Third & 140: How Twitter Ruined Football

When something as awful and insipid as the Golden Globes comes on, it’s easy to stay off the ol’ Twitter. Opinions on people’s clothing, hundreds of wannabe judges saying how they’d vote, flashbacks to equally awful and insipid Golden Globes of the past: they’re a 3-1/2-hour kick to the groin. During that time I abstain from social media and my life is instantly better for it. Sadly, it’s getting to the point where I feel the same about football: social media is killing it.

Twitter has revolutionized the way we watch and talk about sports. By tweeting during the game, I’ve had conversations I never would have had normally, met a whole community of fans who share the same interests and passions, and had the opportunity to talk to several “bigs” in the industry, which is always an uptick in my day. But lately, it’s been too many people saying the same thing at the same time. Too many people, period.

Maybe it’s simply that these are the playoffs, so football tweeps are hyper. There’s only one game on at a time, thus it’s more of an event, not unlike the Golden Globes, with all eyes on the same action. But for whatever the reason, it’s getting to me, and I’ve noticed that those who tweet fall into these four largely unbearable categories:

1) The Henny Youngman

Everything’s a joke: touchdowns, penalties, crowd shots that include the QB’s girlfriend. And nothing can stop a Henny Youngman until he sees “RT,” or “+1,” or, God help us, a “LOL” (and shouldn’t we, as a society, be past LOL?). Most unfortunately, when they do get recognition, in whatever form, it almost always emboldens them to do more. And of course, in Chicago, most of the unfunny jokes have come at the expense of Jay Cutler. Example:

2) The Coach on the Couch

I’ll tell you why that play broke down. I’ll show you where that receiver zigged when he should have zagged. I’ll inform you why that coach called that play. I know why everything didn’t work, and everything else did, and if I tweet something before the play-by-play guy on TV says the same thing you’ll never hear the end of it. You say you didn’t ask? Well, I’ll tell you why you didn’t ask. Example:

3) The Hater

Everything sucks: this team, this game, the crowd, the commercials, Jay Cutler…me. Does that depress you? Well, it should, because you suck, too. Example:

4) The Troll

I will contradict everything you say. I will oppose everything you write, and I won’t stop until you block me or write something ghastly in BIG CAPITAL LETTERS. I do this because I crave attention and need to kill time until “Family Guy” comes on. Example:

We romanticize the notion of bellying up to the bar and watching the game with fellow sports fans. And we should, because when we’re with people we like, it reminds us why we love sports in the first place—not just for the games but for the sense of community they build. You can hear the same aspiration on sports radio and feel it on certain websites. We want sports to remind us how it felt to be part of a neighborhood-bunch of kids who talked and played games all day. We want to be part of something simple and fun. We want to be in the cheap seats watching with our pals, even when we’re home on the couch. But when seven out of eight people around you make you want to move to another seat, it all goes to hell.

For a long time, I was a heavy Twitter user during football games. Then one day my iPhone took the cyber equivalent of a dirt nap, and I decided to watch last weekend’s games split: two Twitter-free, and the other two with my laptop warming my rich creamy thighs. Here’s what happened:

1358463807_twitter12First game: Broncos/Ravens (Twitter ON)

Twitter was hopping like a methed-up bunny. Notwithstanding a wonderful game with several lead changes, plenty of offense, tons of excitement, the tweet tone was incredibly negative. Everything was someone else’s fault; a great play by Joe Flacco became an awful play by Denver’s defense. It also included two of history’s more asinine themes: (a) Tebow may be better than Peyton Manning. (b) If Denver’s offensive coordinator is going to be that conservative, he’d be an awful hire for the Bears. I can feel my IQ dropping now even as I repeat them.

twitter_offSecond game: 49ers’ corn-holing of the Packers (Twitter OFF)

Twitter-free. Purest awesomeness. Now, it’s a given that when A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, and the rest of their circle of jerks are exposed as frauds, and Packer fans can only cry into their cheese, life is good. And sharing this schadenfreude with fellow tweeps probably would have heightened my joy. But the joy was joyful enough. Watching Colin Kapernick bust a seam for a 50-yard TD was awesome even five minutes after the fact because it kept playing in my mind. Memory! I remember how to use that shit! I remembered the play five minutes later not because my buddy or an expert agreed with me. It was me, thinking, taking it in like an unfiltered cigarette.

1358463807_twitter12Third game: Falcons/Seahawks (Twitter ON)

I have contacts in both Atlanta and Seattle. And the first pro-Twitter experience presented incredibly upbeat Seattle fans, despite their team being dominated in the first half. I wouldn’t have expected that had I not been following Twitter. But when the game got close, all that positivity was swept away in a wave of Atlanta choke jokes, Pete-Carroll bashings, and tweets expressing how deeply Thom Brenneman sucks. (To be fair, he might.)

twitter_offGame 4: Pats/Texans (Twitter OFF)

No Twitter, and I know what you’re thinking: “Yo, horse’s ass, that’s the Phil Simms game. That’s the worst color analyst in all sports, and if you can’t enjoy bashing him with your buddies, you should probably get off Twitter altogether.” I suppose that’s fair, but Phil Simms Quotes is a great follow, and I can just backline that after the game. Anyway, the game was good enough and then some. Once again: unfiltered had more flavor.

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These days, sports have more narrative than action. We make assumptions and proclamations about what will happen, then try and justify it every play. “See, I told you. I called it!” We don’t watch the games so much as we watch the games and the dialogue surrounding the games.

Baseball moves at a Twitter-friendly pace. Hockey has two between-period gaps, when you can check what the five tweeters who are actually hockey fans have to say. Basketball has all those fouls, and seemingly endless timeouts. But football is steroids for Twitter. It has so many fans, and so much downtime, that most of your Twitter experience is going through hundreds of worthless tweets to find the one or two that mean something. And by the time you catch up with your feed, you glance up and find that you just missed a spectacular touchdown, which, of course, you can catch on the replay and read about on Twitter until you’ve forgotten that you really missed it.

So this weekend, when the AFC and NFC championship games are played, I shall have a beer in my hands instead of a phone. And I’ll look forward to talking to my Twitter friends after the game.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an Oscar pool to fill out, a fantasy baseball draft to procrastinate getting prepared for, and an assgroove in the couch calling my name.

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