NFL PROSPECTS: BE CAREFUL WHO YOU “FRIEND”

leinartgettindownStumbled upon another good article on Yahoo! Sports this morning, which has quickly become one of the better sites to read interesting sports news. Charles Robinson’s article is titled “Social Networking a Potential Trap for Prospects.” Here’s the gist: NFL teams are starting fake Facebook profiles to dig up dirt on college players that they might be drafting.

Good thinking.

I remember college… the first time you really got out from under your parents roof. You could eat whatever and whenever you wanted. Play videogames instead of do homework, drink beers, watch movies, and do whatever it was that you decided at that particular moment seemed reasonable. Way back when I was in school, we didn’t have Facebook or MySpace to waste time, we did it on AOL Instant Messenger or cruising Napster for new music downloads. I remember when my roommate first got a digital camera — it was clunky, expensive, wasn’t easy to connect to a computer, and eventually ended up broken like just about everything else he bought.

College meant doing stuff you could do that people didn’t find out about. If you did have crazy photos from that party you went to, you made sure to hide the photos in an album under your bed, or in a shoebox mixed in with a bunch of old baseball cards.

But today, you can be at a party on Friday night and in a Facebook photo album by the next morning. There are photos of college girls on the internet doing things I’d have been mortified to have people find out about… and they’re being shared on the internet by the girl in the picture. I am continually shocked by people that seem to have common sense, yet they find it logical to fill the world in on every minute detail of their world.

These people include top NFL prospects. Looking through Mel Kiper’s draft prospects, a quick search of Facebook finds multiple players on Mel’s big board. Controversial players like Percy Harvin, Vontae Davis, and B.J. Raji, all who found their names rightly or wrongly associated with a positive drug at the NFL combine, all maintain Facebook pages. Raji even took to his Facebook “status update” to proclaim his innocence of the positive test for marijuana.

It’s no surprise that NFL teams have created “ghost” profiles on Facebook and MySpace, using a pretty female face as a cover for a profile, and simply asking Percy, Vontae, or say… Matt Leinart to be their facebook friend. (Leinart no longer has a page.) Even reporters are using it as a tool. ESPN’s Joe Schad, a reporter who routinely breaks news for the network is Facebook friends with both Harvin and Davis. So is All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant and now starting West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown. (And I’m only through the B’s!)

Want to see what an average weekend is like for Super Prospect A? Check his Facebook page. If he’s one of the 10 million addicts that make updates on a daily basis, it’ll be easier to find out what they’re really like than interviewing them at the NFL combine. As a NFL personnel source told Robinson, “Twenty years ago, if you weren’t getting a lot from a coaching staff or a family, you might put weeks into gathering good information on a couple guys. Now, we can do a lot of it in a few days. We can sit down with 20 guys that we might be looking at, and have a pile of pictures and background things to him them with. And every once in a while you come across something that probably saves you from making a big mistake.”

For every deep secret pulled from a dark corner of a players life, there is a self-inflicted character wound. Whether it be a derogatory and offensive rap posted on the internet by the “7th Floor Crew,” of Miami football players, or college girls quickly posting beer bong photos online after a night at Matt Leinart’s house. Jimmy Clausen, the starting quarterback at Notre Dame, will no doubt be answering character questions from NFL personnel, after pictures of him participating at the “Beer Olympics” hit the worldwide web. (Ed. Note: That Budweiser sign in the background was mine in 2002.)

clausen_drinking

Sadly, this isn’t just a problem for world-class athletes. Corporations and companies interested in learning more about potential employees have hit Facebook will the same investigational purposes, hoping to uncover things they can’t find out about in a structured Q&A. And just as puzzling, employees sit at their work computer and spend work days posting random notes about their day for all to read. Here’s a sampling from a “Facebook friend” of mine:

8:55 a.m. “Employee A is not procrastinating today.” Twenty minutes later, she updates her status again, posting a New York Post gossip headline about an actor getting arrested. Six hours later, (on a day lacking procrastination) she’s decided that she’s a fan of flip flops, Fraggle Rock, the Boston Red Sox, and BET. 10 different updates in the first six hours of work, even knowing that the administration is watching.

One day someone smarter than I will explain the necessity and fascination behind sharing everything you do on the internet for all to see.

(So says the guy with a blog…)

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