“With the 5th overall pick, the New York Jets select…” too late, Commissioner Goodell the New York Jets have already announced their pick via Twitter. This was the case at the 2009 NFL Draft held in New York City where the Jets actually tweeted their first overall selection of Mark Sanchez before the commissioner even took the podium. This is just the one of many ways in which the Twitter phenomena has taking over the world of sports entertainment.
Athletes from all forms of professional sports – NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and others – are on board the Twitter train. Athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ), Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) and Serena Williams (@serenajwilliams) are among the top followed professional athletes according to Twitter-Athletes. These professional athletes, highly acclaimed in their respective sports, have over a million followers each.
So why are there so many followers of these athletes? Why would millions of fans seek to connect with their favorite sport idols in this mean of social media? The answer may be found in psychology. According to Indiana psychology professor Edward Hirt on SI.com, “Sports permit people to bask in reflected glory.” If they are fans of the winner, then they will feel like winners. Whether this glory is imagined or not, it feels personal when a fan is able to connect with the big-time athletes as Twitter permits. “It’s not really personal, but it feels kind of personal” according to Hirt. Twitter, in essence, forms a stronger connection between the common Joe and their favorite pro because it offers a behind-the-scenes look into the everyday lives of a professional athletes, something that is not availabe in post-game press conferences.
In some aspects, Twitter has created a whole new social community. At one time the only way fans were able to follow their favorite athletes was on the field or court of play. Now, they can actually see into the lives and minds of athletes. Twitter has actually taken over the usual mean of fandom like fan clubs and web pages dedicated to specific players and athletes. They form a direct line of communication between the stars and their fans. Not only are fans able to show their enthusiam of sport stars by following them, but they can actually include them in their own posts with Twitter’s link feature. Athletes in turn are able to link a fan’s tweet as well. Warren Sapp (QBKILLA), NFL All-Pro defensive end, does this constantly like many of his other professional colleagues.
The athletes themselves, too, reap the rewards of having a social media network like Twitter to express their thoughts and feelings. According to Sean Gregory and his article about the Twitter craze, it is the best form of “No-contact contact.” It allows them to speak and connect with their fans without having to go out into the public spotlight where they would be hassled by the common folk. Twitter also allows for athletes to speak without having other media outlets to speak for them. It is the whole idea of message control, according to St. Louise Rams running back Steven Jackson. “I’ll be able to say my piece instead of allowing different media outlets to portray me how they want to portray me” said Jackson.
Twitter has become a powerful tool in social media. In terms of professional sports, it has become a channel for news, information and even entertainment. After reading a few posts by Shaquille O’Neal, one would definitely find the entertainment value. Whether or not the trend of following big-name professional athletes through Twitter continues remains a questions. It must be noted that Twitter has definitely changed the aspect of athlete/fan interaction.