It’s A Fan’s Right To Gripe

Because the pain is too intense, and the wound is still fresh even seven years after the fact, I rarely speak about the injustice done to my person: I was Twitter-blocked by Bryan Harsin.

The year of infamy was 2013, and Mr. Harsin was the head coach of Arkansas State, having inherited riches from celebrity coaches Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn. On September 21, the Red Wolves made the quick trip to Memphis take on the blue-striped Tigers, a team we had dominated in recent meetings.

It was a mid-afternoon game. The weather was insanely perfect; sunny, mild. A former citizen of Memphis, I seated myself among my old brethren, all of whom expected to see their beloved Tigers manhandled by the up-an-coming Red Wolves. I assured them that we would be tough but also mercifully gentle.

The Tigers proceeded to unceremoniously roll Arkansas State 31-7 behind a fairly mediocre performance from future NFL first round draft pick Paxton Lynch. The Red Wolves looked hopeless at every facet of the game, save an iconic “Superman” TD dive from Red Wolves Legend J.D. McKissic.

After the game, I was filled with 1) beer, and 2) chagrin. I pulled out my Twitter box and hinted that maybe Bryan Harsin had underestimated the Tigers and the fan’s thirst for the rivalry. I likely retweeted reports that Tigers players were bragging post-game that they knew every play that was coming from the Red Wolves, implying that Harsin’s offense was predictable as a Nicholas Spark’s novel. I was unhappy.

The next day, I was Twitter blocked by Harsin. But I wasn’t alone! It was a social media massacre. Dozens and dozens of Red Wolves fans had been digitally divorced by the program’s head football coach. Harsin wasn’t in the mood for criticism, constructive or otherwise. It was a social fuck you.

It’s a fan’s right to gripe. We’re solicited for our devotion, and when we give it, we’re often ordered to leave our opinions at the cashier’s window. We buy the tickets. We donate to the foundations. We purchase the merch. We fill the seats and we subscribe to the cable packages. Fans have no right to be abusive to players or dicks to coaches, but we’ve earned the right to weigh in.

Following the Harsin Twitter Massacre, the Red Wolves have been incredibly transparent to the fans, with AD Terry Mohajir bearing the slings and arrows of fan dismay with relative good grace. Coach Blake Anderson has, on occasion, blocked aggressive fans on his Twitter feed, but overall he bears criticism well. He’s even reached out to me to discuss my own critiques, politely offering his point of view when he could have just ignored me.

It’s a fan’s right to gripe. With our devotion comes expectations. We want results in exchange for our dollars. But mostly, we want a program to be proud of. And if you ask us to invest in your program both financially and emotionally, you must also embrace the darker shades of enthusiasm that follows a loss.

Players, coaches, and fans want the same thing: victory. We’re alike after all.