Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Athletes a-Twitter

Interesting conversation last night on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. The topic centered on an article in the Toronto Star about the latest fad among NBA athletes--Twitter. Apparently, athletes like Chris Bosh and Shaquille O'Neal have gotten hooked on the abbreviated form of one-line texting. Bosh communicates with about 1,300 fans ... the locquacious Shaq with more than 92,000! (As the New York Times reported, Shaq apparently started "tweeting" because an imposter was doing so using his name).

On PTI, Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald said, "We're fast approaching the day when they (athletes) don't need the media at all. They can just create their own connection to the fan without our help. It's publicity on their own terms." It's an interesting argument, considering that in addition to Twitter most athletes already have their own websites to help with fan communication and image management.

Given the tremendous growth in these types of media, have the mass media outlived their usefulness to athletes? Probably not ... yet. Rodriguez used ESPN to clear the air after Sports Illustrated blew the whistle on his steroid use. And A-Rod didn't even bother to update his own personal website to give more explanation to his side of things.

But a corner has certainly been turned and it might not be too long before LeBatard's prediction comes true. The one thing the mass media have going for them these days is that they are still the main distributors of sports programming, especially live events. If, and when, that goes away things will change drastically.


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