Stoically enduring the slings and barbs of vociferous sports fans is part of being a professional athlete. But one British boxer has established a frightening new precedent by actually turning up at the house of his Twitter tormentor.
That thin-skinned athlete would be Curtis Woodhouse, a former pro soccer player in his native Britain, who saw red following a series of critical tweets after losing his English lightweight title last weekend.
Following his loss to pugilist Shayne Singleton, one of Woodhouse's followers, @jimmyob88, posted the comment, "Whats funny u put so much effort in, sacrificed all that time and failed to defend your Mickey Mouse title." The offending Tweeter also called the boxer a "disgrace" and posted several other anti-Woodhouse rants laced with profanities.
So did Woodhouse roll with the punches? Not even close. Woodhouse immediately turned to the same social-media tool by announcing on Twitter: "I'll give 1000 (pounds) to anybody who provides me with an address and picture of this man. Knock, knock."
And who wouldn't want to rat out a faceless coward? Woodhouse's followers helpfully directed the besmirched boxer to @jimmyob88's address, believed to be in the northern English county of Yorkshire. And then, incredibly, Woodhouse drove roughly 110 kilometres to the neighbourhood to supposedly confront his critic.
Upon his arrival, Woodhouse ominously tweeted a picture of his intended victim's street sign and stated, "Right Jimbob, I'm here! Someone tell me what number he lives at, or do I have to knock on every door?"
Not surprisingly, the beleaguered @jimmyob88, by that point likely fearing for his life, attempted to recant his earlier comments by tweeting, "i am sorry its getting a bit out of hand I am in the wrong I accept that." Who wants an angry pro boxer rapping at their door?
Soon after, Woodhouse took his leave without ever meeting @jimmyob88. Before he completed his drive home, Woodhouse's imposing but unrealized threat of exacting physical violence upon his critic had gone viral.
Weirder yet, Woodhouse was instantly hailed as a hero by some people. The infamous soccer player Joey Barton, no stranger himself to Twitter feuds, declared the boxer as "my hero." Another Twitter user likened Woodhouse to the vigilante father figure played by Liam Neeson in the movie Taken.
No doubt the story would be topping headlines had the boxer actually pounded the daylights out of his tormentor, but how far removed are Woodhouse's actions from cyberbullying?
Beyond which, the vile practice of issuing online taunts and threats has virtually ruined lives and ended careers on countless occasions. Former pro tennis player Rebecca Marino recently retired at 22 in response to vicious cyber-bullying. In more extreme instances, cyberbullying via social media was cited as one of the main reasons behind the suicide of Vancouver teenager Amanda Todd.
But instead of weathering the criticism, Woodhouse immediately opted for the standardized bully-boy response of threatening to thump the person who dared critique his performance. And very often the veiled threat of physical violence is worse than the beating itself.
Beyond that, it's possible Woodhouse has opened a Pandora's Box of sulky behaviour for all sports figures to follow hereafter. Should we now expect NHL players to climb into the crowd with fists flying every time a fan voices an unhappy opinion? Would it be perfectly acceptable if slugger Jose Bautista took his bat to the home of every disgruntled Blue Jays fan who disparages him at a game?
What do you think?