Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Waiting For The Weekend: Twittering Through The Sports World

Posted on September 25, 2009 by Dean Hybl

It was about a year ago that I first learned about Twitter and started my own personal Twitter account (dhprguy). At the time I was working for a public relations firm and it was pretty obvious that gaining an understanding of the power of social networks was essential for people in the public relations field.

As a networking tool, I’m still not sold on Twitter. Most of the people that follow you and that you follow on Twitter are complete strangers and interactions seem to be a bit forced and trivial.

When you are following thousands of people, as many people do, and have thousands following you, I don’t see how you can expect to have a meaningful conversation or personal engagement with someone.

However, as a tool for disseminating information there is no question that Twitter has a ton of power.

Many companies are using Twitter to inform customers and potential customers about their products. It also is a great place for bloggers like myself to announce our latest post or share a great site or blog that we saw somewhere else on the web.

Many celebrities have figured out that putting something on Twitter before formally announcing it to the media helps ensure that the points they want to make can be told (140 characters at a time).

When Paula Abdul announced that she was leaving American Idol she didn’t do it on The Oprah Winfrey Show or in People Magazine, she announced it on Twitter.

Twitter has also been where coaching changes, roster cuts and player moves have been shared by players with the general public before the media could get their hands on the information.

Of course, this ability to release information without a formal media announcement has ticked off the media and makes them skeptical of Twitter and other Social Media outlets.

For a while, ESPN seemed to be encouraging their personalities to create a presence on Twitter, but once they realized that Twitter was much harder to control than TV or radio they began putting restrictions on how ESPN employees could use Twitter.

One flaw with Twitter is that it is very hard to verify the true identity of the user.

My Sports Then and Now account (sportsthen_now) is currently being followed by someone claiming to be NHL President Gary Bettman (Gary_Bettman). However, since most of the posts seem to be making fun of Bettman and the NHL I am pretty sure that it is not really the NHL boss.

For a while, someone was posting as Shaquille O’Neal. Once Shaq heard about it, he began his own Twitter account (THE_REAL_SHAQ) and has nearly 2.3 million followers.

The NFL seems to be terrified of the power of Twitter.

Of course I think that much like ESPN, the NFL is terrified of anything it can’t tightly control, so it should be no surprise that Twitter has quickly gained the attention of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Using Twitter was originally banned for players and team personnel before a game and during halftime, but after players such as Chad Ochocinco (OGOchoCinco) were starting to tweet almost instantaneously with the conclusion of the game and before talking with the media, they quickly extended the ban until after players completed formal media interviews.

After the actions this past weekend of rookie Washington Redskins linebacker Robert Henson the NFL might think about trying to ban Twitter use by players from the time they sign a contract until the time they are eligible for Canton.

After the Redskins were booed by frustrated fans during their lackluster performance in a 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams, Henson posted the following on his Twitter page:

“All you fake half hearted Skins fan can .. I won’t go there but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!”

The sixth round pick out of TCU also wrote: “The question is who are you to say you know what’s best for the team and you work 9 to 5 at Mcdonalds.”

Now I know that being booed by their home fans is frustrating for athletes, but in today’s world where athletes are pampered beyond belief, they need to suck it up, especially in situations like this where it is deserved.

After all, there is historically no more loyal fan base than Washington Redskins fans and over the last 15 years they have had to withstand escalating ticket prices at the same time the results on the field have declined.

The Redskins did win their game over the Rams, but the performance was anything but stellar. Besides, the Rams won two games a year ago. If the Skins can’t beat them by more than two points in their home opener, they deserve to be booed.

The problem with all social media is that it is instantaneous. The moment you press “send”, whatever you have written is out in cyberspace and no matter how hard you try there is no taking it back.

Henson tried to apologize and backtrack, but the damage was done. Whether really deserved or not, he has become the latest poster child illustrating the spoiled nature of today’s professional athletes.

The NFL has also tried to ban use of Twitter during the game by members of the media to try and protect their own content rights holders, but that seems almost impossible.

As Shelley Palmer asks, just exactly who is the media today? Is it only media sitting in the press box at the game or would it also spread to me and any other blogger who is watching the game on TV?

How about the fan sitting in section 325 and tweeting during the game via an iphone or Blackberry?

Social media has changed the access to information and to providing information.

While anyone over the age of 30 can remember a time without the internet, anyone under the age of 21 can’t remember a time without text messages and soon won’t remember a time without Facebook, Twitter and iphones.

Consider that YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world with 100,000,000 videos. Heck, just about every cell phone in the world is now a video camera and within seconds your pictures and videos can be on YouTube or some other site and accessable to the world.

How exactly does the NFL, ESPN, the NCAA or anyone else think they can control that?

The sports world will continue to try and figure out how to gain control, but social media is an ever changing and growing medium that is like an out of control locomotive and will be harder for the NFL to control than even the egos of Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens.
Each week we look at some current and former athletes who were born during the week.

Here are some notable sports figures born during this week:
September 25 – Phil Rizzuto (1918), Bob McAdoo (1951), Scottie Pippen (1965), John Lynch (1971)
September 26 – Dick Roth (1947), Bobby Joe Edmonds (1964), Craig Heyward (1966)
September 27 – Benjamin Brown (1953), Steve Kerr (1965), Robert Jones (1969)
September 28 – Max Schmeling (1905), Charley Taylor (1941), Lou Piniella (1943), Steve Largent (1954), Janet Evans (1971)
September 29 – Bum Phillips (1923), Warren Cromartie (1953), Ken Norton Jr. (1966)
September 30 – Robin Roberts (1926), Dave Magadan (1962), Jamal Anderson (1972)
October 1 – Rod Carew (1945), Alton Lister (1958), Amp Lee (1971)

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