A witchhunt in Duckland

It all began, as far as I could tell, at about mid-morning Saturday when Fecta23 tweeted there might be some not-so-good news coming soon in Duckland.

Well, that’s what I understand Fecta23 opined. I never actually saw the tweet. I am not one of his 135 followers. It was gone by the time I checked.

That tidbit was quickly picked up by Rivals.com analyst Tony DiFrancisco (with 1,709 followers on Twitter), who subsequently tweeted: “The rumor going around is just that, a rumor. Not NCAA related, has to do with a player possibly leaving.”

I did see that before it, too, was removed.

Darron Thomas leaves as Oregon's all-time leader in TD passes.

From there, the “news” spread like a Central Oregon brush fire as it was retweeted and then moved to message boards, fan sites and Facebook.

With all kinds of speculation and finger-pointing thrown in.

By 2 p.m., the Ducks had lost or were on the verge of losing (you pick ‘em): Josh Huff, Darron Thomas, Bryan Bennett, Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, Justin Hoffman, Tra Carson, Tacoi Sumler, Devon Blackmon, Dion Jordan, Ricky Heimuli, Kiko Alonso, Anthony Wallace, Michael Clay, Dior Mathis and John Boyett.

If I missed anyone, please accept my apologies.

Oh, and please stop.

As we all know now, this rumor had legs and at approximately 5:30 p.m. the UO officially announced that Duck star quarterback Darron Thomas was putting his name into the NFL Draft, a departure that knocks Oregon from the list of 2012-13 national championship contenders.

But by then, plenty of other damage had been done.

I use social media all the time. I love social media for its timeliness and for its edginess and for its frankness. Not to mention it’s ability to source and to build and manage relationships.

I hate social media when it’s used to further rumors that dial up mass speculation for hours on end.

The point here is not to throw cold water on athletes leaving. This is the time of year, after all, when top players get their draft analysis and think about a future in The League. It’s also when other players begin pondering who is ahead of them on the depth chart and who is slated to be part of the next recruiting class. Some don’t like that picture. And they leap to another college program.

No, the point here is to ask, What’s the point?

Without a name and without any certainty, nothing was gained and so much was lost on Saturday.

Within an hour of that first tweet and retweet, the personal attacks on Oregon players on several message boards had started.

Duck wide receiver Josh Huff, who caught 31 passes in an injury-marred season, was one of the early targets.

No one knew who the player was in question — or even if the rumor was true — but in the minds of some it had to be Huff.

Here’s one: “Huff has contributed very little to our program. If he doesn’t want to be a part of one of the best teams in the country and a title contender next year, then adios amigos!”

And this one: “He would get more touches if he could do two things: Stay healthy and catch the freaking passes that hit you in the stomach.”

Then the witchhunt — and for some it was — continued. It turned to a backup receiver. “Please be Will Murphy. Please be Will Murphy.” wrote one. Then it was on to some of the freshmen who redshirted. And backup sophomores.

Darron Thomas — who led the program to heights never enjoyed before — received his share of shots, too.

Eventually, a few sane Oregon fans called the posters out and pounced on the personal attacks. But the march to find the Duck player in question continued unabated.

Dior Mathis isn’t getting enough playing time so he’s moving on to Michigan State!

Tra Carson misses home and is already on the road back to Texas!

Kenjon Barner fooled everyone and really is headed to the NFL!

The most reassuring messages on social media during the day came not from the UO saying there was no truth to the player rumor — although that would have been a nice conclusion to the whole ordeal — but rather from Oregon football player Carson York and Register-Guard reporter Rob Moseley.

York was appropriately blunt: “People need to realize it’s pitiful and in no way OK to publicly condemn or be angry about life decisions made by a person they don’t know.”

When asked about the rumor, Moseley tweeted: “If I’ve got something for publication, rest assured, we’ll publish it.”

When pressed to identify the player, Moseley responded, “Not how I do my job, sorry. If we’ve got something solid and newsworthy to report, we’ll do so.”

Eventually, he did.

At least someone got it right.

 

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  • k r

    I am very disappointed that DT is leaving, but wish him the best. Let’s face it, Oregon fans never really embraced him the way he deserved to be. I mean, really, 3 losses as a starter, one of them in a Natty and one to eventual runner up to a Natty? It doesn’t get much better than that, and yet he was continually dissed by Duck “fans.”

    • DaffyDuck

      Your last sentence should have more been  “…that, and yet he was continually dissed by (insert) SOME Duck “fans”.   Many/most real Duck fans value what he accomplished for Duck Football. What an incredible legacy he leaves behind for others to follow.  He certainly raised the bar incredibly high didn’t he.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Duke/100000487357794 Scott Duke

    Thank you for writing this!  It seems humanity will always be a work in progress.  This article is very good progress.  Thanks

  • Stephenmaher67

    Thanks, Scott and k r.

    Just trying to call attention to the importance of civility and common sense in matters like these.

  • http://www.FiShDuck.com Kurt Liedtke

    Fantastic article Steve, really well done. The level of idiocy and knee-jerk reaction I read online sometimes really bothers me, I never understood why there was so much animosity towards DT when looking at his stats his performance was like nothing we as Oregon fans had never seen before.
    It goes to show just how expectations have been raise…what, he threw one incomplete pass???  BENCH HIM NOW!!!!

  • John McBarron

    Darron Thomas is without a doubt the most accomplished quarterback to ever wear a Duck uniform.  His exploits on the field of play have given me such excitement and joy over the years and I am truly grateful for that. I hope he realizes success in the NFL, but success in college rarely guarantees that.  Either way, I have a hunch he will be a success in life whichever path he finds himself walking.  That said, I offer nothing but scorn and derision towards the idiots and trolls who use social media and public comment sites to advertise their emotional shortcomings and demonstrate their arrested development.  That includes “journalists” who offer back-handed compliments while slipping in unfounded rumors of players’ motivations (I’m talking to you, featured sports columnist for the state’s largest newspaper.)

  • Gageac

    Yesterday was a depressing day to follow the boards. With this team we have so very much to be grateful for even if things don’t always go our way. Thanks for a cogent contribution. Wishing the best for all our young folks.

  • DonealDuck

    Thank you for your article, Steve.  The vitriol on the other boards is disgusting.

    Career touchdown leader at a school that has produced 2 top three NFL draft picks and two NFL hall of fame quarterbacks.

    Almost 4 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio.

    BCS championship game passing yardage record holder.

    24 – 3 record.

    Losses only to first rounders Barkley and Newton, and LSU D.  2 – 0 against ‘best in last 10 years’ Luck, while outplaying him in both games.

    First Rose Bowl granddaddy-of-them-all victory in 95 years.

    I could go on….  but really… Why wouldn’t he give the NFL a shot now?!

    And the biggest question of all… Why would anyone say anything negative at all about this Oregon Duck?!?

    Thank you Darron for coming to Oregon and being a Duck.  Thank you for all the thrills and chills of being able to be a Duck fan and experience these last years through / with you.  Ignore the haters – I know you do…  Have a great life.  God speed.

  • El Hugo

    Thanks for providing a voice of reason here Steve.  Am continually amazed and discouraged by the sense of entitlement as well as the ingratitude and incivility that seems to have permeated a small but very vocal percentage of Oregon’s fan base.  Would love to see this particular assortment of self-indulgent fools called out like this on a regular basis.  Unfortunately for many social mediots the concept of basic human decency seems beyond grasp.  Welcome to the new frontier….

  • Sam Glass

    Nice job Steve. We could all use the reminder to confirm our sources in life before we say anything about anyone. And then, even if confirmed, why cut someone? Lots of motives here, and not all are rational.

    Personally, I loved Darron #1/5, first at Boise State, ending at the Rose Bowl, and wish him all the best. He was truly remarkable as a Duck and his feats may never be equaled. But maybe the program didn’t have anything more to offer him, and his future challenges in life are elsewhere.

    The team has a huge opening to fill and several motivated prospects in line for our expectations. I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds.

  • sbfan

    Thanks for the article.  It convinced me of what I had been feeling for a while: a significant minority of people on the fan boards like freeload.  Criticism without consequence.  From now on I am sticking with FishDuck, which I love.

    Cheers.