McElroy: As latest O.J. Simspon case showed, social media is America’s gathering place | Sports

What I learned in sports this week is some things remain the same and some have really changed.

Very similar to how the country gathered 22 years ago to watch O.J. Simpson stand trial for the double murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, there we were again Thursday gathered to hear the former Heisman Trophy winner plead his case for parole from incarceration over his 2008 conviction for armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Unlike 1995 when people huddled in masses in restaurants, department stores and sidewalks outside the courtroom, this time America congregated on social media.

There was commentary on every word O.J. said. Potshots on the past, especially after he noted he’s lived “a mostly conflict free life.” It even included fashion critiques on Nevada Board of Parole commissioner Adam Endel wearing a Kansas City Chiefs tie.

All right there flying at 140 characters.

Full admission: Twitter is the only social media I participate in, and, yes, it’s a problem at times. OK, it’s an addiction. I live in a fear, as sports writer Dan Le Batard once said, “We are going to evolve into a generation of hunched over people with bulges out of the top of our neck from staring down at our phones.”

Yet, Thursday there I was: O.J. on the TV, phone in hand, perusing public reaction and adding a few thoughts of my own.

What caused me to ponder was watching the footage from the O.J. case in the 1990s of how people gathered in masses to watch the trial. They actually gathered. No phones. No staring down but rather forward actually talking with one another.

Can you imagine if the iPhone was around for the night of the Bronco chase? Everybody would have been trying to take selfies as Al Cowlings drove down the 405.

Ever wonder about certain events if they happened in the time of social media?

How ugly would Twitter have got the night Bill Buckner let the ball go between his legs? What about when Buster Douglas knocked down Mike Tyson?

Oh, and could you imagine poor Steve Bartman if he had a Facebook page?

Social media has become America’s gathering place.

It’s not only where we learn of the big moments but where we instantly go to see who is saying what about it.

Ever hop on Twitter during a sporting event? It’s like being in a sports bar minus the beer and wings. “This guy should be fired! He’s a (bum!) Thank goodness I started him in fantasy football.”

A perk is, unlike your favorite watering hole, if somebody is annoying, you can mute or even block them. Try to do that at Buffalo Wild Wings for real and somebody will mute you, physically.

The ironic part is, even if you go to the sports bar, everybody’s on their phones anyway! It’s even worse at a game. Next time you go to a sporting event, take your nose out of a phone and realize how many others have their attention focused on screens and not the actual field in front of them.

If there’s a big touchdown or a monster home run, there’s no just embracing the moment, but rather needing to post about it on Twitter, Facebook or, as Bill Belichick said this past NFL season, “Snapface or Instachat.”

It might be difficult, but next time you’re at a sports bar, try to start a conversation with words, not fingertips. Maybe on your next visit to the ballpark, take in the sights, the smells and actually watch the game in real time.

Enjoy the experience so you can say you “experienced” it.

Then, last but not least, just remember to tell me about it on Twitter @WesFoxSports910.

Wes McElroy hosts a daily sports talk show from 6-9 a.m. on WRNL (910).

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