The NFL And Social Media: #Triumphs And #Fails

The massive, ever-moving mechanism that is the National Football League knows no limits as it continues its quest for world domination. America’s most popular sport, one that dabbles with games in London, Canada, and Mexico and that has championed fantasy football and allowed gambling without ever condoning it, is constantly trying to ingratiate itself in every part of a fan’s living and breathing existence.

So you’ve probably heard that the season is underway.

Twitter has long been a place where players, teams, reporters, and fans engage, often with silly or entertaining results. This year, however, marks the first time a live sporting event will be broadcast on the social media network, setting a fascinating precedent — just wait until the NFL’s TV contracts are up with the major networks.

While that’s a worthy endeavor, the partnership between the NFL and Twitter also involves official hashtags for all 32 teams, which were released last week. Some of what was created is nice and fine; some is absurd and idiotic. Teams may be able to put talented players on the field, but it doesn’t mean they have any idea what’s going on when it comes to social media.

So let’s take a look and make fun.

Arizona Cardinals — #BeRedSeeRed

The pretense of this name is astounding. Here we’ve some arbitrary, too-cute hashtag meant to evoke the toughness and physical prowess of the mighty cardinal. You know, that fearsome bird. Apparently taking up ownership of the colour red, this Super Bowl favourite team from Arizona, which lost at home Week One, led by a stereotypical football coach who preaches intensity, still seems to be unclear on their message.

I suppose ‘Be Red’ means that the team rocks their favourite colour, cheering in unison. ‘See Red’ though, colloquially, means to get angry. So the Cardinals are telling their fans to get angry, which is definitely what tens of thousands of drunken people need to do at a stadium on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not clear whether they’re getting angry because the team choked in the playoffs or are pinning their Super Bowl hopes on a man who has never stayed healthy for long and has a tendency to fall apart under pressure, or because it’s so hot in Arizona, but it seems like a misplaced, unhealthy emotion either way.

Los Angeles Rams — #MobSquad

Celebrating their move to a new city by trading up the draft to pick a quarterback first overall and then not dressing him for the first game, the Rams look like a team set to draft high again next year. Their marketing team looks as savvy as their front office, employing #MobSquad as its official hashtag.

To get the name, we must realize that rams are in fact sheep, and that sheep, in addition to being grouped in flocks or droves, may also be referred to collectively as a mob (the defensive line gets credit with coining the phrase). So the team isn’t channeling L.A. Confidential or a whole slew of other SoCal crime movies, but even so, maybe the team doesn’t want the word ‘mob’ in their catchphrase. You’d think each team would want to move away from illegality.  But hey, at least the Rams have only had two players arrested since they moved.

The Washington Redskins (or, as I prefer to call them, the Washington Football Team) — #HTTR

Yep, while pundits and fans discuss whether the silent protest by a backup quarterback is too disruptive and offensive to the entire country, a whole team from D.C. continues to exist with a nickname that’s a derogatory term for Native Americans. Their hashtag is derived from their official song, ‘Hail to the Redskins,’ a lilt that was created 80 years ago. They also don’t quite seem to have a grasp on Twitter, what with revealing that an account in support of the team name wasn’t quite as independent as it purported to be. Maybe Kirk Cousins will be great this year, and they can make the hashtag #YouLikeThat.

Indianapolis Colts — #ForTheShoe

What? No one has ever said this. This is not a catchphrase, a play on words, or something anyone would utter out of his or her mouth without feeling massive pangs of discomfort and regret.

#Up

Atlanta Falcons — #RiseUp
Miami Dolphins — #FinsUp
New York Jets — #JetUp
Tennessee Titans — #TitanUp

In descending order of effectiveness, putting ‘up’ after your team name is, I guess, the modern equivalent of putting ‘go’ in front of it. It’s mildly effective, rather benign, and pretty forgettable. Which is to say, it works well for the Dolphins, Titans, Jets, and Falcons.

Dallas Cowboys — #DallasCowboys

They get the award for the most creative!  Seriously though, it’s like they showed up at the office on Halloween and were the only ones dressed and promptly learned from their mistake. Although maybe their hesitations are valid for not jumping into the game; at this hypothetical party, their division foe from Washington would be a white dude showing up in red face.

#Pride

New York Giants — #GiantsPride
Detroit Lions — #OnePride

These are great, if only because teams usually fail to emphasize the homoerotic nature of the game.

Pittsburgh Steelers — #HereWeGo

Similar to the Cardinals, here we have a vague, meaningless, utterly generic call to action, which is surprising since Steelers’ fans, for better and worse, are everywhere around the country and constantly besiege every visitor stadium. I guess the intended sentiment is ‘here we go on the road’…?

Carolina Panthers — #KeepPounding

This certainly isn’t the most ridiculous hashtag, but it’s a bit much, and certainly ripe for mockery. Maybe it’s also a bad omen that after announcing this phrase, the Panthers’ star QB and last year’s NFL MVP took a relentless beating by the Denver Broncos on opening night and definitely didn’t get a concussion, according to the NFL (even though maybe he did).

However, Carolina’s social media team should be lauded. They are among the funniest in the NFL. Intentional or not, they have in the past had some absurd, pointless Twitter wars with other teams, which are basically just a random assortment of GIFs. Here’s a great one (read: mindless). They also seem to have a stockpile of panther pictures on hand, as witnessed here in a discussion with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The most ridiculous part of this back and forth is that someone on the Carolina staff was ready to send out a rebuttal tweet at 7:31am, just 33 minutes after the Jags made their post. And it was April ­­— the season was over!

Speaking of Twitter wars, the Seahawks and Eagles recently got into a dumb one too.

Kansas City Chiefs — #Chiefs

It’s a hashtag that harnesses the exciting demeanor of its team’s head coach (Andy Reid) and quarterback (Alex Smith).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — #SeigeTheDay

Okay, so obviously the phrase is ‘Seize the Day,’ so maybe the Bucs are playing off that? Even so, is ‘Siege the Day’ even a thing? Seriously, what are we talking about here?

Also, it’s particularly hard to trust a team that has had a disastrous (read: outrageously sexist) campaign last year to get women interested in football. Never mind that the audience for the NFL is roughly 45% women, if not more ­— the Bucs wanted to ‘educate’ female fans with the RED Initiative by explaining to them that running backs run the back. They also wanted women to get involved in the game day excitement by offering recipes to make. They didn’t specify, but I’m assuming the meals were for the men of the house who actually know football; you know, the ones that wear that names of other men on their backs and play with them in a fantasy world. But Bucs, we’re cool.

Seattle Seahawks — #WeAre12

Let’s pretend that this is a nod to the Seattle fan base, many of whom have been passionate, die-hard fans all the way back to 2012 when Russell Wilson came out of nowhere to lead the Seahawks to a berth and then a Super Bowl win the following season.

Minnesota Vikings — #Skol

We end on a positive. This is by far the coolest. ‘Skol’ is Scandinavian for ‘cheers,’ but there are different beliefs as to when and how it was first used. I like to believe the story that Vikings, after pillaging and rampaging, would drink from a skull to celebrate. That kind of barbaric mentality seems perfect in football. ‘Skol!’

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.