As someone who both writes a periodic piece in this space and hosts a moderately listened-to radio show in several markets around the country, I get that criticism comes with the job. People will not only disagree with you, but some will grow to dislike you (despite the fact that they don't know you personally). It's a dynamic with which I'm fine, and toward which I'm fairly desensitized.
Criticism doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is when the criticism or hate comes from someone anonymous. If someone criticizes me via e-mail or in a comment using their real name, then I'm happy to engage them and listen to their point of view. But when "BeerMe69" or "VinceYoung4Life" tells me what an idiot I am, I tend to ignore.
"Keyboard courage" (the phenomenon whereby someone hides faceless behind a silly moniker) is one of the most unsavory byproducts of the Internet.
It's also the impetus for the next winner of my "Biggest Loser" designation.
To recap, here are previous winners of my award:
Biggest Loser, v 1.0 -- Brewer Lawn Ornament Hoarder
Biggest Loser, v 2.0 -- (Then) Dallas Cowboys WR Roy Williams
Biggest Loser, v 3.0 -- Luther Campbell
Today, thanks to an ongoing case of "keyboard courage," we add the current (for now) Texas A&M athletics department CFO and senior associate athletics director. Aggies may know him as Jeff Toole, but posters in the message board forums on Texags.com know him as "UtayAg."
It seems that Toole, a 1980 A&M graduate, is not all that enthused about the job that school president R. Bowen Loftin is doing. However, rather than handling his dissatisfaction in a way that members of functional organizations do (you know....like walking into Loftin's office and telling him what his issues are), Toole chose to express his criticism in a way that a drunken fan does at midnight after his wife and kids have gone to bed -- he jumped on his laptop and took to the message boards under his "UtayAg" cyber luchador mask.
Among several barbs directed at Loftin over the summer, Toole called him a "hopelessly underqualified puppet" and a "putz" (great word, by the way). Additionally, on Oct. 1 on the subject of coach Mike Sherman's contract, Toole posted, "I have to admit that the stupidity on this board always brings me back to the point that I know I'm not the dumbest (expletive) out there."
So how was "UtayAg's" real identity revealed? Well, apparently a poster by the name of "iPanic" (pretty sure, much like "UtayAg," that's not his real name either) went back and found an old, presumably less hypercritical post by "UtayAg" from several months ago where Toole actually revealed his occupation. From there, it was fairly simple for "iPanic" to rip off "UtayAg's" cyber mask, revealing the sinister Toole, at which point Toole may or may not have been quoted saying that he "would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"
In the most obvious explanation of a personal gaffe like this, Toole said, "I was posting what I thought was an anonymous opinion."
Keyboard courage! You don't say!
Toole also indicated that he was posting his performance evaluation of Loftin as a "fan and a donor," perhaps hoping that splitting his personal identity into categories will somehow allow "Jeff Toole" to remain exonerated of the transgressions of "UtayAg." Somewhere George Costanza (he, of course, comprised of "Independent George" and "Relationship George") is nodding his head.
As for the previous post where he indicated his real-life job, Toole said,"That slipped my mind," which is somewhat excusable if it were in reference to forgetting to pick up milk and eggs on the way home from work, but far less excusable when it comes to revealing your true identity of a message board user ID that you use specifically to undermine your superiors in a very public chain of command. Bad time to forget.
As of this writing, Texas A&M is still sorting out what to do with what has to be an entirely fireable offense (via Houston Chronicle):
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Jason Cook, spokesman in Loftin's office, responded via e-mail: "President Loftin is aware of the posts and discussed the situation with Athletic Director Bill Byrne this afternoon. At this point, we are handling this situation as a personnel matter, and we will decline to comment further, in accordance with our standard practice."
Reading between the lines, it looks like "senior athletics director Jeff" is going to get to spend a lot more time as "fan and donor Jeff," posting on Texags.com with the likes of "FireSherm2011" and "BuckyRich07."
Unemployment frees you up to do these things. Who's the putz again?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Yahoo! Sports Radio from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.