There is nothing quite as exhilarating as being a die-hard college football fan. The blood gets pumping, tents sprout in the parking lots, sausages sizzle on the grill. The adrenaline courses through your veins. Go Team, indeed!
The problem is, some people can’t properly put into perspective what rooting for a team means. They lose track of their boundaries, get too caught up in their emotions when things don’t go their way. They allow their partisanship to spiral out of control in a nasty way.
Sometimes when this happens, big problems result. Insults are hurled, fights break out, social media wars ramp up and rage.
And occasionally, innocent athletes are threatened with harm by sociopaths.
Take Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, for example. We just found out the kid was forced to delete his social media accounts after receiving death threats after the Nittany Lions were upset by Minnesota on Nov. 9.
“I usually delete it closer to games, but I completely deleted it after the Minnesota game,” Clifford told reporters this week. “It’s kind of sad to say, but you know how fans sometimes get. … It gets a little crazy. I was kind of, I guess, sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.”
We understand the loss to Minnesota put Penn State’s dream of a birth in the College Football Playoff in grave danger. Instead of being undefeated and in contention for one of the four sports, the Nittany Lions are on the outside looking in and reliant on bad things happening to a bunch of other teams. And it didn’t help matters when Minnesota then immediately lost to Iowa.
Is that enough reason for someone, or some group, to threaten the life of a college kid who was obviously doing his best to help his team win. In the loss, Clifford threw for 340 yards and a touchdown but also tossed three interceptions, including one on PSU’s final drive.
Still, Clifford has thrown for 2,450 yards, 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions. And he is one of the reasons Penn State (8-1) has a real chance to upset Ohio State (10-0) Saturday in the biggest game of the year in the Big Ten.
This incident has obviously had an impact within the Penn State football community. These teams are a family and when something like this happens, they close ranks to protect and support each other.
“I don’t know where we are as a society. It’s concerning,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “We’re 9-1, we’re ranked in the top 10, I think. We’ve had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards, and sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way.
“You hate to see it, but the sad thing [is] it’s a part of our reality of our society right now. You see that in a lot of areas; the last thing I want to do is get into other things besides football right now, but you see a lot of things that are behaviors in our society now that we accept, that I don’t know why we’re accepting. You see some things from a violence perspective, you see some things that people in positions how they’re conducting themselves, just a lot of things that we’re accepting in our society that we would never have accepted before.”
During his comments, Franklin also said former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, who now plays in the NFL, was also the target of death threats during his career.
“You learn how to deal with certain things and how certain people are just gonna react because, you know, it’s a very passionate game with a lot of passionate people,” Clifford said. “Our fans are definitely one of if not the most passionate in the country. I just try to stay away from it. I appreciate all of the positive people that are around, but there are also people that try to tear you down.
“It’s always just been better to keep your head away from that kind of stuff.”
Unfortunately, this kind of stuff happens more often than you might think. We just don’t hear about it.
Earlier this year in Boston, a former college soccer player was accused of sending racist death threats to dozens of athletes when their performances caused him to lose bets.
Addison Choi, a heavy gambler who lost more than he won, posted multiple times on the Instagram accounts of at least 45 athletes and their families.
“I’ll find your f—ing family and skin them alive you stupid f—, I hope you never play again,” he allegedly once wrote.
In another incident in 2017, he wrote this on a professional athlete’s Instagram account: “I will kill you and your family and f—ing hang them on a tree you stupid ugly motherf—–” and “I hope you f—ing die you stupid monkey n—-.”
It’s chilling, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is where we sometimes find ourselves as a society. And for kids like Clifford, it’s a state of affairs they have no right to be exposed to.