Rich Clune (Photo by Kim Stallknecht/NHLI via Getty Images)
Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune often reads catcalls directed his way by people on Twitter, but usually can't respond in person. That changed Monday afternoon when he phoned one of his tormentors to have a little chat about the dangers of alcoholism.
Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune claims a day rarely passes when some keyboard warrior out there doesn’t take to Twitter to call him a “crack head” or disparage him for his well-documented history with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. “Just this summer I made a joke about the World Cup and somebody tweeted back, ‘I hope somebody steps on your throat with a skate blade the next time you play,’ “ Clune said.
Usually, Clune and his fellow NHLers brush the comments off and ignore them. And even if they don’t, they often have no way of responding. But when Clune received a disparaging tweet recently, he did a bit of digging and went right to the source.
First, the backstory. Last week, Clowe became entangled in a Twitter “war” involving former NHLer Sean Avery and former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, who has endured his share of life travails outside the ring. What started as light banter among the three escalated, but it was all in fun, Clune said. At one point, Clune poked fun at Bowe for his weight, tweeting that Bowe, “now eats cheeseburgers for a living.” The tweet inspired some vulgarities and invective from Bowe, much of which was set up. (Clune is friends with Avery and while he has never met Bowe, the two have communicated on Twitter in the past.)
That prompted one boxing fan to tweet to Clune, “You’ll be back in rehab in no time, loser.”
The only problem was, the poster’s Twitter profile photo was the business card for his dog walking service – no, we’re not making this up – which contained his phone number. So, instead of stewing over the remark, Clune decided to call the tweeter between workouts Monday afternoon. He basically called the guy out, recorded the conversation and posted it to his Twitter account.
Here it is in its more-than-nine-minute entirety:
At the beginning of the conversation, Clune refers to the guy as a “coward,” saying that predicting Clune will be back in rehab is tantamount to, “telling someone who has cancer, ‘I hope you get it again. You’re a lowlife.’ “ He went on to say, “By saying, ‘You’ll be back in rehab,’ insinuates that I’ll relapse, which I could possible die from because of how serious this illness is. I’m just trying to tap into the psyche of someone who would say that, that’s all.”
By the end of the conversation, the offender has apologized and Clune accepts his gesture of contrition. The guy even says he’ll cheer for Clune next season and asks whether Clune is still with the Predators. “No. 16 in your program, No. 1 in your heart,” Clune responds.
Clune, who spoke to thn.com from his family’s home in Toronto, is proud to report that he has been sober for, “four years, three months and six days,” (it’s actually closer to four months). He deals with his disease every day, but he also has to deal almost daily with people who don’t understand how serious and lethal it can be. Although Clune says he doesn’t want the burden of representing all those with substance abuse issues, he was happy to strike a blow for all the athletes who have to endure the anonymous abuse they receive in social media. “And maybe it was a notch for all those recovering alcoholics out there,” Clune said.