Wednesday Word: Social media allows Moesch, Ferris to build following despite limited on-court action

Despite barely seeing the court most nights, Aaron Moesch has become a fan favorite due to his presence on Twitter. 

Despite barely seeing the court most nights, Aaron Moesch has become a fan favorite due to his presence on Twitter. 

Image By: Gage Meyer

When the Badgers travel to Lincoln, Neb. this Thursday to face the Cornhuskers, Ethan Happ will take center stage on national television.

He has risen to superstardom this season, playing the most pivotal role on a high-profile, Top 10 team with Final Four aspirations. He will be thrust into the spotlight yet again against Nebraska.

But when the buzzer sounds, he will return to his largely private, low-key existence, save for the occasional Tweet or post. When you’re a star, after all, you let your playing do the talking.

On the other side, though, are Aaron Moesch and Matt Ferris, the team’s two lowest scorers. For them, the end of the game actually signals their reentry into public prominence and exposure.

Though Moesch and Ferris seldom see the court for the Badgers, they’re still largely relevant among Wisconsin diehards, as they both possess Twitter accounts that are equally prolific and humorous.

While some of their teammates largely focus their social media personas on basketball, Moesch and Ferris have used their platform as Wisconsin athletes to create online existences that are reasonably separate from their athletic identities.

Sure, the two may occasionally mention an upcoming game or revel in a win, but most of their Tweets are at most tangentially related to basketball. Both are known for poking fun at teammates, with Ferris’ “#13DaysofNigel” series giving Wisconsin fans a more human look at someone they know mostly from his play on the court.

A deeper look at the Twitter profiles of Moesch and Ferris shows that the two consider basketball as part of their lives rather than something that dominates their respective existences.

Ferris’ recent Tweets include comments on the movie “Zootopia” and girls’ 21st birthday parties, while Moesch routinely posts about the Packers and retweets the type of funny GIFs and viral videos that any average young adult would.

In fact, Moesch and Ferris have no mention of the Wisconsin men’s basketball team in their Twitter bios, a subtle nod to their measured approach to athletics and diverse range of interests. They like basketball, but also enjoy pop culture and are avid Settlers of Catan players.

It is because of this candidness and honesty that I believe they have both amassed almost cult followings on Twitter, as people find it humorous and novel for two college basketball players to be posting memes and random, whimsical thoughts online.

Additionally, Moesch and Ferris both provide Badger fans access to higher-profile teammates such as Hayes and Zak Showalter, as the two are roommates with the redshirt senior guard.

In this way, I believe Moesch and Ferris almost act as liaisons to the general public, with far greater access than the average fan, but far more relatability and personality than the typical star athlete. Fans see themselves in these two humorous young athletes.

Ultimately, Moesch and Ferris are a case study in the power of social media for athletes in today’s society.

While they’re largely unseen and unheard during a Badger game at the Kohl Center, their online voices are two of the most recognizable and popular on the team, as they Tweet more often, and with more flair, than many of their teammates.

And yet, despite the thousands of followers they possess (Moesch has 5,026 and Ferris has 3,823) and consistent imprint they make online, they largely fade back into oblivion during games, serving roles as loyal teammates and motivators on the bench.

This phenomena showcases the fact that an athlete can obtain an online following not because of their real-world contributions, but simply because of the quality of their online persona.

Joel Embiid was a viral Twitter sensation years before he finally saw NBA action, and Chad Johnson remained in the public eye far after his prime ended with the help of an unfiltered online personality.

That type of widespread attention for idle athletes simply isn’t possible without social media, which has vastly expanded the scope of athletes who can garner exposure. You no longer have to be good, or even active in your sport anymore to be in the spotlight.

So while Moesch and Ferris may not have a future as NBA players, they have shown an understated, yet savvy ability to attract attention online and make an imprint on the Badgers’ social media landscape.

Those skills may not be worth a multi-million dollar contract, but these days, they’re surely worth something.

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