Social media, athletes and Bobby Wagner

Professional athletes have been using twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media for what seems forever.

College athletes, likewise, are getting into the act and sometimes — like it has been with their professional counterparts — it does not end well. Aside from sloppy language and spiffy punctuation all too common with text messages and twitter, the wrong message is too frequently sent out for anyone with a wireless connection to read.

Take Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner, for example.

Wagner is an outstanding linebacker, a good guy and a good person.

But when he took part in an online question-and-answer session with friends and fans, what he thought was a sarcastic answer turned out to upset more than a few Aggie fans.

On a formspring.me chat, Wagner fielded questions and gave quick replies and tried to be funny doing it. He said LeBron James was the best QB in the NFL, for example.

Other answers, though, rubbed some the wrong way. Case in point:

Q: You glad you ballin at USU?
A: not really but im happy im playin footbal and get a chance to be on tv

Q: What stadium is louder Utah’s or byu’s
A: it depends on how many mormans are not there tht day.. utah’s

Q: whats the best thing about usu?
A: white people are nice enough to feed yu everyday if yu asked then

Replies such as those might translate differently in a face-to-face setting than in an online world where context is lost. I have no idea what the true intent was behind them. Sarcastic, joking, whatever, the replies illustrate how interacting with fans and speaking without thinking can get someone upset.

Wagner, after only a couple of hours, quickly realized what he had done and went back online to smooth the ruffled feathers.

“i would like to apologize to all the utah state fans. i realized that ive made some statements that where idiotic on my behave,” he said on his Facebook page. “i thought of them as a joke but did not mean it in negative way. if i have offended anyone i would like to again send you my deepest apology. I LOVE USU and the people of logan and cant wait for the up and coming season. GO Aggies!!!!”

Wagner, who also has a twitter account where the formspring Q&A was posted, sent out messages to express his loyalty to Utah State when he was asked he was even at USU if he didn’t like it.

“for everyones info it was my decision to apologize not my coaches. ive read the blogs and understand how you guys feel but belive me.” he wrote. “i will do everythin in my power to get usu to a bowl game and i love my teammates and im not lyin when i say this. bwagz aka utah state football player and lovin every minute of it.”

Wagner said the coaches didn’t pressure him to apologize. But in a world where words can easily be misinterpreted, or thoughts can be expressed without enough thought, a little offline coaching sometimes is in order.

Nothing a few hundred up-downs in practice probably didn’t clear up.

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