Christen Press - US women's national team USWNT - closeup

Twitter can be a horrible place for prominent athletes after a tough game or a bad performance.

Like social media in general, it provides an immediate connection to players and coaches, one that is all too often exploited for abuse by angry or mocking fans, especially in the heat of the moment. But every now and then, it offers up a welcome surprise, a change of pace from the norm.

Supporters of the US women's national team provided us with a heartwarming example over the weekend, as an idea that started with one tweet blossomed into a trending topic around the world.

USWNT forward Christen Press found herself at the flashpoint of her team's stunning PK-shootout loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the women's Olympic soccer tournament on Friday. The Chicago Red Stars standout was far from the only player to make a mistake in the shock upset, but hers was perhaps the most prominent, as she missed the final US spot kick in the shootout that Sweden won 4-3 to advance to the semifinal round.

But instead of showering Press with invective, Twitter user @mmwilsner offered up consolation instead.

Mindful of Press' love for canines, she tweeted her a photo of her parents' dog Mudd alongside the hashtag #DogsForChristen. (Press is the proud owner of a rescue dog named Morena, and recently took part in an ad campaign called “Adopt, Don't Shop” with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

The concept caught on in a big way, as thousands of others took part with images of their favorite pooches, including Press' USWNT teammates Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg and Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler.

The gesture seems to have moved Press during what has undoubtedly been a painful time:

And Whisler even suggested that the Red Stars, who share Toyota Park with the Chicago Fire, might soon stage a special dog-friendly event at a home match:

As Charles Olney wrote at, this phenomenon is a welcome change from the norm, and a timely reminder that no matter what happens on the field, the heroes we cheer for are human beings first and foremost. When their workday is done, they go home to pets and other loved ones just like the rest of us — and sometimes the best way be supporters is just to, well, support them, not castigate or abuse them. 

Hopefully this sort of hashtag will catch on, so athletes can spend more time thanking their Twitter followers and less time blocking them, or logging off entirely.