Irish Examiner Column April 10 2009

May 28, 2009

Michael Moynihan

A little birdie told me: sport’s Twitter
revolution

TWEET ON, brother.

This column is a long-time
veteran now of the Twitter phenomenon, if long-time can be translated as a couple of months. Twitter recently hit the headlines, of course, as the engine of revolution in Moldova.

This follows on the heels of the ‘griots’, which was the Twitter tag used to help organise youth riots in Greece.

(Frankly, if you need to know what a Twitter tag is, you’re already obsolete.

I know whereof I speak, having only found out myself about 30
seconds ago).

However, the wonderful world of sports twittering has already gone far beyond critical mass and has now become something of a black hole, if one can squeeze every last drop from the astronomy metaphors.

Shaquille O’Neal recently posted a brief message, apparently from half-time in an NBA game between his Phoenix Suns and the Washington.

To be honest, it wouldn’t have been mistaken for Abraham
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: Shaq’s message to the world was: Shhhhhhh.

However, Shaq’s message to his comrades was an important one for this scribe, because yours truly is one of Shaq’s followers.

For those of you who are not aware of how Twitter actually works, you sign on as somebody’s follower, the general idea being that that person then becomes one of your followers.

Your humble columnist, for instance, has six followers, most of whom are either close family relations or creditors.

Shaq, on the other hand, has 571,959, following his mission statement, which is to perform random acts of Shaqness.

So far one can only say mission accomplished, though O’Neal’s
refusal to become one of my followers is duly noted.

The general attraction of following someone on Twitter is to gain some kind of insight into their lives, presumably.

That’s not always as interesting as you might think — Shaq’s latest missive as of yesterday was “Should I go see elvis, I’m in memphis, you aint nuttin but a hound dog, ridin around town Dun nun daa” — but the odd nugget slips through.

For instance, the basketball
star posted earlier in the week that he was “looking for you, Mark Cuban” or “looking foor u” to give the phrase its full Shaqness — a revelation likely to cause some debate in the US.

(Mark Cuban is the owner of rival NBA team the Dallas Mavericks, by the way. And a man given to Twittering a bit himself).

It’s not as if O’Neal is the only athlete to use Twitter, however. Lance Armstrong appears to be
addicted to keeping all and sundry aware of his every move: a March 24 post described how hard it was to tweet left-handed, the reason being Armstrong was waiting to have a broken collarbone repaired.

It gets better — Armstrong tweeted before he went into surgery and uploaded a picture of himself (http://twitpic.com/2fewc), presumably to prove he was facing the knife and not heading to
Blockbuster for the Sopranos Season One and a bucket of ice cream.

(To put you out of your agony, Lance got 12 screws put in the fracture; one of his friends uploaded the details…)

Anyway: Lance is another one of this column’s followees (is it followed ones?

Or would innocent targets be a more accurate description?), and his tweets can be fascinating about his eating habits (“Campo de Fiori in Aspen” is a good bet).

The Twitter appeal for high-profile sportspeople is obvious — they don’t have to have their comments filtered and they can say whatever they like on any subject they choose.

The fact that only need 140 characters are available in which to spell out their message to the world is another bonus.

For that reason you have to love Twitter, and for the record, Shaq, I think you SHOULD go to see Elvis.

Just remember who gave you that advice.

contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

Twitter handle: Knockrea

But don’t feel you have to follow me.

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