By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press
Perhaps the best thing about Twitter is that it forces people to get to the point, in 140 characters or less.
Not that it matters much for most athletes, who rarely have thoughts that run that long anyway.
They get paid to play, not to tell us how to eliminate hunger or explain black holes in the universe (Phil Mickelson excepted, of course).
Take Allen Iverson,for instance. He didn’t come close to using up his Twitter allotment to show off his new character in Memphis.
“I want to help them develop a winner,” Iverson tweeted after signing with the Grizzlies.
Pretty innocuous stuff, the kind that in previous times would be handled in a team statement or e-mail.
But these are new times, and this is new technology. No longer must athletes risk having their words muddled by the media.
It’s a perfect tool for Terrell Owens and the attention hounds that populate sports, even if they don’t have anything to say.
Better yet, they can only misquote themselves, as T.O. so famously did in his own autobiography.
He did the other day after former Patriot Rodney Harrison called him a “clown” and T.O. fired off a barrage of tweets in response.
Most had to do with Harrison being suspended in 2007 for using steroids, which Owens finally conceded wasn’t exactly correct.
“My bad Rodney! I hv been corrected by ur supporters, u used HGH nt steroids! So, every1 go ahead & use HGH!!”
Before Twittersphere thoughts appeared and disappeared within seconds, those kind of things could lead to defamation lawsuits.
But while there’s a new world order out there, there’s no new sheriff in town.
That scares coaches, and it terrifies teams. Secrets are being spilled, and control freaks are losing control.
The food in San Diego is slop. The fans in Washington are dim wits. Coaches have no clue, and talking heads on TV are worse.
(By the way, have you noticed every thought in this column is 140 characters or less?)
The point is, there’s no filter, no chance to pause. From thought to Internet, the process takes just a few seconds.
Most of it is so lame it hardly matters. I mean, do any of Chad Ochocinco’s followers care that he likes the play “The Color Purple”?
Did we really need to know that Annika Sorenstam spent a rainy Sunday watching sports on TV?
Bills fans do care about T.O. But they are more worried about why he has caught only five passes than whether Harrison is sending him HGH.
Still, the tweets keep coming. Hundreds and thousands of them, so many that teams and leagues can’t monitor them all.
That’s not stopping them from trying. The Twitter backlash has begun, and it’s not pretty.
Terrified at the thought of players tweeting from the locker room, the NFL laid down the law. On Wednesday, the NBA followed suit.
Jets receiver David Clowney got benched because of Twitter, and the entire Texas Tech football team was banned from it.
“A bunch of narcissists that want to sit and type stuff about themselves all the time,” Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said of tweeters.
True, of course, but isn’t that what the Internet is really for? Most people on Twitter aren’t there to promote world peace.
Besides, the people covering the games are just as guilty as those who play them.
We send out snarky tweets by the dozens, compete with each other to see who has most followers (Twitter ID: timdahlberg).
Some are meaningless, sent out just to show people you’re awake. Some are more informative, linking to news of the day.
Others are witty, like this one sent while Floyd Mayweather Jr. was pummeling Juan Manuel Marquez — who drank his urine in training:
“Marquez looks like he needs a cup of urine — and fast.”
OK, so that was my tweet. Sometimes it is just way too easy.
Analyze the 2016 Olympic race in 140 characters or less? No problem, it’s “Pele and Lula vs. Obama and Oprah.”
Pay homage to Vin Scully’s latest musings? All night long, and with great pleasure.
Like T.O., there are times I just can’t help myself.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com