this players have come out and condemned sections of the fans and called in to question the level of support some are getting.

I had a lively discussion about ‘negativity’ in the social sphere with some fans today. They stated that the press played some part in this by promoting negative opinions. I will state that our nation’s expectations before the 6 Nations started where out of scope, too high and too optimistic. I will also suggest that some sections of the press have been a bit harsher with their pointing out of poor performance than others.

I would not, though, suggest for one second that professional journalists in Scotland would want Scotland to do badly or that they thrive on negativity. They are fans like you or I and they have different ways of pointing out that too few risks have been taken with selection or that big mistakes were made by individuals or that our attack has been toothless. These are unavoidable facts.

However, in this discussion valuable points were made. Fans should band together when times are tough like this, and abuse should never be uttered.

My biggest concern in all of this is that a rift may form between the players and the supporters. It is hard enough for a team that is reeling from two losses. They do not need to invent in their head a scenario where they are facing their opponents and their own fans.

I asked the SRU for an official statement about whether or not they were concerned about abuse and whether they were worried about an ‘us versus everyone else’ mentality forming in cliques within their camp. All I got in return was: “Scottish Rugby believes social media is a useful and positive tool for players and coaches alike to engage with supporters of both professional clubs and the national team.  We greatly appreciate all the support from fans and we will continue to support players using social media.”

They may be closing ranks on this one. Maybe the fans should do the same…

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

9 comments on “Sticking Together Despite Scotland’s Social Issues

  1. Cameron Black on

    I’ve had some time to reflect on this and whilst I don’t in any way condone the behaviour of the people involved “trolling” is a common problem on the Internet, especially Twitter and it’s not likely to go away.
    NDL isn’t the 1st and won’t be the last person in the public eye to recieve abuse and we can’t blame him for leaving if it’s got to him he can’t be bothered with the hassle of putting up with it.
    I think that the SRU and clubs have a responsibility to talk to players about how to handle themselves online. Don’t want to expose yourself to abuse? Then use the privacy settings. Want to engage with fans? Then you need to understand that there’s a minority of “fans” out there that are bampots and are going to give you dogs abuse and you’re going to have to ignore it or learn to rise above it.
    Mind saying that I’ve listened to players in local amateur games get dogs abuse from the sidelines so maybe “trolling” on Twitter is just an old problem rearing its head in a new way?

  2. Alan Dymock on

    It is certainly something you couldn’t eradicate. I just hope it doesn’t become us and them. Fans are also entitled to their opinion, so if it’s legal sorry, but you’re going to need a thicker skin.

    On the other hand I hope players aren’t banned. Have heard first hand stories of some pro players being censored and even having warnings over ‘innocuous’ Twitter comments…

  3. Dave on

    Great article Alan, wholeheartedly agree.

    I believe that fans are entitled to their opinion of players, positive or negative, but there is a line between criticism and personal abuse. Unfortunately a minority are ruining it for the vast majority of fans out there. Its ok to be a bit frustrated when a pass doesnt go, or a silly mistake is made, but these guys are doing their jobs, for many of them, id imagine playing for scotland is a lifelong dream, give them credit where its due.

  4. JP Swain on

    What a shame for Nick, but more for us as fans and supporters. The times I’ve met Nick and talked to him, I’ve always found him to be a very very nice guy, willing to talk and more importantly, listen. He certainly does seem to be yet another lightning rod for Scottish fans. His Edinburgh form is usually nothing short of excellent, and no he hasn’t yet translated that to the navy blue, but he hasn’t enjoyed a long run of games as a starter at 13 and rarely plays with a 12 that can or is willing to pass him the ball.

    That being said, Nick I appeal to your Latin heritage when I say “Illegitimi non carborundum” – don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  5. EAM on

    AD, think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your comment: “outside a new 12” – until we have a genuine IC, I fear that NdL could struggle.

    Also, pretty much agree with Cameron Black’s comments above

  6. Andy K on

    NDL’s shortcomings are in the main down to lack of concentration and poor ball retention. He has also shown at the weekend (in an isolated incident admittedly) that he can make poor decisions under pressure.

    I’m not sure how playing outside a better 12 alleviates any of these issues.

  7. Cyber Noodle on

    Lads I’m pretty disgusted by the people posting abuse on twitter aimed at individual players. Lest we forget these guys are putting their bodies on the line for our country. Dont get me wrong, I enjoy constructive debate on the ins and outs of our national game as much as the next man (ie top bloggers including pigeon and Phoenix) however the appropriate place for this is on forums such as this. Congrats guys on a great website. Im not knocking twitter, as i enjoy following the respective Webmasters on it however they do not abuse this social networking site nor do they adopt a lynch mob mentality.

    On a more positive note, I’ve taken great pleasure in reading the comments regarding the long overdue acknowledgment of the contribution of players on this blog who may have recieved less media attention in the past in particular Geoff ‘girth’ cross. If that guy had twitter I would retweet him like hell!

  8. andy mercer on

    Noodle, reading your blog worries me.Your viewing these PROFFESIONALS as if their MEAT! Lets stick to SPORT even if it is
    poor!! The ENGLISHMEN in charge needs sending HOMEWARD TO THINK AGAIN!!!!

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