Anatomy of a Twitter Meltdown

ANDREW ETHERIDGE

Emporia State track and field coach Steve Blocker tried to explain to me how, at 32 years old, he felt old.

Donald Weast, the Assistant AD  for the Hornets in charge of media relations, told me about how he spent a good chunk of his day trying to decipher a 20-year-old’s Twitter posts.

Andrew Etheridge, ESU’s All-American hurdler and a Wichita Northwest product, told me it was all a misunderstanding.

Etheridge, who won an NCAA Division II 110-meter high hurdles outdoor national title as a freshman and finished third this year at indoor nationals, went on his Twitter account Monday morning – @Boss_HOGG_Dro – and reeled off a series of Tweets encompassing every SID and college coach’s nightmare.

Talking about transferring. Putting his personal life on a platter. Taking shots at coaches – and eventually the media.

It’s a microcosm for how the modern athlete operates. Everything is out there. In sports media, you either learn to deal with it or you’re dead in the water.

Here’s how it went down, with tweets in italics and explanations where necessary:

10:21 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro I kinda miss playing ball…

Etheridge was a two-sport athlete at ESU his freshman year, but left the football team after 2-a-days last season after becoming frustrated by several position moves. He was originally a safety.

10:24 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Id never play for Higgins again tho…

Here he’s talking about Emporia State football coach Garin Higgins.

10:25 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Finishing my last two years of school and track at WSU …….. #Maaybe

I was flying back to Wichita from Denver and got in around 10:30 a.m. I hung out with a friend for a bit, then checked Twitter around noon. Eagle sports writer Joanna Chadwick had retweeted this from Etheridge, which prompted my first phone call to Weast seeing what the deal was. As he put it – “It was watching someone make a decision and sort out their thoughts in real time.” Weast, just back from an SID convention, had just spent time learning how to address issues just like this.

10:27 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro I feel like id be letting a bunch of people down if I made that transfer tho…but it is about me and what’s best for my future

10:29 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro I feel like trackwise, I haven’t done anything diff then I did in HS and that’s NOT what’s up … I’m tryna get betters

This seems like where Etheridge’s frustration with his performance at outdoor nationals begins to show itself. He fell on the second hurdle and did not defend his national title. I had Etheridge on Sunflower Slate for a Q&A after he won his freshman year.

10:32 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Rainbolt got @LawMontgomery and @Todd_McKown right their last two years! #Salute

That’s WSU track and field coach Steve Rainbolt and WSU hurdlers Lawson Montgomery and Todd McKown. Montgomery’s hurdle times are in WSU’s all-time Top 10 and McKown’s 110 hurdles time of 13.42 seconds is the best outdoor time in school history. For comparison, Etheridge’s national-title winning time in 2011 was 14.02 seconds.

“It’s sometimes hard for track athletes to understand, and it’s frustrating … but you can work four years just to shave off a tenth of a second,” Blocker said.

10:34 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Nothin against my coach at ESU AT ALL! I just feel like I’ve been teaching myselfhow to get better in the hurdle…..

Blocker didn’t take anything Etheridge said personally. Interestingly, Blocker transferred from a smaller school to a Division I. At Northern Iowa, Blocker was a member of three Missouri Valley Conference championship teams and was a regional qualifier in the 110m hurdles in 2003 and named all-MVC in the 60m hurdles in 2002. He left UNI ranked fourth on the all-time performance list in the 110m hurdles and third in the 60m hurdles. Blocker spent his first two years at St. Ambrose University, where he was an NAIA outdoor regional qualifier and placed 12th in the 55m hurdles at the NAIA Indoor Nationals in 2000.

“(Etheridge) loves hurdles, and I understand that as much as anybody,” Blocker said. “(Etheridge) had so much success early and puts so much pressure on himself … he just wants to be the best. And I want to help him.”

10:36 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro I taught myself in 7th grade and havent had much help since then minus youtube and the internet and other good Hurdlers

Say what you want, that’s impressive.

10:37 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Im just not really the type to let people down once I”m commited … And I feel like (I’m) commited to ESU and our team

10:38 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro @Jbrew02 STILL have YET to see pictures from our dattteee! @DrizzyConcert

Drake played a concert at Kansas City’s Sprint Center this spring. Drake = Drizzy. Kanye West = Yeezy. Lil Wayne = Weezy. Chris Brown = Breezy.

10:39 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro “RT @Spotucek10 @Boss_HOGG_Dro wsu sounds like a good choice … just sayin” lol and why’s that? U still ain’t gonna talk to me punk ;) lol

At this point, Etheridge was starting to get quite a bit of feedback on his WSU tweet. People on both sides wanting him to stay at ESU and leave.

10:40 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro “RT @All_Shenanigans I need to grow up” u and me boff bruh

10:41 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro When does @tay0692 work again? Me and @LifeofaLiteSkin tryna come see yall at twin peaks! #never been

Twin Peaks is a local restaurant.

10:43 a.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro I wonder if anyone has ever won a D2 110h national championship, transferred and won a D1 national title as well…hmm #trynabelegendary

That would be something else. I did research and couldn’t find anybody that has done it. If you know of someone, shoot me an e-mail.

3:54 p.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Wichita<<<<Emporia

Just means he likes Emporia better than Wichita.

4:12 p.m. @Boss_HOGG_DroI tweet one thing and eveyone blowing it outta context! I AM NOT LEAVIN ESU! So no i will not do an interview about it! Wtf 

At this point, I’d sent Etheridge a direct message telling him I saw his WSU tweet and would like to interview him if possible. Someone else may have done so, also.

Here’s what I sent him: “I’m going to write an article about you possibly leaving ESU and would like to talk this evening. When is good for you? -T. Adame 316214XXXX”

Here’s what he replied: “Sorry, I’m not leaving ESU…. My post this morning was just a thought that has been running through my head, I am not leavin sorry for the misunderstanding and I appreciate the offer”

4:13 p.m. @Boss_HOGG_DroThat’s my fault for putting my thoughts on twiiter but DANG my fone ain’t stopped Blowin up since! And interview? Really? #SlapYoSelf

Eh.

4:23 p.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro Should NOT have put that on Twitter! Smh at @Boss_HOGG_Dro Keeping all thoughts to MYSELF

Probably not a bad idea.

4:46 p.m. @Boss_HOGG_Dro EMPORIA STATE: YOU WILL SEE ME WITH THAT E ON MY CHEST COME NEXT SEASON!

Blocker and Etheridge communicated via text during the day, with Etheridge finally telling him he was coming back to Emporia State next year.

“For the most part it was a pretty normal day,” Blocker said. “Other than this.”

I’m out. 

TA