Wednesday

8-5-09: Tweet This

Hello again everybody...

It's mid-week time again. And for the first time in a while, I'm actually stoked for a Wednesday. A Wednesday?! Yes, a Wednesday.

(Yes, I like typing "Wednesday".)

Even as I type this, my folks are en route from Phoenix to Minneapolis for a visit. I only get to see them a few times a year these days (my favorite of which is my annual visit to Phoenix in March), so it's always good to spend some quality time with them.

They timed it just right since yesterday was my nephew's 6th birthday, so we get to have a family celebration this weekend.

(Good gawd, I have a 6-year-old nephew! Insert "Jeez is Dan old!" joke here.)

And as an extra bonus, I'm heading to a ball game next weekend with my mom, and two of my aunts. And oh yes, there will be a Running Game Commentary forthcoming from that event.

So a lot of good stuff on the way, and focusing on that is a pretty good way to deal with a Wednesday!

Today's column idea is another I've been ruminating on for a while. And after ESPN made news yesterday by issuing an official policy on the subject of my idea, I thought it was time to finally put it out there.

Twitter has become a part of the lexicon. Even if you're not using it, you're aware it's out there, and that there are a lot of people who are users. And a lot of those people are athletes. Like it or not, Twitter has become a huge part of sports these days, and that's why I want to talk about it.

Let's get to the discussing, shall we?

"An intelligence test sometimes shows a man how smart he would have been not to have taken it."
- Laurence J. Peter (1919 - 1988), educator and "hierarchiologist".


Yes, I just used Dr. Peter for a quote last week. But what can I say, the guy's got some solid offerings!

«Read More...»


Twitter. It's here and we'd better get used to it.

Twitter began as an idea for a text-message-based social network in 2006. The initial idea was for people to be able to send a single text message to a mass audience. With a few key-strokes, you can tell a group of friends where you're meeting that night, or share a special event with family members.

In the last year or so though, Twitter has morphed into something else entirely. Oh, it still retains the ability to share thoughts and locales with your friends and family. But it's also become a direct media outlet.

What I mean by that is that it allows famous entertainers and athletes to speak directly to fans without having to go through traditional media. Film directors can provide updates on their latest project. Athletes can talk about practices or even games. All in real time. All without having to talk to someone else who'll repackage their words into a story which may or may not represent the subject's original intentions.

You can see why this would appeal to oft-quoted people.

This bypass, understandably, has said traditional media a little rankled. After all, what they can't control, they can't monetize. And when you start impacting the profit margins of large corporations, they pay attention in a hurry.

To whit, yesterday ESPN sent a memo to its employees outlining the company's official policy on social networking. You can read that memo here. (Courtesy of www.sportsbusinessdaily.com)

At first glance, that looks a little restrictive. Many of ESPN's anchors, reporters and columnists have not only been sharing information, but also providing a unique perspectives on when and how that information has been collected. Unless the Worldwide Leader changes their stance, much of that will be silenced.

I understand ESPN's motivations. The sports audience is already greatly fractured amongst the many cable/satellite and Internet options, and it would be less-than-profitable for ESPN to allow that audience to be further fractured, especially at the hands of their own staff.

Plus, you never know when someone will say something stupid, which could reflect poorly upon the company they work for. I read an article recently that detailed a "Twitter feud" taking place between ESPN's Mark Schlereth and Cincinnati WR Chad Ochocinco (yes, he legally changed his name, so I'll use it). I haven't seen any of the exchanges, but I doubt this is a war of words to rival classic literature. And who knows when or if it might escalate into inappropriate territory.

All of that being said, it's my earnest hope - and ESPN's stated intention - that they'll continue to use Twitter as an information sharing medium. Maybe we won't get the personal touch from their staff that we've received in the past. But imagine if sideline reporters were able to share information via Twitter that there wasn't time for them to get onto the TV broadcast. I know a lot of people who'd love to see stuff like that.

The next shoe to drop will come from the leagues themselves. So far, the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL have no official policy towards athletes using Twitter. That will likely change soon.

Individual teams have created their own policies. The Green Bay Packers don't allow players to use Twitter during any team functions, punishable by fines. Other teams take Tweets (the unfortunate term for an individual Twitter message) on a case by case basis. The San Diego Chargers just fined CB Antonio Cromartie over $2000 for complaining about the food served at training camp via Twitter.

When differing teams have varying policies, and some teams don't have policies at all, that's when leagues usually step in and make a singular policy for the entire league. Of course, those sorts of things usually have to be negotiated with each leagues' players' unions. But I'm guessing the unions will be more than happy to agree to some sort of policy given that there's some form of quid pro quo involved.

Needless to say, it's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. I only hope that the "inside baseball" that's out there now doesn't dry up all together. I'll admit, I'm a Twitter user. Not because I think anybody really cares to read my ruminations on anything (though if you do care, please feel free to follow me @dcook93), but because I truly enjoy following certain people.

To whit, here's a list of my favorite people to follow:

@The_Real_Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal): Sports fans are well acquainted with Shaq's legendary personality. And it comes through clearly in his Twitter posts (I just can't stand to call them "Tweets" anymore).

@Mark_Cuban (Dallas Mavericks Owner): I'm as annoyed as anyone by Cuban's antics at Mavericks games, but he's got some interesting insights into the game and business in general when he sits down and actually thinks about it.

@SenJohnMcCain (Arizona Republican): I'm fairly certain it's the Senator's staff that actually posts for him. But if you're a political junkie, it's fun to hear his opinions. And occasionally you'll get links to op/eds he's written.

@mnwild (Minnesota Wild): My favorite hockey team posts breaking news and updates on team promotions.

@stewartcink (PGA Professional): Not a guy I'd usually go out of my way to watch, but it was awfully interesting following him en route to his British Open Championship victory.

@StephenAtHome (Stephen Colbert): If you're a fan of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central will want to follow him on Twitter. They're not all home runs, but he's usually very entertaining.

@NickSwisher (Yankees outfielder): I know, I know. You hate the Yankees. I'm not a fan myself. But Nick's entertaining, and he makes my list.

@sportsguy33 (ESPN's Bill Simmons): I've gushed about my favorite sports columnist in the past. On Twitter, he's a links machine. And not just sports. He's got a keen sense for pop culture as well.

@kevin_love (Timberwolves forward): Dubbed "The Big Twitter", Kevin's one of the most well known Twitter athletes. He broke the news earlier this spring that Kevin McHale wasn't being retained as Wolves head coach. You know I don't like the NBA, but I like following Kevin!

@Jon_Favreau (film actor/director): I started following Jon when I heard he was updating from the sets of "Iron Man 2". And those were certainly fascinating. But there are plenty of other amusing anecdotes unrelated to super hero films that he provides as well.

@sethmeyers21 (SNL's Seth Meyers): The Weekend Update anchor will test material on Twitter, and pass along jokes that he can't work into the show.

@Russostrib (Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo): Russo's one of my favorite local sports writers, hockey or otherwise. Plus, it was via his Re-Tweet of Judd Zulgad's post announcing the Farve decision, that I was able to pass that information along and get it on WCCO radio before anybody other than the Strib published it. I have to appreciate that!

@JoeCStarTribune & @LaVelleNeal (Twins beat writers): Of course I'm going to follow the beat writers for my favorite team, right? Lots of links to lineups and blogs. Good stuff.

@tafoyashow (Michele Tafoya): The new 3-6pm host on WCCO Radio and famed sideline reporter for ESPN's Monday Night Football. Given ESPN's new policy, there might be a new handle forthcoming for the NFL season, but she's definitely worth following!

@madsen_mark (Former Wolves Forward): Sure he's no longer with the Wolves, but he's the Mad Dog! A good guy, and entertaining Twitter user.

@vshiancoe (Vikings TE Vicente Shiancoe): Sure he gained national notoriety last fall when Fox Sports put a live camera in the Vikings locker room after a big win. Let's just say that Randy Johnson isn't the only one with the nickname, "The Big Unit" now. But Vicente's been posting all week from Vikings camp. Who knows when "the man" will shut him down, but so far, it's been fun to follow!

So if you've ever been tempted to join Twitter, there's a list to get you started. You don't have to actually post things if you're not interested. But it's interesting to follow some of these people and find out what's on their mind at any given time.

That's all for today folks. I'll be back on Friday with your usual column-entre into the weekend!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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