Twitter can be a cruel place, especially for an athlete. Players can be cemented in sports lore for making the play that wins a championship. They can also be berated for making a minor mistake in an inconsequential game.
In addition to handling all of their team-related responsibilities, student-athletes have also had to adjust to dealing with taking criticism on social media in the last handful of years.
For some players, that can be daunting and it may even cause them to walk away from their passion. For others, like Ohio State junior right guard Billy Price, they use it as something to learn and grow from.
“Realize that they have no impact on your life,” Price said of what the secret is to not getting bogged down by the critics on Twitter. “No offense. You have to learn it. After Virginia Tech (in 2014) I gave up five, six, seven sacks, whatever it was. I got absolutely nailed. And that’s deservingly so. I didn’t play well. I didn’t play good at all.
“People won’t say it to your face. I was out that night with some friends and people were like, ‘Hey, man how are you doing? You play football? Great, cool.’ Nobody said anything. You go on Twitter and everybody and their mother sits there and crucifies you.”
At the time, Price was a little shaken by all the flak he received from fans on the social media site. He even admitted that athletes will have instances where they question if they want to continue playing.
“We’ve all had those moments,” Price said. “You go into your freshman spring and you think, ‘I could do this and I don’t have to do this. I could go play track or do this or this.’ You start contemplating all the options. For me, once you got out there on a Saturday it kind of made everything worth it.”
It didn’t take too long for Price to learned to not take the condemnation personally, though.
“Probably midway through that redshirt freshman year (2014),” Price said of when he figured out how to accept the criticism. “Once you mess up a couple times, everybody’s going to say something about how bad you are. You get with your coaches and you get with the guys who are helping you get better.”
Price added that understanding the fact that fans’ opinions have no influence on him also helped him not get emotionally attached to fans’ thoughts.
“It doesn’t really have an impact because the guys in this building and your family and your loved ones and people around you, those are the people that matter to you,” Price said. “It’s a maturation process. It’s a learning curve.
“You’re not going to come in and ball out. It just does not happen. The last guy to come in and annihilate people was who, Orlando Pace? It’s part of the maturation process, especially as a young guy. I went from playing high school dudes to I’ve got to go stop (former Virginia Tech defensive end) Dadi Nicolas and some of those guys from Wisconsin. It’s a learning curve.”
Fans really tested Price’s tolerance when they took a different avenue on Twitter to ridicule him.
“They tweeted at my girlfriend, man,” Price said. “I had people tweet at my girlfriend. Saying stuff like, ‘Your boyfriend’s trash, you should be embarrassed.’ Get a life, dude. Get a life, man.
“Don’t come to my girlfriend. Come to me. Trust me, we all look. Everybody knows what happens. Everybody knows what goes on Twitter. They hate (sophomore right tackle) Isaiah Prince and they hate Billy Price. We all see it. Twitter is a public space. Just stay in your lane, man.”
After Price told that anecdote, a reporter asked him what his response would be to those fans who tweeted at his girlfriend about him.
“I’ll give you the helmet if you want it,” Price said. “You can come to practice on Tuesday and you can do these things if you want. You love our fans and you kind of shake your head at the other ones. Come on, don’t tweet my girlfriend, man.”
Prince has become the target of interest this year due to his shaky play throughout the season and poor performances vs. Penn State and Michigan. The PSU defense recorded six sacks against the Buckeyes while the Wolverines notched eight.
Seeing as Price went through a similar situation as Prince is experiencing now, the seasoned veteran has been there to guide his line mate on how to cope with the heat he receives on Twitter.
“I talk to Isaiah all the time about that,” Price said. “We took Twitter off his phone after Penn State. It’s not just the first-team guys looking at it. Sometimes it’s the second-team guys that are like, ‘Oh my God, so-and-so just said something. Look at that.’ Then there’s like an accumulation of them. We were like, ‘Hey, Zay, don’t look. Give us your phone.’ It’s not good for a player’s health, especially after a performance like that. I’ve been through it. I did that. I was that.”
Price also put to rest the notion that some athletes don’t look at social media at all, and did so in a festive manner.
“They’re lying,” Price said of players claiming they do not search through social media sites. “I see what all you guys do. I’m like Santa Claus at Christmas. I’m the Santa Claus of Twitter. I know who’s been naughty or nice, trust me.”