Every team in the NCAA March Madness Tournament has at least one thing in common. Regardless of jersey or seeding, at their core, the team is a group of young college students probably not used to the national attention they’re receiving.
The tournament is one of the biggest stages in all of sports, and among the few where most of the participating players are under the age of 22. The athletes have to go to class, practice, don’t get paid, have to worry about their future and navigating the social scenes of college, and they also act as role models to thousands of even younger sports fans.
When thinking of the players as individuals with their own lives and emotions, rather than just some person on a court, some of the mocking following a big loss seems less funny. After some of the biggest losses in the tournament, angry sports fans take to the internet. While people are obviously going to be upset, some of the comments go beyond just the athletes' performances, instead focusing on how sad they look after a loss or aspects of their appearance.
Look at Twitter threads following the UVA upset or even after UNC’s own loss. While a majority of the comments are all in good, expected fun, you’ll find a mix of mean-spirited ones too that hopefully most people would consider beyond the scope of what's acceptable.
Every Tar Heel knows how hard our UNC basketball seniors worked and how much joy they brought fans. That said, we, as UNC fans, must therefore realize our role in supporting both UNC players and doing the same for other college athletes.