Sunday, January 22, 2012

Twitter Takes the Cake

Sports have changed forever. No, it was not the NFL lockout, the Boston Redsox breaking their 84-year World Series drought, Brett Favre retiring, or even that the Detroit Lions making the playoffs for the first time since 1995 that changed sports. It was a modest invention in 2006 that has changed the direction of sports for good. That invention is known best as Twitter.

Before the invention of Twitter, athletes had no feasible way of reaching directly out to and interacting with their ever-growing fan bases. Then one day it became all too easy send 144 characters worth of personal sentiments to a favorite athlete. Fans and the media alike swarmed to this new medium, looking for greater access to their favorite players.

One of the greatest changes to sports is the way sports reporting is handled. Before the days of Twitter, journalists had to go through the team to get to a player. Scripted, monotonous and often boring press conferences were the only real way of gaining insight into how a player felt or thought during the game. The answers became predictable and if you listened to enough press conferences, you came to understand that there was a strict code on what should and should not be said in the media.

Twitter has revolutionized this process though. Athletes can speak freely, whether it is articulate or not. The problem becomes when athletes speak their minds without thinking of the consequences first. Almost daily, Sportscenter utilizes the biggest, most unscripted press conference to get juicy tidbits to fill airtime. Instead of using statements issued by the team, they go straight for athlete Twitter accounts to get the latest juicy developments or find an interesting take on a breaking topic, just ask Matt Hasselbeck.

What goes unsaid though is that no matter how great the ability to interact with athletes and see what they are thinking may be it also is very dangerous territory. Sometimes players go a little too far and they get into deep trouble. It is a trend that, while fun for fans, needs to be controlled before too many athletes reveal things that should not be public.