If you're an Eagles fan, you probably know that 28 current Eagles are confirmed on Twitter. As of last spring, which was the most recent accounting I could find, 460,000 people per day were signing up to divulge their thoughts 140 characters at a time, with smartphone usage
In good times, it's a way for players to connect with their public without being hassled while trying to eat dinner or go shop at the mall. But these are not good times. What Twitter does in bad times is give fans an outlet to express their disappointment directly and pungently to a player. So I was wondering, as the end of the season approaches, has this been a tough year to be an Eagle on Twitter?
"Yes!!" said wideout Riley Cooper (@RileyCooper_14).
"I respond. I think that's all they want sometimes, is a response. They'll say something like, 'Hey, you're the worst receiver in the history of football! You effing suck!' And I'll be, like, 'Thanks, God bless.' . . . Kill 'em with kindness, I guess,"
"I like it when you can interact with fans and stuff, but after a couple losses, sometimes, they can get ruthless."
Cooper is a second-year Eagle, from Florida, where he roomed with the sainted Tim Tebow. His expectation of fan feedback might be a little different than that of someone more attuned to Eagles fandom and its unique passion. (Some people might substitute the word "pathology" for "passion." But we don't know any of those people. Honest.)
Tight end Brent Celek (@BrentCelek) has been here since 2007 and is very active in the community, owning an Old City bar-restaurant with tackle Todd Herremans.
"It's understandable," Celek said of Twitter heckling. "That's something that's expected, especially when you have a very talented team and you don't play well."
Celek said much of the negativity on his feed came early in the season. He said he did not attempt to engage followers (51,120 as of yesterday afternoon) in dialogue.
"I just try to ignore it. They were right in what they were saying. We weren't playing well. You can't sit there and argue with somebody that's telling the truth," Celek said.
Like Celek, defensive end Darryl Tapp (@dtapp55), who tends to be extremely courteous and upbeat, isn't upset if fans get a little chippy.
"They voice their opinion. All you can do is empathize with 'em. They're paying their money to see a good product out there, all year long," Tapp said.
Perhaps the wittiest Eagles tweeter is left guard Evan Mathis (@EvanMathis69). A sample Mathis tweet from this past week: "Kobe's wife leaves him and he tears a ligament in his wrist. That joke tells itself."
"I usually just turn it into humor" if someone wants to be critical, Mathis said. "Sometimes there's constructive criticism, sometimes there's people not knowing what they're talking about. Sometimes there's people just talking to talk . . . You're putting yourself out there by being on Twitter. It's social media. You can't expect everybody to just praise you at all times. Everybody has an opinion, and they're welcome to express it."
Mathis played in Carolina, Miami and Cincinnati before coming to the Eagles this summer. He was amazed by what being an Eagle did to his Twitter following (of course, it's also true that so many more people are using it now, everywhere, than a few years back).
"I think in training camp when I got here, I might have had six or seven hundred [followers]. Now I'm almost at 7,000," Mathis said. "It definitely goes to show the passion of the Eagles' fans, as well as the exposure of the Eagles' market."
Mathis said he uses Twitter mostly "to be funny and to have fun with it. I get some comedic replies, more often than not."
Middle linebacker Jamar Chaney (@Jamar51Chaney) said he has learned that he doesn't want to look at his mentions after a loss. But he said he replies to critics who don't curse or get crazy on him, and often that defuses anger.
"Sometimes I reply, especially if a lot of people are saying the same thing," Chaney said. "Some of them have an understanding, once I say something back to them, and some of them don't . . . It doesn't affect me. That's why I'm still on it."
Listening in while Chaney was talking was linebacker Casey Matthews (@CaseyMatthews50). Matthews, the rookie starter in the middle when the season began, became a favorite fan whipping boy. Matthews hasn't tweeted in more than 3 weeks and says he has "deactivated" his account. Matthews definitely fits into the category of a newcomer to Eagles Nation who has not felt welcomed, on Twitter or elsewhere. In one of his last tweets, Matthews said: "Setting the record straight, I appreciate the passion and loyalty that ALL Eagle Fans have. I'm just saying it's tough to hear boos at home."
Second-year defensive end Brandon Graham (@BGraham54) missed the first half of the season recovering from microfracture surgery and hasn't gotten a lot of snaps since coming back. He probably needs a full offseason and training camp to show he's worthy of having been drafted 13th overall in 2010, if he indeed is worthy. Like Matthews, Graham has become an outlet for fan frustrations, especially with fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, taken two slots later, playing well for the Giants.
"I really don't like messing with it right now," Graham said of Twitter this week. "The fans, they're kind of like, a little too much."
Graham said the vitriol he sees, he doesn't think he could counter with a reasoned response.
"Some of the stuff that they say to me is like, 'Damn!' I don't even want to police it," he said. "I don't want to have to say anything - 'Get the [bleep] out of here, you bust!' It's all good, though. It ain't doing nothing but motivating me to get right. I don't even have it anymore, really. I try to stay away.
"I don't want anybody seeing me somewhere, I said something back to them [on Twitter], you never know how it could go. They're going to [recognize] me before I see them. So I just try to stay away from it. Even when I start doing what I do [playing better], I'm going to try to stay away from it . . . I might just have somebody running it, have me say certain things. I don't really want to use it anymore, right now."
Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson was voted the team's 2011 Ed Block Courage Award by his teammates. Patterson will undergo an offseason surgical procedure to correct a tangle of blood vessels, a brain AVM, that caused him to suffer a seizure and be hospitalized in training camp.
Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.