“Jason Dufner is the definition of a flatline.”
-Roger Maltbie, on NBC during the Final Round of the 2012 U.S. Open
I laughed when Roger said that. For the vast majority of the nearly 10 million people watching the final round of the U.S. Open, that was the perfect way to describe Jason Dufner. There were a few of us that knew better, even if we had never met Jason Dufner.
Dufner burst onto the mainstream golf scene in late 2011 when he led the PGA Championship for 71 holes. He did so in the most interesting way possible. He showed zero emotion. He didn’t smile. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t get mad. He didn’t get angry. He just hit every shot sans emotion, looking like the game of golf was an inconvenience on his daily stroll through the woods.
Dufner seemed different. His golf swing stood out with a series of waggles that called to mind a baseball player in the batter’s box, not a pro golfer. He was an Auburn graduate – during the PGA Championship in Atlanta, this led to a whole lot of “War Eagle!” yells in the teebox and, well, that was more interesting than the usual “YOUDAMAN!” Finally, he dipped. Yep, in an era of political correctness, Jason Dufner was about to win a major title with Skoal packed under his bottom lip for 4 days.
Except, he didn’t. Dufner lost in excruciating fashion thanks to some ill-timed bogies and dramatic theatrics from eventual winner Keegan Bradley. The common thought in the aftermath was that Dufner would become another addition to the lengthy list of one-hit wonders that could quite cash in on their one week of good fortune – think of Dufner portrayed as a Bob May for a new era.
Regardless, I remained interested in Dufner. And this is where the whole situation gets turned on its head – I found Jason Dufner’s Twitter account. When Twitter suggested I follow Dufner – apparently it had picked up on my many Dufner-related tweets during the PGA Championship – I was more than hesitant to even look at his profile. As Roger Maltbie had so accurately summed up, the dude was a flatline. Why would I want to follow a pro golfer on Twitter? Especially one that seemed to have been born without the ability to emote?
I got up the nerve and decided to take the plunge – even if Dufner ended up being the dullest Tweeter since Tiger Woods, at least I could say I was a true fan. He only had about 5,000 followers at the time and I felt it was my obligation, if I was going to get on the bandwagon, to lend him some support.
Instead of following a flatline, I’ve followed one of the most interesting people in my Twitter feed. I say that without a hint of hyperbole – Jason Dufner is funny, smart, intriguing and engaging.
In just the past couple of weeks, I’ve read him:
- Share his thoughts on
the Cavaliers draft: “Somehow the Cavs had four picks this but ended up
with only 2 players, neither of which are the top 5 players in the draft.
- Express his discontent with refs during the NBA Finals: “If Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked Durant, would the refs call a foul? Maybe a charge on Durant?”
- Admitting to embarrassing TV habits: “This boyfriend on mrs Eastwood and company is setting himself up to b a regular on E network Talk Soup, with good ole Joel”
- Proves that he watches even more sports than me: “Serious stuff World Cup of darts.. England vs Australia. Got some history there!”
You could accurately say that this blog post is simply a very (very) long-winded version of a #FF where I tell you that you should really consider follow @JasonDufner.
But it’s really another example of how Twitter – more so than any other social media network – is truly changing and shaping the world. It’s not even as simple as something like a reporter saying, “Oh back in my day, we got to really know the athletes and hang out with them,” which has become the new hotness when explaining why athletes have become more rehearsed in their answers.
The long story here is that in 2012, it’s not just reporters and media that get to know athletes – it’s everyone with access to Twitter. I’ve never met Jason Dufner. I’ve never mentioned him in a Tweet or vice versa. But it feels like I know him. I know at times, we’ve been watching the same NBA game and thinking the same thing. It’s the definition of humanizing an athlete – Jason Dufner on a Thursday night is a lot like you and me on a Thursday night.
I realized the power that a simple Twitter follow could have when Dufner finally notched his first PGA victory in the Zurich Classic with a playoff win over Ernie Els. I pumped my first when he won and wanted to go on Twitter to congratulate him. I have no idea why I wanted to do this but I was genuinely happy the dude won.
But disaster struck – his Twitter account was no longer active. A guy I had never met had won a tournament and I suddenly had no way to contact said guy I’ve never met before. It was one of the oddest feelings I’ve ever had in my life – you know, one of those moments where you start to think that your life has probably gone astray and you should re-evaluate the important things in life.
I was disappointed he was no longer on Twitter, but happy he won. He would win again. He would contend again. And suddenly, Dufner was back on Twitter. I don’t know why he left and I don’t care…it’s good to have his random tweets back in my feed.
It’s just a small example of how Twitter has changed the world. Just a few years ago, Jason Dufner would just be an Auburn grad who dipped and was incapable of showing human emotion. In 2012, Jason Dufner is a two-time PGA Tour champion who grew up near Cleveland, watches E!, loves Chuck Norris and thinks we should probably give LeBron a break a year after the Decision.
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