If I am being honest, I don't think I am great at social media.
There are people with a lot less followers who I feel absolutely crush it. There are people with a lot more who I think are terrible. Whatever. I think I am OK at it, but who knows? No one does. There are no rules.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I try to be myself while recognizing the primary reason someone follows me is to get fantasy football news, analysis and advice. So I try to do some version of what I have always done in my career, which is a mixture of fantasy advice, pop culture observations and my personality, both the good and bad of it.
When the Ray Rice video was made public, I stayed silent on social media because I thought, really, what am I going to say, especially in 140 characters? That I'm horrified? That I think Ray Rice should be in jail? That I think a man should never lay a hand on a woman, let alone slug her? Doesn't everyone think this way? Every rational human being, at least?
So I stayed silent and went about my job. Monday, that meant heading to the studio to do some quick takes on some of our NFL programming, including "NFL Insiders," "NFL Live" and "Monday Night Countdown." As I am heading to the studio for the first show, I get the ESPN text alert (I am a company man) that the Ravens have officially released Ray Rice. For, ahem, an incident that happened in February, but judgment on them aside, there is now actual news to react to. Regardless of why, an NFL team's starting running back is no longer on the team. And that matters a great deal in the world of fantasy football.
In the course of the next five minutes, I find out I am going to be asked on TV about the fantasy impact of this move, five different friends text me asking whether they should pick up Justin Forsett and (I later counted) over 400 people ask me on Twitter some version of that same question. What does Ray Rice being released mean for fantasy?
Justin Forsett is who you want to pick up for Thurs though don't be surprised if Lorenzo Taliaferro is significantly in mix long term.
- Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) September 8, 2014
I then followed up that tweet with this one:
So far Bernard Pierce has shown me nothing - last year or on Sunday.
- Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) September 8, 2014
Like pretty much everything else on Twitter, reaction was mixed. Many had follow-up questions and thanks. Others felt I'd been inappropriate. A friend texted me immediately: "You're going to get crushed for the timing of that tweet." One of our biggest stars here at ESPN quietly pulled me aside and, in a very gentle way, suggested that I probably should have waited. Certainly there were Twitter users who felt this way, with opinions ranging from "There are more important issues at hand" to me being an example of everything that is wrong with the world in general and ESPN in particular.
Eric Fisher, a reporter for the Sports Business Journal and someone I consider a friend and have a lot of respect for, summed up their feelings nicely.
So sad to see immediate run of reports re: Rice & fantasy football implications. Issues of domestic violence are all too real
- Eric Fisher (@ericfishersbj) September 8, 2014
Ever since I sent those tweets, I've struggled with this. I continue to struggle with this. On one hand, I am horrified and angry at myself. Have I somehow marginalized domestic violence? Made it seem somehow insignificant? It's two tweets, and who the hell am I, really, in the grand scheme of things? Yet if it makes just one person think domestic violence is no big deal, then I've done a terrible disservice.
Even if it's less than that -- offended someone, made someone feel I didn't care about the issue, anything -- than it's a mistake.
The other side of it, of course, is that many people use fantasy football as an escape. People who, like me, are having trouble reconciling the fact that they are heavily invested in a league whose athletes have a disturbingly high rate of domestic violence arrests and don't believe the NFL has done enough to address it.
If they want to hear someone discuss Ray and Janay Rice, the NFL and what this story says about both football and society at large, ESPN has no shortage of talent or platforms for it. But if they want to know the fantasy impact of it, or just want to think of something, anything other than seeing video of a man hitting a woman in the face, they are turning to me. That's my lane. That's what I do.
Our beloved former leader, George Bodenheimer, created the ESPN mission statement, which is simply this: To serve sports fans wherever sports are watched, listened to, discussed, debated, read about or played.
Simple and important, it may sound Pollyannaish, but most of us at ESPN try to live by that. Certainly I do. Serve sports fans. Wherever and however we can.
I want to do that. Desperately. I'm just not sure the best way, and I certainly didn't mean to trivialize domestic violence. I just wanted to do my job. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't having a crisis of conscience. Am I somehow part of the problem?
I'm not a journalist, have never claimed to be. But I am a cheerleader for fantasy football, some might say its biggest cheerleader. For better or worse, helping grow fantasy football in America is on my résumé, and up until this week, I thought that was something to be proud of.
Now I'm not so sure.
The more people that play fantasy football, the more people watch the NFL and the more money the NFL makes. And the more money that's at stake, the more people are willing to look the other way when something comes up that could upset the applecart. Including the face of the 2012 Super Bowl champions spitting on a woman, slugging her, looking unconcerned when she is knocked unconscious and then leaving her between two elevator doors while a security guard has to stand there to make sure she doesn't get crushed by the doors.
So maybe, in some small way, I'm to blame. Or at least part of the problem. And I'm not sure how to fix it.
But just because I don't know how it can be fixed doesn't mean we can't make it better. That we can't chip away. And that every little bit helps.
I applaud the National Organization for Women and hope it is extremely successful in all of its missions, but especially the current one. I applaud my fellow broadcasters, both here at ESPN and elsewhere, who have spoken up and hopefully will continue to shine a light on a serious issue. And I am hopeful that the many other issues facing professional sports get better, not worse. Because I love sports.
I keep going back to my kids. I've written before about the dumb little friends-and-family league we do, my wife and I, our kids, their friends, my wife's ex-husband. It's the fourth season of the league now, and what's great about it is that three times a week -- Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights -- we gather in front of the TV and watch football together. We talk about our players and our fantasy teams and root and complain, and it's the most time all of us spend together as a family during the week. My wife and I both work, the kids have school and activities and friends, and we are all in different directions a lot of time, especially now that two of the boys are teenagers. But we all watch football together.
So I want to concentrate on that. That's a good thing that football, and specifically fantasy football, brings. And I realize, that's my answer. I shouldn't say no. I shouldn't turn my back on the NFL, on football, on fantasy or on my job. I shouldn't run away. I should be part of the solution. Yes, we have a lot of issues. How can I help?
I learned a lot about myself this week. And I'm still thinking. And that's a good thing. And as I am sifting through a bunch of emotions, this much I know: I'm going to try to bring awareness when I can and when appropriate in various platforms. I am going to try to be better about when fantasy analysis is necessary and when it isn't.
But ultimately, what I want to do (and what I think I'm best at) is continue to write, talk and tweet about fantasy football. I am going to try to promote the togetherness it brings, be it with family, friends or co-workers.
In short, I am going to continue to try to be a distraction. An oasis away from Ray Rice and Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald and whoever is next.
Because these days, we need that more than ever.