Thursday, August 6, 2009

Twitter Sorrow I Have Known

Already, the Golden Era of NBA Twitter is drawing to a close. For less than one full season, there was a blossoming of unfettered contact between athletes and fans: silly messages abounded, zen-like koans were uttered (mostly by Shaq), and lots of people got to learn when there favorite players were done lifting weights. I, for one, really appreciated all of the silliness.

It looks like it's over though. Players are tired of the silly, stupid, or impolitic things they put on their Twitter showing up on ESPN. Soon, all the players will still have Twitters, but they will carefully be managed by their publicists firm. You can see some of this already, in fact. Exacerbated by Marbury's Twitter-abetted melt-down and the on-going conversation about the proper role of players' online behavior, J.R. Smith, my favorite remorseless, ultra-athletic shooting guard with infinite range took down his Twitter after allegations of gang-related orthography in his Twitter posts. I know, right?

Shoal takes on the topic of Internet related missteps over at the Baseline in a nice piece that optimistically imagines a future where the players still Twitter, but they do so thoughtfully, with an awareness that waht they say will be reported and, indeed, make news. I think this view makes the mistake of assuming that teams, agents, publicists, and the League itself trusts it's talent enough to not make asses of themselves. I think an army of publicist-manned NBA Twitters is probably heading towards the shore as we speak. In any case, players are certainly headed towards guarding what they more carefully.

This brings us to the part of the story dealing with one, Rashad McCants. For those of you who don't know, Rashad was a cold-hearted scoring machine on 2005 NCAA Championship team for the University of North Carolina. He did a long stint on the Timberwolves before being traded to the Sacramento Kings midway through this season. Currently, he is an unrestricted free agent looking for a deal. In the NBA, Rashad has mostly been instant offense off the bench, looked upon as a second-string, borderline first string shooting guard who can make buckets like it's nobody's business. In a lot of ways, his team role is similar to that of fellow free agents, Flip Murray and Von Wafer. That's not the point though.

The point is, Rashad has a Twitter. Cautious, Rashad protected his Twitter so that only approved parties could see his updates. He then undercut this step by approving everyone, which was great, because Rashad had lots of interesting things to say and lots of sincere questions to ask. Furthermore, he wore his real feelings and emotions on his sleeve. All his followers knew about his frustration about not being signed. Example Tweet:

"just wondering? do u guys think im kinda crazy in some way? like a bad boy? its what I hear why teams wont sign me. its funny but i wana know."

"Just finished lifting.. Feels good to be in great shape.. What free agent sg out there ever avg more then 10ppg?"

In all fairness, I can't seem to find these Tweets up anymore. It looks like Rashad deleted them after they were reported a couple of places and Hoopshype added his Twitter to their nifty mass NBA player Twitter-aggregator. While Rashad initially seemed happy and positive about the attention his Twitter was getting, clearly something changed when he noticed that a lot of the attention wasn't positive. He posted a couple of times about the frustration he had about some of the articles, though those seem to have been deleted too. Finally, enough was enough and Rashad created a new Twitter account and invited "those who love my twits." The need to watch what one says in public had claimed another victim.

This now brings us to the personal part of the story. I love Rashad. He was a hero of that 2005 UNC team, which meant a great deal to me, and yeah, I thought the enigmatic bad-boy thing was cool. I still reread his SI cover story from 2004 every now and then ("Many Moves, Many Moods" (seriously)). The point is, I loved Rashad's twits. I really did. He was really responsive to his followers on Twitters and would even try to follow anyone who messaged him. He asked advice often and seemed to read and respond to as much as he could. Hell, I even Twittered at him a few times with what I thought were nice and supportive messages. Surely, I would be approved to follow him on his new account. I was a true fan, I was a supporter, and on some minor tangential level, I considered myself a very, very minor friend. Naive, I know.

Anyway, you know where this story is going right? Rashad's new username is Sozeperme and when I requested to follow him, I was flatly rejected. Three times ( I had to make sure!). That's cool, I understood: "Surely he wants to just keep it to his family and close friends." Which is why when my friend Brittany told me that Rashad had not only permitted her to follow him but had returned the favor and started following her, I was kind of crushed. If by kind of crushed we mean totally devastated. Maybe it was just a coincidence? Another request denial coldly limned on my laptop screen didn't help to set the record straight. Why on Earth is Brittany allowed in and I'm not? She doesn't know and love Rashad the way I do!

I simultaneously developed two theories. Theory One: Rashad looked at my Twitter and saw all the posts about the NBA and assumed (correctly) that I'm the kind of jerk sports blogger who would write extensively about his Twitter. Good call, there Rashad! Theory Two: The only strangers that Rashad wanted to talk to were girls. This theory was confirmed scientifically when my friend, Breniecia, was also confirmed while once more I was left out in the cold. Having no evidence to disprove either theory I'm going to assume both are correct and draw conclusions from each of them.

Conclusion One: Love in the Time of Lebron has really made it! Rashad is afraid of the potential for a scathing expose! CREDIBILITY! HOO-RAY!

Conclusion Two: If you want to follow Rashad McCants on Twitter then you should try being a girl. Attractive if possible.

Crucially, the first conclusion allows me to find a silver lining in the storm cloud of Rashad's callous and heart-breaking rejection and come away from this thing feeling alright. The second just seems like solid advice. So there you have it. Now a some words for Rashad:

Rashad, for what it's worth, you did hurt my feelings a little bit, but I think I'm going to be okay. I wish you all the luck in the future and am happy to hype you up: You are still a solid player who packs a sick offensive punch (GMs and associates, check out his sick Per36 stats; the dude is a hoss). Lots of teams would be lucky to have you, and I hope you get signed soon. And, in the event, that your feelings change, my Twitter is

PS: Rashad has a totally respectable mercuriality of 96. That's better than Lebron. Respect.

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