Athletes and the Price of Twitter: Fools Rush in To Tweet

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Athletes and the Price of Twitter: Fools Rush in To Tweet
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In just the last seven days, the Super Bowl participants have been decided, tennis has crowned its first major champions of 2011 and the All-Star teams have been chosen in the NBA and the NHL.

That’s just a lightning-quick survey of five of the many sports that fans are passionate about.

Concurrent with this, much of the sports news has been generated by tweets hammered out by the likes of current and former NFL players and, yes, a certain tennis mom.

Most of these tweets have shared the following qualities: They are mean-spirited, clueless, and unfortunate.

Such rantings from the Twittersphere (a largely parallel universe for this writer) have brought to mind a famous quote that has been attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, and perhaps others (none of them professional jocks):

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Permit me a step back, if not a retweet.

We live in an amazing age where literally everything appears to be at our fingertips, or just a click away.

Even a near-technophobe like me can zip around the internet and conduct more research in an hour than I could have done in a whole weekend seven years ago.

Of course, technology is both wonderful and scary. Access to celebrities (however "celebrity" is defined these days—be he/she a politician, athlete, entertainer, criminal or some hybird) has long been deemed newsworthy or entertainment worthy, and we now have access like never before.

It would be easy for me to opine on how social media phenomena such as Facebook and Twitter are screwing up the political, entertainment and (most dire of all?) sports landscapes, and that may be true.

But is there any way to put these mega-genies back into their respective bottles?

Apparently not.

We want to be connected, or perhaps we want the illusion of connectivity to others. Or maybe we just want to be the first, or the loudest, or the most outrageous, or the most famous, or most infamous.  And does that pesky little -in prefix even matter if it is followed by f-a-m-o-u-s?

Certainly, there is incredible potential in all this technology, and one hopes that common sense, class and ethics will somehow and in some way catch up with it. I’m probably just as optimistic as you are of that happening anytime soon.

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

It has been measured that Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every single day. How many of these are posted by famous sports figures? In my mind, way too many.

Let’s examine some tweets from this past week.

As you well know, starting quarterback Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship game last Sunday early in the third quarter with his Chicago Bears trailing the visiting Green Bay Packers 14-0. His backups played out the string, with the Pack earning the coveted trip to the Super Bowl with a 21-14 victory.

Before the game had ended, and before knowing the extent of Cutler’s injury, a host of current NFL players (including Maurice Jones-Drew, Darnell Dockett, Asante Samuel and Raheem Brock) and former players and current talking heads (including Mark Schlereth, Derrick Brooks and Deion Sanders) were questioning Cutler's heart and dedication to his teammates.

A few of the infamous tweets were:

Current Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel: “If he was on my team I'd be looking at him sideways." 

Former perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks: “"HEY there is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart."

Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Docket: “"If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT."

It may be snarky and beside the point for me to point out that Asante Samuel, talented ballhawk though he may be, is a smallish cornerback that regularly shies away from contact, is a disinterested tackler and run supporter, and a high percentage of his hits are of the defenseless helmet-to-helmet variety, I guess his cheap shots are not confined to the gridiron.

More to the greater point is this: How can anybody, let alone a fellow player, question another player’s heart or even more so, pretend to know the extent of another player’s injury or physical pain?

It was later revealed that Cutler was attempting to play with a sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his left knee.

Did that matter to the jocks and ex-jocks who were scrambling to be the first, or the loudest, or the most outrageous, or the most petty?

To be frank, I am far from Jay Cutler’s biggest fan, but that is also irrelevant, or should be to those who weighed in on Cut-twitter-gate.

The funny thing about social media and the nature of what constitutes news these days is that as a whole we crave receiving the first, and the loudest, and the most outrageous that the market has to offer.

Whatever happened to news that is timely, but professional, thoughtful, objective and thorough?

Whatever happened to opinion pieces that are timely and strong, but informed with facts, objectivity and open-mindedness?

We—and not just our teenagers—crave access to our celebs, but wouldn't it be much better to preserve just a little mystery about them? Do we really want to know everything about our movie stars, our sports superstars and most importantly, our political leaders? 

In my opinion, it’s cool to humanize them, but doesn’t this overload of mostly useless information actually reduce them, and us, in the process?

Hey, there are times when I don’t even want to know what my wife is really thinking, even if I thought I did.

But speaking of the price of way too much information (WTMI) I give you one Price—Oracene Price, mother of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

For the non-tennis fans, the 2011 Australian Open tourney was just completed in Melbourne. Serena was sitting out the tourney with an injury, and big sister Venus had to default due to injury during an early-round match.

Naturally, Oracene thought it would be a terrific idea to offer her opinions about the final match between Belgium’s Kim Clijsters and China’s Li Na—the latter trying to win the first-ever “slam” for her country.

Many sports news sources reported the following, which I then confirmed via a first (and hopefully final) visit to Ms. Price’s Twitter site.

After finding out who would compete in the woman’s final Oracene tweeted (I’m leaving spelling and punctuation exactly as it was rendered; why mess with genius—the italics are mine):

I agree is would be cool for a Chinese to win. I like first timers. Also I don't want My vision blurred! That thought made me LOL!!

Leaving alone the question of why she would root for one player or another, or why a 50-plus woman would be LOL-ing, why would she broadcast this on a public forum, and talk about her vision being blurred by Clijsters?

She later “explained” it to one of her followers:

Lets say I'm not pulling for the other one. I dislike dubious people.

Oh, that explains it.

It’s a little dubious to me as the other one, Kim Clijsters, is universally regarded as one of the most gracious, classiest players in the game, male or female. She even showed amazing grace towards daughter Serena after the latter became the story for getting disqualified from her match in the 2009 US Open final against her.

The talk afterward was all about whether or not Serena should have been disqualified, which completely overshadowed the fact that Clijsters was well on her way to a landmark victory after just returning to the tour (as a mom with a two year-old daughter) a month or so prior.

After one of her other devotees apparently asked her about that “vision being blurred” comment, Oracene answered:

“Did you peep that eye of hers It gives you the Madusah scare and turns you into solid stone. Don't look at that eye.”

Oh yeah, good old Madusah…or was it, a mad Twitter usah showing no class, poorer spelling, and totally wretched judgment.

Admittedly, it’s amazing to me that this gossip constitutes news for blog sites and mainstream media alike but it does, and any public figure must realize this. Any tweet, even if it’s “at” someone else, is fair game and I’m sure Oracene Price knew exactly what she was putting out to the universe.

In truth, prior to this she had struck me as a good parent and a good role model, especially when compared to her ex, Richard Williams, who never needed social media to toot his own horn and behave boorishly.

And yes, quite sadly, I can easily name a few tennis dads that made him look as classy as Tony Dungy by comparison. Jim Pierce, Damir Dokic and Stefano Capriati come to mind.

I guess the allure of instant communication or instant headlines or free celebrity-sniffing is too powerful for all of us to avoid this medium, in this crazy instant information and entertainment age we live in.

It would be nice if there was more professionalism on the part of athletes and the media to begin with, and even some sense of remorse if/when they did behave like petty, idiotic buffoons in public.

Perhaps, if Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he would give us this advice:

It better not 2 tweet and be thought a fool than 2 tweet and remove all doubt.”  A-Linc

 

For more information on Matt Goldberg’s books, other writings and speaking engagements, please contact matt@tipofthegoldberg.com

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