Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s dark side: the twits and the trolls

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


MotoGP’s dark side: the twits and the trolls

Valentino Rossi talks about rider bullying on social media: “it’s very bad”

Technology is usually amoral – it can be used for good or for ill. Nuclear fission can be used to power the world, or to destroy it. The internet can be used to spread love, or hate.

In the world of MotoGP, social media is being used for too much of the latter. I regularly receive tweets, also addressed to the two riders in question, wishing them dead or in wheelchairs. You don’t need me to name the riders.

This is Twitter at its worst: it’s like people shouting insults that they would never dare say face-to-face. These people are twits; pathetic, cowardly twits.

At the last race of 2015 and the first five races of 2016 we have also heard twits at racetracks, booing Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo for supposedly dismantling Valentino Rossi’s 2015 title bid.

The booing of two of the fastest riders the sport has known is mindless – nothing more than a bovine reaction borrowed from the most brainless sections of the football terraces. It is the idiot chorus to the idiot mantra that you can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never your football team, or your favourite MotoGP rider. If that mantra rings true to anyone, then they’ve been brainwashed, most likely by people trying to sell them stuff.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

You voted 3. Total votes: 128
Total votes: 96

Back to top

Comments

I can't take an article seriously when the writer brands a certain fan group as 'Valeban'. You can't take one side of something as serious and switch to an attempt at humour on the other. 

This stuff is an internet and human nature issue. Not a MotoGP issue, not a Valentino Rossi issue. The percentage of vile people is the same across all fan bases of all sports. We're at a point where any more attention to any people of this nature, regardless of who/what they support, is just glorifying them. 

We get to watch the greatest sport in the world and come to a great place to talk about it but lately everything comes back to a minority of internet arseholes that don't deserve any thought or energy given to them. 

I know I've written something similar to this quite a few times but if all of that hate is being spread everywhere I'd rather not go on websites at all and I enjoy reading websites like this so I think it's worth writing. 

Total votes: 161

First, I think 'Valeban' is hilarious and he should trademark that quickly!
In all seriousness though, I almost DO think its a little bit of a Rossi problem. I hate to hear the boos coming for Marquez and Lorenzo and I do think it doesn't help the sport. I don't see whats wrong about supporting your favorite rider and just leaving the rest alone. You don't have to root for them but don't boo them. If Rossi loses to someone BOO HIM for not winning! My real problem is that Rossi could do something about this but he chooses not to. If he actually came out and addressed his fans to stop with the hate I think it would make a difference. Not fix it but it would help.
Then again, it is a sport and people will always anoint one and vilify the other. I just think its low class to boo these riders cause you're (and not referring to you) CONVINCED that 99 and 93 sabotaged 46.

Total votes: 97

I can't take an article seriously when the writer brands a certain fan group as 'Valeban'. You can't take one side of something as serious and switch to an attempt at humour on the other. 

Well put. The booing of Lorenzo & Marquez we have seen both last year & this is low-brow, boorish, unpleasant. As is collectivly demeaning fans with derogotary expressions like "Valeban" Journalists need to be part of the solution, not continuing the language of tribalism.
 
I do think however there is a place for negative crowd expressions such as booing. To continue with the football anaology, booing a player just because he turns up to the game in opposition to to your hero is reprehensible (think Casey Stoner at Donnington a few years ago), but booing the same player when he commits a foul (Rossi punts Gibernau off track at Jerez) is a different situation entirely.  
Total votes: 95

... of Jorge, Marc and Valentino last year was low-brow, boorish and unpleasant.

They are reaping what they have sown.

Dani used to be one of the least liked riders in the paddock (because of his surly looking demeanor, lack of time for the press, rivalry with Jorge and the crash with Nicky).  I doubt you'll find a single person boo him today.

And it's entirely due to the fact that of the top riders last year he was the only one to act like a decent human being.

Total votes: 84

I can't really agree. It happens everywhere but Rossi's large fanbase is unusually turbulent at the moment, with a combination of end-of-career tension, crowd mentality, and his tacit encouragement producing a fairly toxic mixture. 

Total votes: 108

Well considering that they wish MM or JL to die or get crippled as mentioned in Oxley's article i don't think calling them "valiban" is that far fetched.

Total votes: 93

... when it is posted to Motomatters less than a week after cutting off all discussion of Booing on a previous article.  And yet, this is a whole article on the subject?

For what it's worth, given this is an article on booing and other anti-social / negative behaviour, booing has existed for hundreds of years.  It's the only way a crowd can show disapproval.

And it's not just/all Rossi fans.  Sure, a lot of them will be, but that's because Rossi has more fans than anyone else in the paddock, probably combined.

I.e., the subset of fans who boo does not include the whole subset of Rossi fans, and vice versa.   Blaming one subset of fans for it is being extremely short sighted.

If a rider behaves like a prick, and the fans dislike that, how else should it be shown (e.g., Jorge's thumbs down on the podium, casual dismissal of being filmed passing under yellow to be irrelevant and not worthy of investigation, continual assessment that if it wasn't for the weather/tyres/bike/moon phase he would have "won by a large margin", etc.)

I'm picking on Jorge above, but Marc (and i am/was a Marquez fan since 125, much less now - despite having a #93 helmet and Repsol blade) has some several other very dis-likable things recently himself.  His claim that he did nothing wrong running Vale effectively off circuit last year at Assen, for one.

If riders don't want to get Booed, then perhaps they should consider how they act.

The attacks, threats, vandalism, etc. are a totally different matter and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 

Total votes: 85

Go to a hockey game sometime and observe the "brave" spectators down in the corners pounding on the plexi-glass, yelling at the players. Just once I would like to see the glass disappear and have one of these morons pulled out onto the ice by a player and humiliated. For some reason, some people believe that the price of a ticket includes the right to disrespect the participants. I understand passion but I also understand civility. I just as soon stay home and watch events on TV rather than have these people ruin a good time. 

Total votes: 124

Thank you for standing and up and saying that the booing has no place in our sport (much less the even worse stuff that takes place over social media).  There are some riders I like more than others, and there are actions occasionally taken by some riders (even some of my favourites) that I don't approve of.

None the less, I cheer for all of them most of the time, and if I'm particularly displeased with one at any moment I simply remain silent.  These guys all deserve our respect, even if they're not perfect and not our favourite.

I do wish some riders would speak more forcefully against fans who boo their opponents though (or who take to social media to say ridiculous and hurtful things).  I think it would be significantly impactful if Jorge, Marquez, and Rossi (for example) all put up a unified front (yeah, I know) and asked their fans to cheer for them but not disparage their rivals.  

The 3 riders I mentioned above have all ridden cleanly this year, and to my knowledge have not disparaged each other in the press or otherwise since the season began.  It's time to let last year's actions go, no matter which if any side we're on, and respect the entertainment each of these riders provides for us.  

Total votes: 133

I would never boo another rider. I will not cheer for certain riders, but not boo them. Your comment about face-to-face reminds me of a Jimmy Kimmel skit. Robinson Cano a star of the Yankees left for another team. When he came back people booed a cut-out of him, but he stepped out from behind the screen and their attitude changed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b9rOji_PWY

Total votes: 117

that's some funny sh*t :D

Total votes: 102

O man, that's so funny.

Total votes: 98

I understand Mat's point and agree in principle (not so much the Valebans reference...it's distasteful particularly at such a time in History) but something bugs me: we are appalled by by the booing. We are even more appalled by people cheering when a rider crashes but let me ask why we don't condemn the tv networks who replay any crash zillions of times feeding on the darkest unhealthy side of human nature literally fascinated by those specific images? When I rewatch a race I get loud alerts who invite me to NOT miss the crash and see it from multiple angles.... does anyone think that promoting this kind of spectacle leads to almost waiting for a crash to happen and watch it times and again in awe? We are all participating in creating a coliseum culture where we want to see some action from the lions ! So instead of addressing the issue we become hypocrits, we stand on some higher moral ground and just blame it on Rossi. I call this hypocrisy.

Total votes: 100

So we're to ignore the dangerous aspects of a dangerous sport and look away when something bad happens? Embrace the chaos and learn from it, Teams and commentator analyze what went wrong on track to disect why a rider crashed. Being a club racer myself im super interested to see footage to learn why something went wrong. It shouldnt scare you and shouldn't be appaled. This is a dangerous sport and people should see it and respect it for what it is. I dont consider myself a Lorenzo fan at all, but when he crashes I dont hope he gets hurt and I enjoy understanding what he did wrong, which isnt to be confused with celebrating it. 

Total votes: 106

About the booing and bad thing's people write Vr Said..."its very bad"

The M.O. Come and say : These people are twits; pathetic, cowardly twits. and tag those people as valiban. Welcome to the club M.O.

Like vr Said he got the same death wishes. But from Who? (And wil there be another article about the death wishes from the) lollybans? The antbans?

Its a Never ending Story and by stating fans as "valibans" wil only make them more determined after a controversial season.

Total votes: 116

Sorry not sorry, as the kids say... while I agree with the points well made about the keyboard warriors, I think the comparison with booing at trackside is completely invalid.

In no way does booing a rider mean you wish them harm, neither does it make the people booing morons. And say what you like about "sections of football terraces" but the implied comparison between football violence and Motorsport spectators is ludicrous at best.

This sanctimonious self righteous "I cheer all the riders, look at me, go friendly competition" rubbish is embarrassing. Why don't we all sit on our hands and provide a patter of applause akin to a Wimbledon semifinal.

These racers are part of an aggressive sport. Watching a race live, being a willing participant to the atmosphere, seeing your favourite rider close a gap, lap after lap, and then make a tough pass in front of your eyes... Elation! Cheers! See your favourite rider's fiercest rival do this to your man and the nerves well up, you feel a sense of frustration... booooo...

Relegating loyalties to irrelevance takes half the excitement out of the sport. Willing your rider to win, willing your rival to go a little wide, that's part of the experience.

When I go to a football match I cheer each positive action for my team. If I feel they have been wronged... I boo... The same at Motorsport events. I "ooooo" and "ahh". I applaud. I sit in stunned silence. I whoop. I cheer. I give a standing ovation.

I boo.

This doesn't mean I'm going to riot

And neither does it mean youths with florescent yellow scarves covering their faces are going to set upon the HTC hospitality tent.

And of course, who gets the cheers and who gets booed is a lot easier to predict if particular riders behave in particular ways off of the bike as well as on it.

Total votes: 109

Since "Sport" has been a word, people have been booing and cheering.

If you're getting paid million of dollars to go ride a motorcycle for A LIVING, you can take some booing. Dry your eyes kids, the world aint a nice place, never has been, never will be. Get on with it. 

Total votes: 129

The number of people who do or have done it isn't relevant. Neither, I think, is the wealth of the targets. In most cases it's just unpleasant behaviour - fortunately, it's also idiotic so much of the effect is the opposite of that intended, making the boo-ers look ridiculous. You can't appeal to people's maturity in defending it. That's like appealing to people's maturity in defending pulling the ponytail of a girl you fancy.

Jorge's response, exposing their impotence, was appropriate.

You voted 2. Total votes: 111

http://it.motorsport.com/motogp/news/lorenzo-e-marquez-con-le-guardie-del-corpo-al-mugello-738042/

Yep. "Race" in Muggello is going to be hot. Personal security for Lorenzo and Marquez:

"Race promoters have decided to strengthen the security of the two Spaniards to minimize the possibility of accidents with Valentino fans."

So except for mandatory regulations (medical and weight control, etc.), the Spaniards will only be allowed pit to box movements for their own safety.

No sponsor events!

There will be provisions unheard of before, like security for Lorenzo fans coming in, and extra security at night in the camping area.

Ridiculous. This isn't WWF.

Imagine being a fan of Lorenzo...Or MM, with your girlfriend or kid. You'd be concerned. But why??

 

Total votes: 110

You should really take this with a pinch of salt. Let me explain: first, no MM fans because in a publicity stunt the fan club decided months ago NOT to go to Mugello. At the time even serious commentators found it ludicrous expecially considering that in the much feared Valencia last race nothing happened (and rightly so: there is a difference between booing and assaulting people)
Second: Mugello has always been a chaotic place very crowded and messy. The bodyguard is more to keep some calm around the rider rather than protect his safety. As for the 30 repeat 30 (as reported in the article) JL supporters I'm sure they don't need protection they'll definitely get unnoticed in a crowd of 90.000....
As for the events that were canceled... both MM and JL are not very popular in Italy and for months now their events are almost non existant simply because they would be a total flop from a marketing point of view.
Last but not least : the article is signed by a Spanish journalist. I don't know if you are aware but since last year the Spanish press is not doing serious reporting but slandering (I know it's very general and a few reporters tried to stay neutral) but altogether their articles are absolutely far-fetched and totally unreliable.
The funny thing very ironic is that now that JL is almost a Ducati man he should probably have all the people in red cheering for him, countering the yellow wave....:)

You voted 2. Total votes: 120

It's nice of Rossi to say something about some of the idiots that follow him. But it is rather cynical after trying to tactically use those same idiots last year to influence the title fight. He knows that whatever he says the muppets will believe it and he was right.

People booing may be of all ages but Rossi knew exactly what he was doing when he gave them a target.

Total votes: 134

The thing is... 

Dorna (etc) has worked very hard and successfully to raise MotoGP from a bit of insider, niche, popular with motorcycle enthusiasts sport into a global commodity.

I would GUESS that MotoGP has never had more fans that don't ride motorcycles, than ever before.

So the fans that supported Honda, because they ride a Honda, or liked Schwantz because they wanted to ride like him down the Cat and Fiddle, are now supplemented by people whose interest is that they want "their" teams to win.

Dorna encourages this with things like making sure that as many nationalities are represented in the field (which is great, don't get me wrong about that) as possible, and marketing the sport as something anyone can follow.

In real terms this means that MM has fans that support him, not because when it comes to the front tire, he can 'bend it like Beckham' but becuase they heard he was the best. Rossi has fans that support him, not because he's the architect of some of the most exciting racing ever, but because someone told them he was the greatest of all time.

Who doesn't want to associate via fandom with the best and the greatest?

This world wide expansion of course brings in "fans" who relate to the sport, as other mainstream sports are related too. 

It's easy to make the football comparison, but don't forget, footie "fans" have rioted, plundered and murdered in the name of their team, so the comparison is  at best (worst?) embryonic and possibly a little twee.

I'm sure the riders must be shocked if they look up all their mentions on Twitter etc

But as Oxley says, they've already risen to the top, they've already dealt with heartache, criticism etc, and probably before anyone had ever heard of them.

They shouldn't have to take it. Not at all. But I bet they can. I suspect ignoring idiot fans is the easiest part of the job!

This new found MotoGP exposure is probably rather good for their earnings, today's top riders MIGHT earn more in one championship winning year (all in, including personal sponsorship etc) than riders earned 20 yrs ago in 5 years...

justsayin'

And booing is nothing new... Dani Pedrosa at every US round since 2007 for example 

At the end of the day, Twitter has destroyed the lives and careers of non famous people, people who got infamous via some stupid, misplaced tweet.

These people are the true victims of social media, not millionaire sports stars with publicists and brand managers.

I am sympathetic to the riders about the crap they get, I DO NOT agree with booing and death threats etc

But it's ultimately hand in glove part of being a sports star (and probably actor, musician, journalist etc etc)

It's a modern social problem, not a MotoGP one.

Total votes: 112

David Emmet even Wrote a huge article about how Marco Simoncelli got threathen even by journalists about the clash between him and dp and the verbal clash with jl....

I remember M.S say i wil be arrested as it was yesterday.

It all seems and reported as only valiban can do such things but it seems that 5 years ago fans and journalists beat the so called valiban to it.

Total votes: 110

Have been happening well before the end of 2015. Couldn't believe it when they started booing the winner at one of the races I went to. I wouldn't boo a rider even if I wasn't a fan. I don't have a favourite but I do like when the hated riders get up and win. Just to annoy the booers haha

Total votes: 97

Why are riders on twitter? To increase their market value to sponsors. Do any of them really get sad when some toolbag writes some semi legible scrawl in their free money machine? I would imagine it would bring a laugh and nothing more. Is anyone in the whole world really upset about twitter noise? I think any outrage is manufactured nonsense.
 
When I want life I study physics. When I want to entertainment to cheer and boo I watch sport.
 
When I want my view of the world filtered with some arbitrary judge removing comments I come here - which is not much these days.

If only we could mute half the world then life would be a dream.
 

Total votes: 93