When I was about eight years old, my dad woke me up in the morning to tell me that one of my favourite baseball players had been traded.
I was a big Montreal Expos fan, and my dad informed me they had just traded Gary Carter to the New York Mets for a bunch of players. I recall being shocked and upset at this turn of events, but fortunately, my dad didn’t haul out a massive video camera and record my reaction.
Yes, in 1984, it would have been pretty difficult to spontaneously capture moments like that because the equipment was cumbersome, awkward and bulky. But 30 years later, it’s not only easy to do this with your smartphone; it has become a trend. And to be brutally honest, it’s a disturbing trend.
This past weekend, a video of a little five-year-old girl went viral because she was throwing a tantrum after her beloved St. Louis Blues traded away T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals. In the video, the little girl is screaming, mad and inconsolable over the news. She hides herself in a closet and is prompted several times by her mother to talk about the situation.
The whole thing is so staged; the mother actually repeats the daughter’s answers a couple of times—just to make sure everybody watching can clearly understand what is going on.
I don’t know about you, but as a parent, I rarely reach for my iPhone when my kid is having a meltdown or tantrum. The last thought I’m having is, "I wonder if this could go viral." These types of orchestrated, made-for YouTube moments need to stop immediately because they are sending the wrong message.
The message is if you whine and cry about something, perhaps your favourite celebrity will notice and take pity on you. In this case, T.J. Oshie saw the video and ended up doing an ESPN segment on the phone with the little girl over the weekend. And as part of the interview, Oshie invited her to come swimming in his pool.
During the winter, a father recorded his daughter’s reaction to the Toronto Blue Jays trading away her favourite player Brett Lawrie, to the Oakland Athletics. The result? The video generated nearly 300,000 hits, and Lawrie felt so bad for the kid that he took her out for pizza.
Also, a few months ago, a little girl’s reaction to Jimmy Graham being traded away from the New Orleans Saints caused quite a stir. Once again, the video went viral, and the girl and her mother ended up on ESPN and were joined by Graham. The NFL superstar later told them he would fly the entire family to Seattle to watch his first home game with his new team.
Last year, a seven-year-old boy was crushed when the Carolina Panthers cut his favourite player Steve Smith. Thankfully, his dad was there to capture the entire episode in their car and share it with almost 500,000 people on YouTube. Of course, they landed a spot on Good Morning America, where Smith surprised the family with a jersey from his new team—the Baltimore Ravens—and an invitation to attend his football camp.
The moral of these stories? Whine loud enough with a cute little kid, and you could end up meeting your favourite celebrity. In these cases, I don’t put any of the blame on the athletes because I think they are genuinely touched by this type of reaction from a young fan. And it’s a great PR move on their part to do something for the kids.
And I certainly don’t blame the kids either, because I think their emotions are genuine, and they are legitimately upset about seeing their favourite players get traded away.
The media, however, does need to shoulder some of the blame for these situations; these types of stories are what end up filling the 24-hour news cycle. Maybe if Good Morning America and ESPN weren’t so quick to give these people a broader platform, this type of story would just quietly vanish into the abyss of the Internet alongside thousands of cat videos and Minecraft tutorials.
But the main problem here lies with the parents who are encouraging these moments in a shallow attempt to become quasi-famous.
What are you going to do next week when you can’t get Taylor Swift tickets for your daughter? Let me guess: You will catch their disappointed reaction on your phone and post it online, hoping that Taylor sees the video and hands your family tickets and backstage passes. But really, why stop there?
The next time a grocery store runs out of Frosted Flakes, have your child throw a tantrum in the cereal aisle. Just try and remember to flip your phone to "landscape" and not "portrait" so the viewer can really see the child’s distress in widescreen. I’m sure the Kellogs’ people are on social media and would probably be more than happy to ship a few cases of Frosted Flakes to your front door. Heck, it’s such a nice PR opportunity; they’d probably get Tony the Tiger to deliver them personally.
You might even be able to scam a trip to Disney World, if you capture your kid crying while wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Honestly, the possibilities are endless if you use your adorable, crying child as a shield.
But let’s remember something important here: If your kid is genuinely upset about something, maybe put the phone down and try to talk them through their issues. By grabbing your smartphone, you're simply trivializing their feelings. If you want to make a viral video with them, maybe try doing a music video like that Christmas pyjama family.
And also remember this: There’s a reason why you never see the parents' faces on these viral videos—it’s because they’re probably too embarrassed to be seen themselves.
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