It's not particularly surprising that Canadian receiver Chris Bauman is often criticized. Bauman, the top overall pick in the 2007 Canadian draft by Hamilton, was released by the Tiger-Cats last February after several subpar years. Edmonton eventually picked him up, he had a less-than-stellar 2011 season (11 catches, 132 yards, no touchdowns) and he was one of three players released by the Eskimos Thursday. That inevitably brought him some further criticism, most prominently from Sportsnet's Arash Madani. However, that's where things became more remarkable; Bauman received a strong defence from a Twitter user who went after Madani, and it turned out that Twitter user was his sister Amber. Here's how the hilarious and informative ensuing conversation played out, including insertions from Toronto Argonauts' director of communications Beth Waldman, Hamilton Spectator Tiger-Cats' beat writer Drew Edwards, B.C. Lions' slotback Geroy Simon and Madani's parody account (you can also view it in interactive Storify form here):
There are a few important points to take away from this. For one, it's not that criticism of Bauman is invalid: when Hamilton released him last February and several teams battled for his services, I cited him as an example of the perils of conventional thinking in the CFL, where executives would often rather go with someone who's tried and failed before instead of taking a chance on new talent. He simply hasn't produced to the level one would expect given his impressive CIS career at Regina and his first-overall draft status. However, that doesn't make him a bad player; Bauman has made it to the CFL and survived for five seasons, which illustrates he has plenty of talent, and his CFL career may be anything but over. Despite his lack of prominent statistics recently, Bauman still has plenty of size (he's listed as 6'4'' and 212 pounds), and he has decent hands and reasonable agility. As Simon pointed out, given his Canadian passport, that's probably more than enough to make another CFL team take a chance on him, at least as a training-camp invitee.
For another thing, although Madani's criticisms of Bauman were perfectly fair (and hardly unique to him), it's not difficult to see why Amber Bauman was offended by them. It's easy to forget that the football players we're analyzing day-in and day-out are regular people with families and friends, and that this is their profession. Moreover, they have the disadvantage of being in a profession that's continuously analyzed; I'm not sure I'd take it all that well if there was an entire industry devoted to pointing out my mistakes. That doesn't mean reporters, analysts and fans should back off or sugarcoat every opinion about players, as there are plenty of perils that way too. It's just worth keeping in mind how what you write can be perceived by others.
Lastly, it's worth pointing out just how terrific the CFL Twitter community is compared to many other areas. Sports arguments often flare up into Twitter wars, especially when it gets personal (see the feuds of Toronto Maple Leafs' GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson with Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons and others for an example), so it's remarkable that this one didn't. Instead, we got an amicable discussion with an exchange of several good points and plenty of laughs. If that's not proof that CFL fans should be on Twitter (and following the #CFL hashtag), I don't know what is.