I didn’t realize that if you want to stay up on sports — I mean really be engaged and up to date on the latest information about whatever game you love — then you need to be a tech nerd junkie or close to it.
Catching the nightly three minutes of local sports coverage, or the barrage of cable sports shows, and, dare I say, picking up an actual newspaper now and then, is simply not enough in our lightning-fast world.
A headline story one minute will be replaced with another subplot, quote or developing angle in the next minute or so. It’s commonly called the “24-hour news cycle,” and it’s not always about President Trump. Sports is guilty as well.
I’ll admit I am ancient when it comes to my dependence on mainstream news and sports media. (And no, it’s not fake news.) But I have broadened my horizons over the years and become accustomed to seeking online venues for stories, facts and interviews.
But I haven’t crossed the line and gone over to the world of Twitter. Not yet anyway.
I don’t have the time or self-absorbed nature to open my own Twitter account or feed. I’m pretty darn sure no one is interested in my opinion on a McNeese signee or a Saints roster move at 1 o’clock in the morning.
It’s all right for those who do the Twitter thing. I’m not judging or questioning the digital medium or its effectiveness.
What got by me is just how much of sports is ruled by Twitter and Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat and any other form of social media and digital communication being devised as we speak by Silicon Valley.
From my admittedly limited vantage point (remember, I am old school and still prefer to talk directly to sports figures), the NBA and NFL are Twitterized to the max.
I hope it’s OK for me to make up a few new Twitter words. I think I need them to get my point across.
Not a day goes by without an NBA star player, coach or front office executive releasing some tidbit or taking some stand on Twitter. The NBA’s biggest and brightest stars move the needle, the narrative and headlines any way they see fit via Twitter.
The top two basketball players in the world, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, at times seem to coach their teams through Tweets. They set the stage for their respective team’s directions, and, of course, plot their own career moves on the platform. (You see, I am picking up on some of those fancy digital words.)
James is by far the King of the Court and the King of Twitter.
Now that the long-awaited NBA free agency period is here, and the future of LeBron is in question, wait and see how his story and the impending decision of where he will sign and play next will unfold on Twitter.
Anyone who reports on or has any say so or interest in the NBA will be monitoring every Twitter feed from all corners 24-7 to unearth any possible nugget of news or truth regarding LeBron in particular — along with information about Kawhi Leonard’s situation, Paul George in Oklahoma City and Boogie Cousins with the Pelicans.
Recall the disaster and backlash over LeBron and “The Decision” announcement over his move from Cleveland to Miami in 2010. With that in mind, it would not shock me if James simply made his next career proclamation public on Twitter and then followed it up with a press conference.
The social media movement in the NFL is quite advanced as well.
Any NFL player with a Q rating has a presence on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the most recognized and influential player in the NFL, used his clout, power and star appeal with the maximum range of social media. To market his brand and help sell his fitness regimen and books, Brady produced a six-part documentary titled “Tom vs. Time” and released it on Facebook. He controlled his narrative and made headlines as well.
Remember when Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown put out a live Instagram feed — from the locker room no less — after the team’s play-off victory over Kansas City last season? Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was none too pleased when he found out Brown’s social media camera caught him calling the Patriots “a–holes” during the post-game celebration. New England was the Steelers’ opponent in the following week’s AFC Championship game, which the Steelers lost.
From Rob Gronkowski, to the Saints’ Marc Ingram and Falcons star Julio Jones, to former LSU Tigers Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice, all are active on Twitter. Good or bad, you can find out what’s on their minds and how they feel on any given day.
Pittsburgh’s Brown recently went on a diatribe with reporters covering OTAs, saying he doesn’t have any freedom or can’t express how he really feels about things; nor can he have real privacy; because the media are constantly asking him questions or the public is relentless in seeking him out in public.
I readily admit Brown is the best receiver in the league. But now he just might be the biggest idiot.
What does he mean he can’t express himself? Just say it into live microphones.
No freedom? Really? He was free with that ill-timed Instagram locker room show.
No privacy from the media or fans? It’s well known that Brown constantly reveals where he is at any given minute via Twitter or Instagram. If you tell people where you are, no doubt some will decide to go looking for you at the park or beach.
Brown and many other professional athletes need to learn the basic lessons of discretion and common sense and know when to NOT HIT SEND.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those like J.J. Watts, Greg Olson, Drew Brees and Ben Watson, among others, who use Twitter and Instagram to spread the word about their charity projects or fund-raising efforts, such as Watts’ efforts that collected more than $37 million to help flood victims in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.
Some, like Lake Charles’ Trey Quinn, get on Twitter for fast communication with fans. Quinn, not one to seek the spotlight or traditional media attention with formal press conferences, actually announced his plans to transfer from LSU to SMU and his decision to declare for the NFL draft this spring through Twitter.
It was fast, effective and clean. He avoided a lot of follow-up questions from guys like me, which suited him just fine.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But Quinn is dragging me kicking and screaming into a new world of news coverage that involves the wide range of social media. And there are times when I wonder if all of it can be trusted.
You know what they say, right? “If it’s on the internet it must be true.” Well, not so much.
Take the curious case of Kevin Durant last year using a fake “burner” Twitter account to send out defensive tweets about himself under the cover of a different identity.
He just won the damn NBA title. Dethroned King James again. In what reality did Durant feel compelled to prop himself up from criticism on Twitter or the media? Grow thicker skin, I say.
The use of covert Twitter accounts hit the Colangelo name — one of the most respected in the game of basketball. Philadelphia 76ers president Bryan Colangelo was somehow connected to five Twitter accounts that were blasting out inside info on 76ers players and personnel issues and making backstabbing gripes.
Colangelo denied any and all nefarious use of Twitter and these anonymous Tweets that the media linked to him in some form or fashion. The club’s independent investigation determined that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, created and authored the tweets that had the NBA in a flux.
The probe concluded, though, that Colangelo was the source of the “sensitive, non-public, club-related information” and that Colangelo was “careless and in some instances reckless” with team details.
The episode cost the 53-year-old Colangelo one of the top jobs in the NBA with a Sixers team trending to contend for a title.
As if the 76ers don’t have enough of a Twitter presence with goofball star center and Tweet master Joel Embiid.
Most, if not all, of the major pro sports leagues have their own Twitter platforms to promote and market their products amid sagging national television ratings. It’s an effective way to reach digitally dependent and fluent fans.
The NBA is the best at it. But too much of a good thing will always end up hurting you.
The digital world is a godsend for quick access to facts, figures, stats, stories and historical data for the media and fans alike. You can stay connected and embedded in the games you follow with a click and tap on your cell phone.
And, of course, there are always the talking heads on TV, radio, podcasts, blogs and websites from ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC, CBS, TNT, XM and locally on SoundOff 60 (couldn’t pass up that opportunity for self-promotion).
In this brave new sports landscape, fans can also go directly to the source — the players and coaches — through Twitter. But follow at your own risk.
If you happen to bump into Antonio Brown at the movies he may yell at you for invading his privacy.
Rick Sarro’s perspectives and commentary can be heard on Soundoff 60 nightly, Monday through Sunday evenings, at 9 pm; broadcast on Suddenlink channel 4.