Michigan State coach Tom Izzo understands why players are frustrated with fan negativity, particularly with the role of Twitter in today's sports culture.
In an appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike, Izzo discussed Marcus Smart's shoving of a Texas Tech fan and how the player-fan relationship has changed with the new developments in social media. Izzo argues that Twitter is not dangerous for what players might say, but instead what fans can say to players.
"It doesn't matter what you tweet. It's what you read," Izzo said on Mike & Mike on Monday. "That's what I keep telling my guys. We can control what they tweet, to a certain extent. They're going to get frustrated sometimes and probably say something stupid. But it's what they read. If somebody's writing stuff about your daughter when she's in high school, I'll bet you look at it a little differently. I've had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what's being written. That's what brings the frustration level.
"Marcus Smart is one heck of a guy. I love the kid. I spent three hours with him, and he's every bit what they say. But you know what? We all get frustrated, and I think he's getting grilled on that. We have no way of getting away from it. When you're in the gym, two hours, they're yelling at you, you get away, go back to your dorm and life becomes normal. Not anymore. Those same people at that arena are now yelling at you on Twitter. You can say, 'Don't read it,' but I don't think it's the way our kids are brought up."
You could argue that players have the ability use Twitter's block function to avoid having to read such vitriol, but the incessant nature of fan harassment on social media, particularly during the season when the spotlight is the brightest, makes such an effort seem like an unwinnable war.
These are 18- to 22-year-olds trying to balance basketball, school and a personal life -- which includes communication with their peers on Twitter. It is tough to imagine the frustration of that fan negativity from this seat, and it's understandable why Izzo has chosen to share some of his own experiences from those situations.