Lazerus: Remember who’s reading on Twitter
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or email@example.com August 1, 2012 11:32PM
Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Mark Lazerus Post-Tribune sports editor
Updated: September 3, 2012 1:27PM
Here’s what I’d like to see on my Twitter feed: Links to stories from my favorite journalists, news updates about my favorite teams, and snarky comments from my favorite comedians.
That’s pretty much it.
Here’s what I always see on my Twitter feed: Sexist comments from college basketball players I cover, stupid statements from high school football players I cover, and the inane (and profane) minutiae that fills the days of seemingly every prominent athlete in our circulation area. Yawn.
See, I don’t really care what the people I cover are doing outside the lines. Aside from very rare instances such as Tommy Rees’ arrest in May, it’s not my business to know what you’re doing on your free time. I don’t care nor do I want to know that you’re out trolling for chicks at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, or hating on an ex, or eating at Chipotle, or blowing your nose.
But I’m following you. So are many other members of the media. We have no choice. It’s the nature of “journalism” these days. Any access you give us, we’re going to take.
Fans are following you, too. Lots of them. The moment a Notre Dame or Purdue or Indiana recruit’s commitment becomes public, his Twitter followers go through the roof. The same people who just heard a Valparaiso men’s basketball player give that highly coached, cliche-riddled, vanilla interview after a game are reading that player’s raw, unfiltered thoughts at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night in the offseason. The tone-deaf witticisms of a high school sophomore are reaching a much larger audience than his pals at the lunch table.
Twitter’s a great way for athletes to connect with their fans — to have genuine interaction and build a fan base. But it’s also a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe it’s a misguided tweet after a well-lubricated party, or an angry missive after a relationship crumbles, or just a tasteless, tone-deaf joke that offends anyone and everyone.
And when it happens, guess who’s there reading it?
That’s why Marvin Lewis is banning the Cincinnati Bengals from using Twitter. That’s why Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is keeping his players offline.
Just ask Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella and Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou. You can probably hit them up with a direct message right now — they’re home, expelled from the Olympics for racist tweets.
Valparaiso men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew is savvy enough to keep an eye on his players’ — and his recruits’ — Twitter accounts. He has someone who follows them constantly, and pokes his own head in every now and then to check up on them.
And yes, he’s had to take a player aside once or twice to remind him that even online, as a public figure, he’s speaking for more than himself.
“They’re representing the university and they’re representing their families,” Drew said. “And we all know that Twitter’s gotten a lot of people in trouble. We try to talk to them a lot. You have to remember, sometimes we’re dealing with 18- and 19-year-old young men.”
Drew, for one, has no plans to keep his players off Twitter, choosing instead to trust his players to be as smart off the court as they are on it.
“I know it’s something kids love to do, so hopefully they’re responsible with it,” Drew said. “There are so many different ways to define crossing the line — it’s program to program, person to person. But I try to err on the real safe side. So if it’s something real questionable, hey, make sure you guys clean it up. And be careful what you retweet, too. Sometimes, it’s not even something you write yourself that gets you in trouble.”
Athletes aren’t like “regular” students and “regular” people. When your Twitter followers hit three, four or five digits — and you only know a couple dozen of them personally — things are different.
Just keep in mind: People are reading. Whether we want to or not.
Finalizing the schedule
Valparaiso still hasn’t released its 2012-13 schedule — the Horizon League hasn’t even set in stone how it’s going to schedule the conference season in the wake of Butler’s departure for the Atlantic 10 — but the bulk of the non-conference slate is set. Valparaiso will travel to Nebraska, Murray State, New Mexico, Saint Louis, Missouri State, Oakland and Kent State. A potential matchup with Pittsburgh didn’t work out, Drew said.
The home schedule is far less appealing, with the likes of IPFW, IUPUI and Georgia Southern coming to the ARC. On the bright side, Murray State, New Mexico and Saint Louis all will be coming to the ARC in the future.
“It’s great that we’ll be able to get those schools back in our building,” Drew said.
And no, Butler will not be on the schedule.
“Things happened so quick with them,” Drew said. “We talked and it wasn’t going to work this year for us to play each other. We would love to continue the series in the future, though.”
Roster coming together
For once, the Crusaders got some good news from the NCAA when Cal transfer Alex Rossi was declared eligible to play right away. The 6-6 shooting guard will have three years of eligibility after leaving Berkeley for family reasons.
“Alex is a great kid, and it was definitely the right decision,” Drew said.
It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Crusaders, who lost Jay Harris and Richie Edwards to transfers, and picked up four new faces (along with forwards Bobby Capobianco and Vashil Fernandez, who each had to sit out last season). Rossi and Jordan Coleman (Hawaii) will be eligible to play right away, Lavonte Dority (South Florida) will be eligible after the first semester ends, and David Chadwick (Rice) will sit out the season.
But Drew said that the Crusaders — the defending regular-season champs and early Horizon League favorites — have been jelling nicely over the summer.
“The guys have been working really hard, and the chemistry is great — everyone seems to get along really, really well,” Drew said. “When we told the team that Alex got the waiver to be able to play, everybody whooped and hollered and clapped. It really solidifies what we have.”