VANCOUVER — If Twitter is a double-edged sword, Alex Burrows of the Canucks felt its sharpness cut deep this week with a negative edge.
Unfiltered comments from fanatics of the New York Rangers were directed at Burrows after he took top defenceman Ryan McDonagh heavily into the boards, injuring him. The backlash was vitriolic. “‘I’ll kill your family. I want you to die,’” was a sampling of the hate-filled tweets Burrows said he received in an interview with Vancouver Sun hockey writer Brad Ziemer.
For Kenny Miller of the Vancouver Whitecaps it was just another example of why he doesn’t need social media in his life.
“Each to their own,” Miller said after training Thursday at BC Place Stadium. “I’ve never had Facebook. I’ve never had MySpace and I don’t use Twitter. To be honest with you, I was never good with computers anyway. But it can lead you into situations you don’t want to be in. Plus, it can give people access to you. For me, it’s not something I want to be involved in.”
If there’s any social engaging to be done Miller prefers to do it the way mankind has managed since the first cavemen picked up a cudgel -- face to face.
After last Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo, the Scottish international took the Lambeau Leap one step further by wading into the Whitecaps supporters section, doffing his game jersey and embracing fans, which is as up-close-and-personal as any professional athlete has a right to be.
In media scrums, Miller is not only a thoughtful quote, he can, in the words of those who know him, “talk football all day.”
But that’s as far as his obligation goes. Questions concerning his family, or private life, are off-limits.
That became apparent earlier this season when he showed up for interviews after a training session, bearing a lunch kit adorned with pictures of his children, a four-year-old daughter and his son, almost a year old.
A casual inquiry about their names elicited a guarded response from the Whitecaps player. He wanted to keep any mention of them from public consumption.
Interestingly, though, the Miller clan paid a visit to BC Place Thursday, to watch Kenny and his mates prepare for Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids. As a dutiful dad, Kenny broke away from training periodically to be with his kids and wife, Laura, unlike her husband a prolific contributor to Twitter. Indeed, the world learned of her fondness for social media last year after a black bear invaded the backyard of the Millers’ home on the North Shore.
She posted photos of the animal peering around a tree, which went viral. It was played up by newspapers in the couple’s native land, where “Black Bear”, the great Scottish bagpipe tune, is a standard at any military tattoo.
“It’s her thing, the way she communicates with her friends,” Miller explained. “What she does is just light-hearted, fun stuff. There’s nothing controversial about it all.”
The forces of nature, wild fauna to the point of disturbance, are no longer an issue with the Millers, however, since the couple moved to rented accommodations in downtown Vancouver as Kenny contemplates an uncertain future.
“It’s partly because of the (his) contract,” Miller said. “This is just a short-term lease. We’ll see what happens.”
Undefeated after four games (2-0-2), the Whitecaps clearly are building something.
Miller, a superbly accomplished finisher who has contributed three goals to the effort, has no reason to doubt the belief that 2014 could be a fascinating journey.
He just wonders if it will go on without him, when his contract expires at the end of June.
Once that happens, he is free to negotiate a new deal with any club outside of Major League Soccer.
As ex-Celtic and ex-Rangers star, Miller has hoisted the Scottish Cup for both of Scotland’s most serious international combatants, a circumstance that makes him both admired and loathed since he has played on both sides of the Old Firm.
Rumours of his return continue to swirl and are promoted by Scottish newspapers, though practically all of them are concocted, according to Miller.
“This is the nature of the business over there,” he explained. “It’s far different. A lot of the stuff is fabricated. Being here (Whitecaps) is a bit of a refuge from all that.”
After just four games, Miller has earned some rave reviews for his composure -- two of his goals have come on penalty kicks, one of them a re-do last week against Houston -- and style. His second of two goals in the opening game against the Red Bulls showed consummate belief in his touch, when he deftly lobbed the ball over a goalkeeper trapped in no-man’s land with just the right amount of pace.
And it’s not easy to lightly dismiss the best public relations performance of the young season when he communed with the Whitecaps faithful last game.
“He wants the crowd behind him, because he feeds off that,” explained Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson. “They give him confidence. Credit him for getting behind the supporters. And credit them for getting behind him.”
No Twitter needed. Miller connected, through humanity's oldest form of social activity.
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