Columns, Sports

McCoy ’14: A brave new world — Sports in the Twitterverse

Sports Columnist

The sporting world witnessed what was one of the most exciting NCAA championship games in recent memory on Monday night, as Louisville, the number one overall seed, narrowly ousted Michigan and national player of the year Trey Burke. The game had everything — from a duel between upstart sharpshooters to huge dunks and momentum swings to a fairytale ending of sorts for a squad whose teammate a week before suffered arguably the most gruesome on-field injury in the history of televised sports.

I, however, missed it all. Cooped up in the Absolute Quiet Room, through tears I declined offers from friends to watch and, terrified of drawing the ire of the scholarly community of the AQR and demonstrating my vulnerability to distraction, refused to bring up a live feed of the game. But that isn’t to say I didn’t “watch” the game. I followed along the entire 40 minutes the way any rational person would — through Twitter.

Twitter has unquestionably altered the experience of the sports fan in a number of ways. Fans now have new insight into the fascinating thoughts of their idols, such as Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who tweeted at God asking why he had forsaken his prayers and allowed him to drop a would-be game-winning touchdown in a 2010 loss, and Metta World Peace, who asked his 500,000 followers, “Are expensive dogs racist?”

Sports media has also changed dramatically thanks to Twitter. News travels faster than ever before — both a blessing and a curse, as evidenced last year by widespread premature reports of the death of Joe Paterno ’50, not to mention the spread of trade and free agency rumors that proliferate daily. Careers of sports journalists now also hinge on the Twittersphere, as social media-savvy writers have been able to gain popularity and readership and earn jobs at national outlets, while elder statesmen of the trade have been left behind. We also all have Twitter to thank for giving us the egomaniacal monster that is Adam Schefter.

But Twitter has also influenced the in-game experience for the fan, bringing a new and more diverse option than the vanilla ESPN Gamecast — crucial to cubicle dwellers everywhere. Depending on the variety of accounts you follow, a Twitter refresh session during a major sporting event can yield some useful, entertaining and strange insights into the real-life game occurring outside your viewing capabilities. This I experienced fully on Monday.

When you follow a game on Twitter, the most important accounts are the ones that provide reliable updates. Getting the facts — scores, stats, time left — is the number one priority of the “Tweetee” (definition: the viewer and receiver of tweets — if people can say Twitterverse and Twittersphere, I can invent words too). But this is boring, akin to having someone narrate a movie to you that you cannot see or hear.

Analysis tweets during games are the lynchpins of the sports fan on Twitter. As much as people consider themselves armchair experts, there is only so much you can read into stats and numbers. For any self-respecting fan, following accounts of sportswriters, former players and that guy from your high school who feels the need to give his profound opinion on any current event (okay, not this guy) is a must.

But these types of information and insight can be found on live blogs and gamecasts across the web. What makes Twitter so unique for following games is the randomness and humor of it all. With a diverse set of accounts to follow, anything coming through the feed can catch you off-guard and make your fan experience all the more entertaining.

For Monday’s game, these tweets were fast and furious. My favorite set had to do with Michigan guard Spike Albrecht, a freshman averaging 1.8 points per game who was pressed into service due to Burke’s foul trouble and responded by pouring in 17 first-half points — and launching himself into his 15 seconds of nationwide fame. Not only was Albrecht mentioned in over 46,000 tweets in a single hour, but his personal account was also discovered by fans, the most enterprising of whom combed back through his previous posts and retweeted the best. Thus, only on Twitter could I see — just after ESPN informed me that Albrecht had knocked down his third three of the half — Albrecht himself tweet, “These Harlem Shake videos are hilarious!” and “Taken 2 was kinda dope!” (thanks to Grantland’s Rembert Browne). So goes the irreverent world of Twitter.

Then there are the delightful oddities of a game itself that may fly under the radar of a typical viewer, but not the Internet. Take, for example, the father of Louisville guard Peyton Siva. After a Louisville bucket extended the Cardinals’ lead to 60-56 with 9:51 left in the game, the camera found Mr. Siva at just the right moment, as the proud and portly dad, clad in a custom-airbrushed tank top, chain and Transition Lens-esque tinted sunglasses, unleashed the king of all dad fist pumps. Within five minutes, a GIF of the celebration was all over Twitter.

Through the idiosyncrasies of Twitter, emblematic of the Internet as a whole, a fan can gain a unique and sometimes overwhelming point of entry into sports. Being a Twitter sports viewer can key you into analysis, obscure statistics and the minds of those who make you laugh. But 140 characters can only do so much. As much as Twitter made my national championship experience enjoyable, nothing can replace the thrill of watching a legendary game as it unfolds. The Twitterverse is great, but real life is better.



Ethan McCoy ’14 invites you to join the cult and follow him at @ethan_mccoy. 


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