In 2008, when I started covering the New York Jets, I also joined Twitter. It was a great way to break the news, see what the competition knew, and hear from regular fans.
That was before the accounts were verified, so I actually went to players, like Jets DB Kerry Rhodes, to verify that they were indeed the authors behind their tweets.
Since then, the way sports fans have used social media has definitely evolved. For millions, it’s second screen on an NFL Sunday, with moments like Odell Beckham Jr’s 2014 one-handed catch for the Giants followed by thousands of tweets, as if Twitter were the biggest sports bar in the world. planet.
Teams have connected with their fans online, some fans have built up a tidy following, and some of them have even used their Twitter platform to launch sports-related careers or ventures. Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites have proven to advertisers that women’s sports are a good investment, as women who play the game have proven engagement with a large fan base. Think Oregon Sedona Prince at the start of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
What will sports fans do if it’s week two of the World Cup, they open the app and Twitter isn’t there?
First, how did we get here? Up until 3 weeks ago, the site was running like a well-maintained engine. This week, the architecture that sustained a decade of sporting moments is in trouble. New owner and narcissistic billionaire Elon Musk is firing people as often as he texts shit (would that make him Shitter?), and the cracks in the infrastructure are starting to show.
Early on, he had the brilliant* idea of charging anyone $8 for a blue check, which previously indicated a verified account, but without actually checking the customers. Then, as Twitter strategists themselves predicted, many pranksters picked names of public figures like Lebron James and then tweeted fake news.
*It wasn’t brilliant. And now droves of brands are taking their advertising money elsewhere.
“With layoffs and resignations, in brand protection and moderation, it’s just a little too toxic,” the CEO of The Social Element Tamara Littleton told the London Telegraph.
Sports Twitter has been somewhat insulated from all these issues for a few reasons. NFL nights, college football Saturdays, and Sundays are generally slower news times. Functionally, this means there will be less timeline interference from political Twitter on weekdays.
With the World Cup about to start, the site could attract stadiums with fans from all over the world who want to watch matches in their own language and in real time. The question is whether it can still handle the traffic.
So let’s say the worst happens and there is some glitch with Twitter. This is hardly just speculation when a number of engineers have been warning this all week. There are already reported problems with two-factor authentication and other features like storage requests.
What makes Twitter a great place for sports fans is its speed. The speed of conversations, the quick response time for watching videos, and the ability to quickly locate like-minded users on the site. And it’s also where you’ll find athletes tweeting about projects, grievances, and advocacy. You can watch them make mistakes in real time and be the first to apologize and not apologize.
This has been a huge boon for leagues and sports teams, because it allows fans to be far more engaged than they were in the era of newspapers and subscriptions. You can still do this, but you can also hear how each boot camp workout went in real time without having to show up at a facility.
It’s unclear where fans might go if everything falls apart. Mastodon, a quieter social media alternative that has attracted academics and scientists, has a similar timeline and allows for conversation, but it’s not as easy to find your travel companions or upload media. Instagram is more of a one-way communication. Discord has esports and sports communities, but individual thematic channels would be an adjustment.
There is no second natural fan site because there was not meant to be. Twitter fueled sports communities by creating emojis and event stories that made it easy to catch up on a conversation.
For sportswriters and broadcasters, Twitter has been invaluable. ESPN and other outlets have adopted evolving social media policies that address things like making sure people are who they say they are, how news can be spread and by whom, and how much of your non-sports opinion should get to the your social media accounts.
But think about how many sports stories have been generated by tweets? Who can forget when, via Twitter, Rob Lowe “Referred” by Peyton Manning retirement in 2012? Just four years before Manning actually retired. Thankfully the term “slipping into their DMs” has migrated to other social media or it may be lost forever.
Hopefully, Twitter remains for sports fans. Musk said, in a Delaware court to address an issue related to Tesla Wednesday, which expected to find a new chief executive “over time.” It’s not long, if this magical sports space will continue to be the favorite second screen for sports fans.