On Twitter, Community and the Passing of Tony Gwynn

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Twitter is the gathering place for sports fans to break tweet records and support their favorite teams and players. But it’s also a place for solace — to distinguish men like Tony Gwynn.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” — Hemingway

Sports fans took a pretty emotional ride today, fueled by sadness, grief, nostalgia … then anticipation, patriotism and sheer joy. Twitter was the engine, and the community its driver.

It’s days like today that make Twitter a unique space for sports fans of all types. It was a day where a Hall of Fame baseball player lost his battle with cancer, and was mourned by millions. It was also a day soccer fans anticipated for years — capped by an incredible moment in U.S. sports history.

Together, we shared these contrasting events in this community built on 140 characters. Each time I encounter days like today, I grow to appreciate many of the people I’m connected to through one way or another on Twitter. Through tragedy and triumph, we all learn a little about each other, one tweet at a time.

And our community grows closer.

We shared stories — about sixth-grade batting slumps.

We struggled — together — to comprehend death, especially of once-vibrant heroes we grew up watching, emulating, imitating.

We reminisced — with stories, photos and articles.

We also watched as a grieving son bravely shared his thoughts on the loss of his dad, just one day removed from Father’s Day.

As my friend, Sunny, eloquently wrote today, “In sports, we (fans and media) sometimes lose sight of the human element. In our passion, we forget that athletes and coaches, who are the ones in the public eye most, are dealing with the same issues we deal with on a daily basis.”

So we turn to Twitter, because it offers solace. It offers that human element to help us comprehend sad events — and celebrate joyous and historic ones. Yes, it is the gathering place for sports fans to break tweet records and support their favorite teams and players. But it’s also a place — as Hemingway noted — to distinguish men like Tony Gwynn.

Thanks for being a fan.

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