Today in soccer sanity: Ireland’s James McClean closes Twitter account after death threats

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Sunderland’s James McClean has been the biggest beneficiary of the new car smell Martin O’Neill’s brought to the Stadium of Light. While his first season with the Black Cats got off to a mostly anonymous start, the December hiring of his Northern Ireland countryman paved the way for the 23-year-old to score six times since the turn of the year.

While McClean was born in Derry and played for Northern Ireland at youth levels (he was a part of the team that won the Milk Cup four years ago), he represents the Republic of Ireland at the senior level. Before earning his first Republic cap earlier this year, McClean turned down call ups from Northern Ireland, electing to wait before making a final, permanent commitment.

This week, McClean was named by Giovanni Trappatoni to the squad he’ll take to this summer’s Euros. Not bad for a player who has only made 25 Premier League appearances, right?

Not everybody saw it that way. Unfortunately (if predictably), a few Twitter users lost all perspective on sports. In their own version of “we just can’t deal with Giuseppe Rossi’s perfectly reasonable life choices,” Northern Ireland-backers went after McClean when the winger tweeted his excitement. The attacks spurred a some sarcastic responses, which (of course) led to death threats – the logical extension of sport culture cliché and internet etiquette.

McClean was told he deserved to be shot. Another tweeter predicted McClean would be if he showed his face in Derry.

You can read the details here, but two things: a.) while we can all agree this is insane and there’s a good argument for not even covering (let along blogging about) crap like this, b.) it’s not like North American soccer is completely immuned to this, hence the Rossi reference. Perhaps this level of violent tribalism isn’t as deeply engrained in our culture, but there are definitely some weak seeds floating around our soils.

We need to be mindful of even tacitly condoning these kinds of attitudes. They add character to the game in the same way used car-dealing boosters add flavor to college football.

McClean has been asked to cease being a social media-ite for a while, which means large portion or presumably reasonable people who interact with him on Twitter and Facebook are being screwed by a few internet vigilantes and some hyper-vigilance from Sunderland.

The potential silver lining: We can take a moment, acknowledge these idiots can’t be condoned, and hope for day when these things can go unsaid.

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