On Sunday afternoon, Robert Henson was a mostly unknown reserve linebacker for the Washington Redskins, a first-year player who had never played in an NFL game and was best known for being the son-in-law of television pastor T.D. Jakes.
By Sunday evening, a few hours after Washington’s unsightly 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams, Henson had taken up an online battle against a segment of disgruntled Redskins fans, calling them disloyal “dim wits” who “work 9 to 5 at Mcdonalds.”
Almost immediately, Henson became one of the anti-heroes of a game he had watched from the sidelines, doused with criticism and insults on sports-talk radio shows and Internet message boards. And by Monday afternoon, Henson sheepishly exited Redskins Park, accompanied by several team spokesmen, to apologize for a Twitter-enabled diatribe against fans that provided him his first moment of NFL fame.
“This is exciting,” one television reporter joked.
“No it’s not,” Henson said. “It’s the negative kind of media you don’t want.”
It was also a particularly 2009-vintage media storm, fueled by the pent-up frustrations of Redskins fans and the temptations of Twitter. The team was booed throughout Sunday’s win.
“I thought it was a shame, to be honest with you,” tight end Chris Cooley, one of the team’s most popular players, said in the locker room. “I think Washington prides themselves on being the best fans, and I think that they should try to be the best fans. We won. I understand they wanted us to beat the Rams by 40, but we still won, and if we continue to win games, that’s great. Booing’s unnecessary.”
This was a 20th-century response, spoken into microphones and tape recorders, and then shown on the evening news and printed on newsprint. Henson took a different approach.
“All you fake half hearted Skins fan can ... I won’t go there, but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!” he wrote shortly after the game ended, a message that would have been seen by his 1,200 or so Twitter followers.