For anyone who thinks sportsmen and women should be banned from using Twitter and other social networking sites, i urge you to think again. And I can think of no better example to state my case for the invaluable merits of social media than Rory McIlroy’s defence of his caddy.
When the US Open champion Rory McIlroy felt Jay Townsend’s criticism of his caddie JP Fitzgerald was “one comment too far” the immediate means of reply via Twitter was deliciously effective and turned the tables on the media establishment who have enjoyed dishing out their opinions without challenge or contradiction for far too long.
As someone who has worked in the business for over 30 years i have witnessed first hand the power of the media and have often been embarrassed by the way many have abused this privilege and subjected defenceless parties to campaigns, vendettas and blatant bullying.
I am not suggesting that in the case of BBC 5 Live pundit Jay Townsend he was doing anything other than giving his opinion, which he certainly has every right to do in a free world where we value freedom of speech so highly. But congratulations to McIlroy, who admirably had the strength of character to defend his caddy in an impressively effective manner. The fact he did it via Twitter meant he did not have to risk being misquoted or misrepresented by the media – and it was immediate.
Former European tour player Townsend had described McIlroy’s course management during the final holes of his opening round at the Irish Open as shocking, to which McIlroy quickly replied on Twitter: “Shut up … you’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!”
Speaking to the BBC, McIlroy has since repeated that he believes Townsend’s remarks were unfair and said he has no respect for the 5 live pundit, explaining: “Jay has been having a go at my caddy for three years now. It started in switzerland in 08.”
McIlroy added: “It was just one comment too far. I had to stand up for JP. He has taken me from 200th in the world to a major champion and now fourth in the world. I don’t care if he criticises me but JP cant stand up for himself in the media”
Twitter is a perfect platform for sportsmen and women and celebrities from every walk of life because it puts them closer to their fans and the general public. In an age where sporting heroes have less contact with ordinary men and women in face to face situations, social media interaction is a priceless means of direct communication.