By TomE. Curran
DALLAS Beautiful, little 140 character (or less) missives. So tiny. So innocent. So useful. So explosive. Twitter and all its wonderful tweets. Its changed the way journalism is executed, bringing it ever closer to a game of telephone. One tweet, a few retweets, and anybody on the planet can break news. Or make news. Just 140 characters have the potential to launch 140 stories and 14 days of coverage. Its certainly changed the Super Bowl.
Remember the days when Big Game trouble came at the nightclubs, where guys like Darryl Talley were getting in dustups with Magic Johnsons entourage at The Roxbury (that would be 1993)? Stuff trickled out then, the full story never revealed until after the game had been played. Barret Robbins AWOL in Tijuana (2002) or Stanley Wilson coked to the bejeesus in 1989? Twitter would have melted. Just imagine how many twitpics we would have seen of Eugene Robinson getting cuffed and stuffed for trying to buy 40 worth of oral sex the night before the 1999 Super Bowl? Would Namath have issued his 1969 guarantee with a sarcasm?
TWITTER AND XLVThe first dustup of Super Bowl XLV started on Twitter last week. A couple of injured Packers, Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley, tweeted their displeasure with the team's decision to keep players on injured reserve out of the Super Bowl picture. The next day the Packers reversed course and decided to include their IR guys. Barnett tweeted his regrets for making an issue. Then Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a swipe at IR players rehabbing away from the team. And Barnett and Finley took to Twitter once again to defend themselves. Which led to Steelers linebacker Lamarr Woodley laughing at the idiocy of a team picture. Woodley, of course, tweeted his delight. (The timeline of stories and tweets is most easily followed on PFT). Monday, Rodgers seemed to put a period on the end of the foolishness by saying during a media access period at the Packers hotel that he had "a lot of love and respect for those guys . . . It blew up bigger than anyone thought."(I didn't hear Rodgers say this nor was his quote on any of the NFL transcripts. I saw it on Twitter.)Of course it blew up, Aaron! Everything blows up on Twitter. And everybody knows that. Ask Jay Cutler, the guy your Packers disposed of in the NFC Championship game. He was reduced to the brink of tears when he heard theNFL's twitterati lambasted him for leaving that game. The entire NFL is by turns wrestling with and embracing the technology. COMING TO AN UNEASY TWITTER TRUCEBill Johnston is the Director of Public Relations for the Chargers. His team has jettisoned twitteriffic players like Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie. Now the Bolts are fairly docile. How do the Chargers advise their players on using it?
"We just tell them that whatever they put out on Twitter is the same thing they would say in a live radio interview, a liveTV interview," said Johnston. "They gotta know that whatever they say, its out there and its not gonna go away. So they have to represent themselves the best way they want to be represented."You try to work with players and let them know they need to represent themselves in the way they want to be represented. The guys generally get it. I think they understand now that Twitter is not just a one-to-one communication now to just your followers. You put it out there, its out there for good. They see the upside and the value and how it can help them and they also see how not to use it. We had a couple issues early where guys spoke their mind and I think they didnt realize the reaction it can create."In August of 2009, Cromartie tweeted his displeasure with the Chargers training camp food.He got fined 2,500. A month later, Merriman and Tila Tequila's dustup exploded on Twitter. When the capo di tutti capi of Twitter, Chad Ochocinco, said he'd be posting in-game tweets, the NFL stepped in and put a moratorium on game-day tweets from players back in September of 2009. Ain't no thang. Twitter still dominates. Postgame tweets are treasure troves of glee and glumness pecked out on team buses or airport runways. Guys just need to be heard. "NO DISTORTING WHAT YOU PUT OUT THERE"Texans right tackle Eric Winston loves Twitter and all it does to bring him closer to fans and fellow players. "It's definitely a way for your message to get out there unfiltered," Winston said Monday at the Super Bowl media center. "You have players who sometimes say, 'Oh, they distorted what I was saying.' Theres no distorting what you put on your Twitter account."And there's inherent danger in that, right?"Sure its dangerous," he acknowledged. "Its also a good thing. You get to speak your mind and express your opinions. But at the same time, that is unfiltered stuff. I re-read every tweet I put up there. Whatever you put on Twitter, you should be willing to say that to a reporter. Or to the person youre tweeting about. Its not like only an unlimited amount of people are seeing this. Even if you have 5,000 followers, that doesnt mean it wont get retweeted somewhere else and it wont be retreated. A lot of people dont look at it like that." Winston, who does weekly radio in Houston, understands that one tweet can fill multiple news cycles. "And thats why it is dangerous," he said."It's definitelynot for careless people and Ithink the last two weeks have highlighted that to the nth degree. First with the Jay Cutler thing and now with the photo thing youve got to be careful with how you put things out there. Sarcasm is hard to get through. You better hashtag 'sarcasm' or 'joking' because people arent going to get it." I asked Winston if he talks to teammates about being careful with Twitter. "Sure, that's been said in the locker room," he admitted. "I say, 'Think about people that are reading your tweets. Is that how you want to come off? Some guys might curse or talk about being out. If someone wants to come off like that, thats their business. Thats their unfiltered access to the fans. But you dont ever want to start a controversy."'LOOK AT ME' MINDSETThe Internet is a wonderful place for the exchange of ideas. Whether it's commenting at the ends of stories, giving customer reviews, Facebook or Twitter, the need to share what YOU think is fulfilled. Inevitably, attention goes to those who shout the loudest, funniest or most profanely. Ed Bouchette, a venerable reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and a friend of mine, just shook his head when asked whether he tweets or monitors the Steelers twitter accounts. "Me?" he said Monday."No. Im an old dog and I havent learned a lot of new tricks."When asking about the Finley-Barnett-Rodgers-Woodley conflagration, I described it as a"pissing match.""Thats what it is, a pissing match," he agreed. "Ill let somebody else cover the pissing match. I chat, I blog . . . I actually write newspaper stories sometimes, too. I do videos, I break news. Im sure Twitters in my future but its not in my present. Were getting into the TMZ type of world and maybe Im nave to just want to write football."It is, however, hard to ignore. Andit's changed notjust the way we cover the game but the way we report on it. As I sat down to write this story, Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger tweeted that Clay Matthews had won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award. Good reporter, Garafolo. As are Bob Glauber of Newsday and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. All three ran with the same tweet. But Garafalo misheard. And, despite rapid conciliatory tweets by Garafalo, the toothpaste couldn't be put back in the tube. Especially when Troy Polamalu won the award. No harm done, though. Polamalu and Matthews both talked Monday night about all the deserving defensive players who should have won the award. Where'd they do it? Where else? Twitter. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran