By Vince Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted Aug 25 2009 9:47PM
Back in late March, I wrote this piece about Twitter. It was right on the heels of the Charlie Villanueva fallout, when he sparked near apocalyptic ire because he tweeted during halftime.
In that column, I wrote: "Any new medium will have its problems. Twitter Best Practices are not very clear...The type of unfiltered communiqués that Twitter engenders makes for open season for gaffes and mouths that end up tasting like sneaker soles."
And sure enough, we've had more than a few athlete gaffes this summer.
Kevin Love scooped his squad with news of the Kevin McHale firing; the San Diego Chargers fined Antonio Cromartie $2,500 for, basically, trashing the team's catering; and, most recently, Michael Beasley posted a Twitpic that unwittingly caught the image of a torn plastic baggy. Now the troubled young dude is in a Houston-area rehab. (His "Feelin like it's not worth livin!!!!!!! I'm done" surely didn't help quell concerns.)
Still, despite the fact that Twitter remains an unchecked medium prone to a few pitfalls here and there, I think most people agree that it's also pretty freaking dope.
I was convinced of this back in March, when I wrote: "Twitter may seem frivolous and trivial, but it's actually a G-move...This may be a fad, but until a newer, more ingenious form of communication latches on, this Twitter-thing is a movement." That column was focused on Twitter from the athletes' perspectives, how they were able to skip the middleman and take re-ownership of their images. But six months later, it's clear that Twitter benefits the fans as much -- sometimes more -- than the tweeting players.
I'm a journalist, yes. But I've stated many times that, at my core, I've long been (and will always remain) a fan of the game, the league and its players. Some of you reading this column might follow the league with as much vigor as I do and you do so without getting paid. Before covering the league for a living, I was the same way. And guess what time of year I hated most? Exactly -- the summer.
It's not just that basketball wasn't on television (I avoided basketball starvation by playing all day and watching VHS tapes all night), it's that there was no basketball news or information to consume. Save for the few weeks bookending free agency, there was nothing connecting you to the league, since the NBA doesn't get the same year-round saturation as the NFL or MLB (and that's in some ways a good thing).
This is the first time a fan can consume NBA vittles all summer long. Just hop on Tweet Deck, keep hitting refresh and read tidbits from journalists, random thoughts from your fellow hoops junkies and, most awesomely, tweets from your favorite players that come in trickles and torrents.
How I wish that I grew up in this era -- maybe Magic would've tweeted from those famed UCLA summer runs. Who knows what Shaq would have tweeted during some of those tense offseason beefs between him and Kobe in L.A.
Shortly after the Lakers won the Finals, a clearly aggravated Paul Pierce (most likely disappointed that the KG-less Celts weren't at full strength) tweeted: "Lakers vs orlando. Looked like a german sherperd vs a poodle that's ok the rotwieler celtics will b back in 2010." That's just one revelatory quip that's possible thanks to Twitter.
More than anything, though, Twitter appeals to the fans' healthy appetite for voyeurism. Social critics and the self-righteous like to decry the American voyeuristic streak, as if it's not also a human inclination. It's one thing to videotape a female broadcaster through a hotel room peephole. That's voyeurism taken to perverted and criminal levels. It's another -- very innocuous -- thing to be interested in the offseason lives of men that you spend hundreds of hours watching and reading about for entertainment nine months each year.
Some guys -- I'm looking at you, Shawn Marion -- give us too much minutia. Yet there are Matrix fans that were absolutely tickled this week when he tweeted: "Laying on couch watching color purple this is a solid classic u shoooow iz ugly lol." As well, there are Lamar Odom fans that loved reading: "I'm checking out TMZ and whats up with all the crazy women saying they are Michael Jacksons baby mamas? They should leave the kids alone."
Sometimes, a hoops addict just needs a hoops fix. Sometimes we can't experience the comedic pleasure of three hard fouls by Mark Madsen. That's when his random tweets ("...anybody out there have a good website on gun laws in LA County? Just curious....it's been a long time since I lived in L.A.") can suffice.
Twitter lets fans know that Steve Nash is on the road "promoting my great new sports social networking platform designed to make you better." And that Baron Davis is "gettin n 2-a-days Core X is gettin me ripped up 4 the season ... tryin 2 catch Lil Wayne concert 2nite." It's also where Love can hit fans with his opinion on the Wolves' coaching hire: " But I do like the hire, [Mark] Jackson was a great dude who will have a job in the future ... but Coach Rambis will do us well."
Soon after the Beasley story broke, Kevin Durant, who grew up in a neighboring Maryland county, tweeted: "Man let my brother Mike Beasley learn from his mistakes ... he gon be str8 ... stop judgin him ..." That was an unsolicited, naked, visceral response to what he saw happening to a friend and peer.
The chances you would have read that in the summer of 1996 or even 2006? Likely zero.
Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. His "From The Floor" column appears weekly on NBA.com. Vince invites your feedback at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org..
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