In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm
Every day and night on CNN over the last week, the Power of Tweeting has been in full view on the streets of Cairo. It’s a revolution, super-charged by messages of 140 characters or less advising the citizenry to rise up against a despised dictator. That’s the good news, unless your name happens to be Hosni Mubarak.

Here’s the bad news on Twitter, especially if your name is Jay Cutler and you play quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Two weeks ago, Cutler had a nightmarish day in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. Mostly ineffective in the first half, he played one series in the second and was taken out of the game, suffering from a partially torn knee ligament that hindered his ability to plant his leg and throw effectively.
And so, Cutler spent the rest of the second half on the sidelines, huddled under a parka watching his team fall ever so short of upsetting Packers with a novice quarterback in his place, ending the Bears dream of getting to Super Bowl XVL.

But while Cutler tried to stay warm, all around the country, mean-spirited NFL players past and present were giddily talking trash about the wounded quarterback, tweeting some very nasty stuff.
“I have to be crawling and can’t get up to come off the field,” read one posting. “There is no medicine for a guy with no guts and no heart,” ripped another. “If I’m on the Chicago team Cutler has to wait ‘til me and the team shower (and) get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room.” One more: “As a guy with 20 knee surgeries you’d have to drag me out on a stretcher to leave a championship game.”  And my all-time favorite, posted by a former cornerback and current talking head television loudmouth named Deion Sanders: “I never question a player’s injury, but I do question a player’s heart.”

Would that be the same Deion Sanders who never saw an oncoming running back trying to turn up field that he couldn’t duck, preferring not to get his jersey dirty or his bones bruised by, heaven forbid, standing his ground and making the tackle?

All of the above quotations and many more were colliding all over the information super highway that day and for many more after that, with Cutler the victim of a hit-and-run assault perhaps unprecedented in the annals of his or any other game.

If this is an example of the new media, I’d like no part of it, thank you very much. The sad part on the whole ugly mess is that the old, traditional media actually included many of those malicious tweets in their own dispatches coming out of Soldier Field that day.

Never mind that the tweeting player-fools had no idea that Cutler had been injured, that the team’s doctors had advised his coach, Lovie Smith, that Cutler was injured and was having difficulty throwing or moving around in the pocket because of what later was diagnosed as a partial tear of the ligament. Every one of his teammates questioned in the locker room stood up for their quarterback, defending his courage and the size of his heart.

And yet, some legitimate journalists—in print and on the air–had no qualms about using comments from players watching at home on their big-screen televisions who had as much access to information on Cutler’s injury situation as the guy watching the game from the comfort of his favorite sports bar.

“There was no reason that any of them would have been searched out for a quote on Cutler,” wrote Dave Kindred, one of the most widely respected sports columnists of his generation. “Yet their social media attack was reported as news inside gamers and columns written in the stadium that day. News? Oh please. The quotes served only two purposes: 1) they reinforced suspicions that repeated concussions affect a man’s reasoning powers and 2) they reinforced suspicions that reporters and columnists with a personal distaste for the sullen, snarly Cutler used the quotes to say what they would never have said on their own.”

Cutler has not been a particularly media-friendly quarterback since he was traded from Denver to the Bears. One columnist described him as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery hidden inside a jackass.”

Something else might have been at play, as well. Whenever the television cameras zoomed in on Cutler in the second half, he was usually alone, away from his teammates. It appeared as if he had taken not only his body but his head out of the game, as well. Wouldn’t the two guys who replaced Cutler have benefited from him being in their sideline huddles with offensive coaches and Smith when the Bears defense was on the field?
Truth be told, Cutler probably should have been involved, certainly a fair point anyone covering the game was justified in pointing out in print or over the air. But quoting all those tweets from uninformed sources with no knowledge of the real situation was unconscionable and, hopefully in the future, a teaching moment as well.
Leonard Shapiro can be reached at

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