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Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

It's All in a Name

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It seems most people wish Twitter was called something else. At least most people wish the act of sending someone a message on Twitter was called something a bit less like fourth-grade slang than 'tweeting' someone. "Did you get my tweet?" "Yep, I got your tweet and re-tweeted it."

OMG. LOL. We're all in grade school again.

The name of the company is actually quite clever. The world is 'a Twitter' with news and information and buzz. The term just never translated into a good verb. Are we Twittering with one another? Are we Tweeting? Are we doing whatever Stephen Colbert called it?

Whatever it's called, there is merit to the product. But maybe the NFL has more of a problem with coming off as immature and dare-I-suggest childish by allowing its players, namely Chad Ochocino (né Johnson), to Tweet during games than they would if the service were called BizCom.

Which name sounds more professional - LinkedIn or MySpace? Ostensibly, all social networks are predicated on the same concept of linking people together who have common interests and social/professional needs. There have been few social networking tools (namely Facebook and Twitter being the most prominent two) that have transcended both the personal and professional sides of our lives. And whether you like it or not, Twitter (or some variant therein) will be here for a while.

So why won't the NFL allow players to Tweet during games? I don't think Ochocino is asking to send out messages from inside the huddle. And yes, there is a ban on cell phones on the field, but a laptop could easily be set up on the sidelines for players to interact with their fans during a game.

There are some great Twitterers (ugh) connected with the NFL, including several people in the PR offices and nearly all of the NFL Network crew. (Roger Goodell seems to have moved on from the Twitter experiment, having last updated his feed on May 1st. You'd think a trip up Mount Rainier would garner a few Twitpics, no?)

More and more players are hopping on the Twitter bandwagon (my oft-overused expression for this is 'taking it to the Tweets') to promote the game, their team and themselves. Is it necessary for a player to hop online and send out a message to fans during the game? No. It's superfluous at best for the NFL. Other sports, like the LPGA or the PBA or even WSOP can really benefit from direct interaction between player and fan. And don't think for one second the average NFL player doesn't have down time on the sidelines. There is ample time when the defense is on the field for a wide receiver to log on, send a message out about the last drive, and still get back in time to say 'hi mom' into the sideline camera.

But the NFL doesn't need to promote itself through direct fan interaction because every major media outlet in the country does it for them. Think about how many NFL stories are in this paper or on this website every week. Now, think about how many golf stories there are (on a week when Tiger isn't hosting a tournament in DC at least). Games like golf and tennis and bowling, yes, even poker, need the access to fans that mainstream media won't give them. In-game Tweeting is one way to make those players tactile.

I recently talked with Kathleen Hessert, President of Sports Media Challenge, for a piece I did for The Sporting Blog about college coaches and newfound affection with Twitter. When asked if Twitter will ever replace the post-game press conference (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek) she had some interesting thoughts:

"I absolutely see coaches posting game comments not just after the game but before and at half time. It takes less time and you can get more insight from a well thought out tweet than most half time field or courtside interviews. Twitter is changing the way we communicate everywhere and is being deeply integrated into programming by ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and others.
"We still need mainstream media and I hope it never goes away, but Twitter is changing the face and voice of journalism."

It's all about controlling the message, and to Hessert, there is no better way to control the message than simultaneously interacting with all the people who want that message, be they fans or media or other players. Will there come a time when a player shuns the media altogether and provides post game quotes via blog and Twitter? I'd think the league would have enough foresight to make sure the media still has access to those they cover. But could the post game presser become the post game Tweet, Reply and ReTweet? Could fans have the same access to ask questions and elicit quotable responses as members of the media? It's quite possible.

For now, the NFL will do whatever it needs to do to control the message, and if that includes fining players for using Twitter during a game, it seems that's what they are prepared to do. The NFL still seems skeptical of the power of the Tweet. But when BizCom gets here, my bet is the NFL will be Bizzing like crazy.

By Dan Levy  |  July 10, 2009; 9:22 AM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals , Dan Levy , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Catch Before You Tweet | Next: Don't Be a Twit

Comments

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Ill roll off my couch laughing the first time he gives away a Cincinnati offensive scheme mid-game. He will only use this to complain about not getting the ball or to gloat over some ho-hum TD reception (not too many of those recently).

Twitter is a den of misinformation. Mr. Johnson will fit right in.

Posted by: trident420 | July 13, 2009 11:09 AM

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