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One of humanity's enduring fallacies is believing that our own personal experiences are universal or even common, but even with that in mind, it seems to us that Twitter has really changed the way football is consumed in this country. Like a lot of people reading this, we get a lot of our football news and comment via what some of the papers still persist in clarifying as "the microblogging website" Twitter, presumably just in case any bemused High Court judges are reading.
It has significantly changed the news gathering process, and at times it seems that no newspaper article - even in the posh press - is complete without a tweet from someone or other. Usually Rio Ferdinand, who for some seems to have become a touchstone commentator on contemporary issues. Clearly, the question, "what does Rio say about this?" is on the minds of many, even if the matter at hand is "which is the best Black Sabbath album?"
The problem for football journalism, not unlike for music journalism, is that the actual top-level practitioners are quite likely to be thick, insufferably arrogant or both. Even those who aren't have a hard time saying anything very interesting about a physical art form. It's hard to put into words, to put down on paper (or screen) something so immediate, physical and visceral. Asking Wayne Rooney what he thinks about goalscoring, or Usher to describe his singing, is doomed to failure.
Twitter has allowed football journalism to get over this, in a way, by just offering a quick soundbite from the protagonists without the often logistically difficult, time-consuming and unrewarding business of anyone actually having to talk to them. This seems to us to suit everybody just fine. Working on the basis that footballers rarely have much to say about football, Twitter is the ideal throwaway conduit for it.
This isn't to say that there are not some players whose Twitter accounts we enjoy following. We find Michael Owen's doggedness strangely endearing, have enjoyed the mixture of inanity and eccentricity that seems to make up the world of Emmanuel Frimpong. We recall one lower league footballer documenting his life in such detail that he was happy to announce he was just going to slip the wife what might colloquially be described to as 'a length' and returned a mere few minutes later to inform his public that the deed was done. Perhaps he doesn't realise that we all have sex too.
Even more odd about footballers' use of Twitter is that they get so much abuse. Owen said recently that after one innocuous (everything Michael does is, after all, innocuous) remark about a Stoke City win, he received over a hundred replies, all abusive, within a minute. What does Micky get out of Twitter to make him persist? Is it really just the chance to share photos of his trophy cabinet?
Recently Rio mentioned how while everyone else was getting their drinking trousers on for the New Year, he had to, boo hoo, train instead. Such are the hardships of life for him. Naturally, he was roundly savaged for this faux pas because no-one can ever make the smallest of mistakes in public without it being immediately inflated to a crime against humanity. We imagine the Daily Mail ran a piece about footballers being out of touch with reality because of it and went on to show people who had died out of sheer disgust.
Clubs now have official Twitter policies which means even the articulate player can't actually say anything revealing.
Managers seem reluctant to use it though ex-managers more keen, presumably to keep their name in the media. But the very word Twitter is not one an alpha male, a leader of men, likes to use. It's too fey, too girly, too white wine. If it was called Shouter, we feel they'd be all over it. Dougie Freedman is the latest manager to make confused kids-these-days references to The World Wide Internets, revealing that his player Marvin Sordell's persistent social networking is "bordering on an obsession." The message from the over 35s in football seems pretty clear: Real Men Don't Tweet. The younger ones, though, cannot get enough of it - with often unfortunate results.
Twitter has also become an important factor in the near constant hysteria and rage that seems to swirl around British football these days. It seems to have a siren call for footballers wanting to make a div of themselves, and news editors around the land must pray nightly for the latest from Darren Bent, Ryan Babel, Rio and the likes of our lower league chap who can thrill us all with his copulation news.
It is our increasing belief that many involved in football - both fans and media - do not actually especially like watching men kick a ball around and are in it mainly for the opportunities for spleen venting and argument. Twitter could hardly be better suited, and we are sure its ubiquity in football is only going to grow and grow.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
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