Athletes have long complained about the media, likening them to a group of opportunistic leeches gleefully detailing their every misstep. The athlete/reporter relationship will never return to what it was decades ago, when beat writers drank with baseball players in train cars and hid their personal foibles from the public in the name of loyalty and discretion. Now athletes have increasingly sought to communicate with fans on their own terms, most recently seen with the exploding popularity of Twitter.
Twitter’s a perfect avenue for athletes. It’s trendy, easy to use if you have an expensive phone and limits the amount of characters per post to 140. Finally, a place where short attention spans and a lack of any real writing ability can be celebrated. It was about time.
For the most part twittering, tweeting, or whatever the hell they call it has been a pretty tame addition to the world of sports coverage, save for Charlie Villanueva getting in trouble for tweeting at halftime and Drew Magary creating a hilarious fake Rick Reilly Twitter page. Since I’m not really interested in status updates (“Just pooped 4 the 2nd time today, I luv being rgular!”), I’m probably not alone in ignoring the tweets of Brian Wilson and Barry Zito up until now. Then Henry Schulman wrote in his blog today that the night before Brian Wilson gave up three runs in his first blown save of the season, Wilson was out partying…and the evidence is in the tweets:
Somebody alerted me to Wilson’s Twitter page. Unless somebody hijacked the page, we have to conclude the Giants’ closer was out very late Saturday night clubbing in Scottsdale. There are a couple of posts suggesting he was getting into it with what he called “overaggressive males.” His last post of the night is stamped “about 22 hours ago,” in other words, 1 a.m. Sunday.
Which would not have worth mentioning except that the Giants played a day game today. In that game, Wilson could not throw fastballs where he wanted and lost a 4-1 lead in the ninth for his first blown save of the season. The Giants ended up losing in the 12th, 5-4.
A word of caution, Brian. Fans notice this stuff.
Word has spread like wildfire, because Brian Wilson’s Twitter page has been completely erased except for three posts, the most recent one reading like this:
Dear Henry S, thank you for your concern but if you really wanted to knw what i was doing you could have asked roomservice-tasty burgers!
Right. Now I don’t doubt that Wilson had some burgers on Saturday night, I’m just guessing it was after a night full of drinking and tweeting updates that have now disappeared. It’s not surprising that a guy who needs attention so desperately he sports a “mull-hawk” and has his own trademark arm signal would be on Twitter, or that he might party it up in Phoenix on the night before a day game (I do have some questions about the “overaggressive males” portion of his evening, if he meant that in the fighting sense, the Brokeback sense or, gulp, both). However, even though alcohol can do funny things, it’s amazing that Wilson (who’s still a ways away from salary arbitration and the chance to make more than six figures) would put his reputation in jeopardy just to appease the 3,000 or so “followers” of his Twitter page. Just like you shouldn’t get hammered and call one of your old exes, it’s clear that Twitter and Facebook users would be better suited to outfit their phones and computers with a breathalyzer, sort of like those ignition interlock devices drunk drivers get installed in their cars.
I listened to Friday’s Brian Wilson show on KNBR, and Wilson spent a good portion of the interview talking to Tom Tolbert about Twitter, and how he wanted to get Tim Lincecum to start tweeting. Now we can see why Lincecum won’t join the abbreviated public texting craze. With the spotlight much brighter on Lincecum than any other San Francisco Giant, why would Lincecum want to provide the media with more ammo? Hell, Lincecum was probably lucky when he got “sick” during before last year’s All-Star Game that Wilson didn’t have a Twitter page back then, or Timmy could have been caught Red Bull-and-vodka-handed:
Tim L and I r loving NY…this city nvr sleeps & we dn’t eithr!
Timmy jst brfed all over a stripper. Gotta get outta here quick b4 the cops come…
Schulman didn’t find the Twitter scoop himself, it was provided to him by a fan who went to Wilson’s Twitter page probably hoping for an apology after the blown save. It wasn’t Schulman who was attempting to bury Wilson, it was a fan made angry by Wilson’s questionable preparation for a day game against a division opponent. Schulman said in his post that he doesn’t care what 27-year-olds do in their spare time, but nobody can fault a beat writer for passing along a story like this, especially one that was placed in his lap. It remains to be seen if stories like this will stop athletes from using Twitter, which seems ripe for a deep decline in popularity any minute now anyway (especially if you caught the last edition of The Soup, which showed a package of every single talking head on TV saying “Twitter” or “tweeting” including Larry King and Barbara Walters — yep, that should really get the kids excited), but you have to imagine every athlete with a Twitter page will probably be getting a call from his or her agent in the next 24 hours instructing them to restrict their updates to daylight hours if at all possible.