Sure, Twitter doesn’t enable nearly the amount of Internet stalking that is possible through the Facebook newsfeed. But in the tech world, Twitter is fast becoming the new method of procrastination for college students, thanks in large part to professional athletes, and especially NBA stars. It’s easy to understand what draws the college student to Twitter: despite our deepest desires for a day without work, most of us don’t actually have enough time to deal with friend requests, write three paragraphs on five different walls, or, my personal favorite, sort through 27 pages of Bumper Sticker to find something interesting. Many do, however, frequently update their status, which is about the equivalent of making a quick post on Twitter. The difference? Most Facebook profiles or groups of professional athletes are updated by someone else, and even then only in the event of some big news that you have probably already heard on SportsCenter anyway. But Twitter is the place you can get updated, personal, sometimes completely irrelevant information regarding your favorite athletes-directly from the athlete themselves.
So what draws professional athletes into this trend with a technological passion we’ve never seen before? A multitude of reasons. The number one reason, as written by the press, is, ironically, the ability to avoid the press. Every other form of media coverage or public information on an athlete comes through countless journalists, sportscasters, or PR departments. The athlete’s quotes are whatever he hopes doesn’t sound stupid on live television or in print, and the context surrounding the athlete’s words are filled with whatever connotation or perspective the author wants to provide. The rich and famous have been forever searching for ways to be heard in their own voice, without a media tainting, and it looks like they’ve finally found it.
Every sports fan has grown up wishing they could get within a hundred yards of their favorite athlete; to ask a question and not lose their nerve; to tell the quarterback “great throw,” and to know how the player really feels after a loss or a fight or even on his day off. And, while they occasionally fool us with a superhuman persona, athletes are people too. Many of them genuinely recognize and remember their fans, and want to reach them in a more personal way without being physically bombarded. Lance Armstrong was recently quoted in an Associated Press article discussing how difficult it is to have a normal chat over a Starbucks cup of coffee with twenty guys, or beer at a bar with a hundred. So finally, the roads intersect as both athletes and fans can now enjoy convenient, no-hassle interaction.
However, controversy is running amok in the Twittering world of sports. In an accidentally advantageous advertising move for Twitter, the phenomenon has been recently publicized across the media thanks to a half-time tweet from Charlie Villanueva during his game against the Celtics. Villanueva’s coach wasn’t so thrilled about this incident, and I’ll admit my first thought was “why isn’t he focusing on the game?” But we Twitter followers must admit, reading a player’s immediate feelings in the locker room is quite a tempting offer. Shaquille O’Neal’s coach doesn’t seem to care as long as he’s still putting up the numbers. I guess the real question of the controversy is whether the game is about the fans, or whether it is about the game itself.
Out of loyalty and love of the game, even as a serious high school athlete I would never have dreamed of picking up a cell phone between warm-ups and dismissal, no matter how bad I wanted to share my frustration or joy with my father. But then again, what would professional sports be without the fans? Bankrupt. And consequently, non-existent. So I guess the solution is a personal call for the athletes, although I would suggest permission of the coaches next time.
There are a few drawbacks to Twittering, such as the uncensored capabilities; further deterioration of our nation’s knowledge of grammar and spelling, a personal pet peeve I share with many fellow Colgate students, and the slight mess created by frequently using tweets to respond to other tweets. But none of the pitfalls would stop me from checking up on CC Sabathia, Eli Manning or Shaquille O’Neal. Probably the most troubling issue of Twitter is the possibility that one may be a fake, undermining the previously mentioned pros of athletes having Twitters. However, that’s why the other media is still around — so we can read articles biased one way or another, find out who officially stated their Twitter is authentic, and then ditch the article seventy-five percent in and go read the Twitters.