I’ll never forget the adventuresome days of my youth: Legos, falling out of trees, over-eating, failed attempts at skateboarding, and, of course, endless letters written to my favorite star athletes. In the days before electronics and social media teamed up to rob a sizeable chunk out of my normal development, I proudly took up the pen and paper in the name of passionate fandom. And for a period of at least six years, I bombarded many helpless and indefensible mail rooms located at professional sports complexes across the country.
These handwritten professions of my love and fealty were challenging in many ways. For starters, I had to scope out a worthy recipient. The young Sherlock Holmes within me knew there was a plethora of other lonely youths constantly pining for the attention of the most recognizable football and baseball players. Because of this, I set my sights on athletes whom I assumed were occasionally jealous of their All-Star or Pro Bowl counterparts; the players whom I pictured gazing blankly toward the fan mail bin after a tough game, wondering if anyone was truly out there.
Perhaps unfortunately for many of these players, I was out there. And it’s likely that I spent many more hours than is healthy pouring out my sports-loving soul to these carefully-chosen targets. My army of snail mail marched dutifully across the map, delivering the general “hope-your-season’s-going-well” salute to the more detailed “diatribe-against-division-rival” rant. On occasion, I was also known for mixing in a few get-well-soon letters for athletes coming off injuries which might cost them anywhere between a week to a fortnight in playing time.
Another common obstacle to overcome was actually locating the correct address for which to send my scrawls of splendor. Because I was toiling in an era where the “internet” was a fascinating set of screeching sounds occasionally interrupted by a phone’s dial tone, my resourcefulness and creativity hit its all-time peak. By way of garage sales of and other fortuitous findings, I compiled a set of books, which featured hobbies catering to youngsters like myself. Thumbing past the instructions for model airplanes and other do-it-yourself crafts that I would never be able to do myself, there was a section for sports fans with fan mail addresses for many professional sports teams. While I probably wrote some letters to franchises that had long ceased to exist at the listed locations, it was largely sufficient for my paperwork purposes.
As might be expected, I received far fewer letters in return than I broadly disseminated to the wide world of sports. Many years later I became acquainted with the mystical “self-addressed stamp envelope” phenomenon, which could have greatly aided my cause. But nonetheless, each response I did receive made all the ignored replies irrelevant. One of my “get-well-soon” missives to then-Jacksonville Jaguars injured quarterback Mark Brunell was so appreciated that he sent me a handwritten thank-you note with two autographed football cards in return. Former Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell responded to my detailed thoughts on the minor leagues with a large autographed picture as well.
As the years went by and I started to interact with humans more willing to reciprocate dialogue, my letters to athletes started to wane. Or maybe it was just the rising cost of stamps. But thanks to the rapid advancement of the internet, fans of varying levels of extremism are now just several clicks away from interacting with athletes of all makes and models. The task at which I so arduously labored in my younger years has become incredibly simple today.
Many professional sporting icons have made an effort to keep the possibly-invasive 21st-century technology at arm’s length. But picking up the slack is large portion of younger athletes, determined to carry over their old social media prowess into their new mega-million dollar lifestyles. What was cool in high school ‘” Myspace accounts, 7.0 megapixel cameras, and iPod shuffles ‘” may be things of the past, but they are far from forgotten. Many of their popular successors are being embraced by young players eager to promote themselves but also interact with an expanding fan base. Through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and iPhones, some budding stars can share just about anything with the rest of the world with one push of a button.
This digital revolution has changed the game for the better. Gone are the days of my premature carpal tunnel syndrome and lingering exotic taste of envelope sealant. Instead of staring out the window and waiting for the mail truck to eventually plod up to the driveway, fan mail aficionados now can simply refresh their Twitter response page to check for a reply. What used to take weeks might now literally take seconds.
Finding these athletes and their social media addresses is far from complex. Google offers immediate results for a player’s publicized information, including personal websites and Twitter handles.
Of course, not all athletes will reply to all queries and well-wishes from their endearing cast of followers. But it certainly is easier hammer out a few keystrokes than going through the archaic method of handwritten replies which require much more time and energy in a demanding, fast-paced world.
One baseball twenty-something with impressive social media acumen is Florida Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison. Morrison is well-known for his witty banter on Twitter with fans, and virtually any topic is fair game. After first having some suspicions about how Twitter could improve is quality of life, the Kansas City native is now a trendsetter in the social media sporting industry.
“It’s amazing how many people take you seriously,” he told reporters in regards to his humorous nature on the site. “I don’t take it seriously at all.”
That carefree approach and willingness to cater to equally content-creative fans has rewarded “Lo-Mo” with over 32,000 followers, a number that climbs every day. He even used Twitter recently to raise $1,500 for charity by auctioning off a team-signed cast after he overcame a leg injury.
But Morrison is just one athlete whose fan mail inbox is now a giant virtual compartment capable of holding many more notes than a dusty plastic crate sitting in an unused corner. Players are catching on that we as fans genuinely enjoy the human quality of back-and-forth correspondence. When you see that player and root for him on television, it makes the experience much more fulfilling, even if he is on the wrong team.
While my handwritten letters are elements of a confused and blurry past, they were still a meaningful way for me to realize that athletes are people too. They check their mail like everyone else, and if something catches their eye, they might react in a way that is pleasing to the original sender.
And to the players who may have received some quite perplexing and possibly illegible handwritten letters from a span of roughly 1996-2002, I apologize. I am available for any follow-up questions you may or may not have.
Espn.com news services, “Logan Morrison a Hit on Twitter”, ESPN
Logan Morrison’s Twitter Page
Author’s Twitter Page