Joel Reichenberger: My Olympic Facebook faux pas
February 8, 2014
Sochi, Russia — I'd never heard the term "fanned out" until I was interviewing Arielle and Taylor Gold about what it was like to now compete in snowboard half-pipe with some of the riders they once idolized.
"Fanning out" is when you get a little carried away with being a fan of your contemporaries. "Fanning out" is not a good thing to do.
Unfortunately, as soon as I heard the term, I knew I had once violated it.
Yep, I fanned out.
Hannah Kearney is the ideal athlete from a reporter’s perspective. Not only is she record-shattering dominant in her sport, women's moguls, she's a great interview. She's smart, quick and always willing to give your question that extra bit of thought so as to provide a real answer.
That's as good as it gets for us in the reporting world.
I've only even interviewed Kearney once, and it was enough to convert me into a fan.
It was in December, 2009 and Kearney had just won the women's U.S. Olympic Trials event in Steamboat Springs, ensuring she'd compete several months later in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I was a bit wide-eyed by the whole experience that winter, my first working at the paper in a lead-up to an Olympic Games. Covering the Olympic Trials was a huge highlight and getting a candid, intelligent interview from Kearney was the icing on the cake.
So, when those Olympics did come around, I was very much cheering for her on the first night of competition as she competed in Vancouver. I was positively jubilant when she flew down the hill to win gold.
Moments later, I noticed people I was Facebook friends with posting congratulations on Kearney's Facebook account.
Whoa, we had mutual Facebook friends?
Heck, I figured, I've talked to her. That's generally my line in the sand when it comes to Facebook friendships: if I've met you, it's cool.
And remember, I HAD met Kearney. Sure, it was just once, but nevertheless, the requirement was reached.
So, I did it. I pulled the trigger and added her on Facebook.
About eight seconds later I began to feel like an idiot.
I don't know what got into me. Let's call it the Olympic spirit. I went a little crazy, but it didn't take long before I came back to my senses. My next step: Googling "How to cancel a friend request."
(This is before you could simply click "cancel friend request," for what it's worth.)
Turns out, it wasn't difficult. I knew she couldn't have seen it yet considering: 1) She was busy accepting a gold medal and 2) I can't have been the only person to do this, right? There had to have been a million others do the same thing, right? Right? And just think: none of those weirdos even knew her like I did.
Anyway, to cancel a friend request you just had to block the person you requested, then boom, it erased the request.
So, about 10 minutes after deciding I was such good friends with gold medal mogulist Hannah Kearney I should friend her on Facebook, I blocked her and one of my stranger Facebook forays was gone. (Until I decided to write about it, that is.)
I'm off to photograph the women's moguls finals Saturday evening, so I'll surely see Kearney there and may well get to see her win gold in person.
I'll do my best to keep the fanning to a minimum.