On the afternoon of Oct. 31, I was sitting in the Autzen Stadium press box prior to that night’s USC-Oregon game, checking my Twitter feed, when the following tweet popped in from a user named @hometimrunner.
“Did you see Brandon Spikes trying to poke out [Washaun] Ealey’s eyes on the play before UGA’s 2nd TD?”
I had not. With the outcome of the Florida-Georgia game long since decided, I’d stopped paying attention to the broadcast playing on a nearby television.
But Shawn Walsh was still watching. From his home in Hershey, Pa., the 22-year-old recent college grad noticed Spikes’ attempted eye-gouge at the end of an otherwise innocuous running play and grew incensed CBS’ announcers had not mentioned it.
“It was the typical announcer not pointing out an egregious act,” said Walsh, a UConn fan with no rooting interest in the game. “So I rewound it, recorded it and put it on Twitter.”
About 20 minutes after that first Twitter mention, @shawnpwalsh included a link to his video in this tweet sent to myself and ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach: “Video of dirty Spikes play that you’ve been getting some mentions of from your followers.” Upon watching the play, I could tell immediately it would soon become a news story. I re-tweeted it to my 6,000-plus followers, many of whom then re-tweeted it themselves.
Within three hours, the video had received more than 1,000 views and made its way to Twitter’s “Currently Popular Twitvids.” The Orlando Sentinel later embedded it on its Web site. The video — which would eventually garner more than 19,000 views — helped bring national attention to a disturbing act that had gone undetected not only by Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, but also by a press box full of reporters covering the game in Jacksonville.