By Robert Weintraub
I love Twitter. You love Twitter. We all love Twitter.
How any of us consumed sports before it was around to add value and commentary on the action is already hard to remember.
But while Twitter is relatively young, it has been around long enough now to develop some bad habits. I'm referring here of course to its users: You and me and the other sports writers, analysts, broadcasters and consumers who hang out there while the games are going on, and long afterward as well.
Lazy, boring and sometimes offensive phrases, constructions and memes have overtaken Twitter, at least on the sports side of the blue bird. C'mon gang -- many of us partaking are writers, for Pete's sake.
We can do better than this. Just because Twitter limits us to 140 characters there is no reason our tweets need to be so... limited.
To wit, the following 15 phrases need to be banned immediately:
1. "Wow. Just wow."
Stop. Just stop.
"Wow" is generic and boring as a descriptor. Do we really need to use it twice? Of all the irritating recidivist tweets out there, this one irks me more than all the rest. Not only can it refer to pretty much anything, using it conveys an anti-intellectualism I find abhorrent. This is the Forrest Gump of tweets, championing inanity.
Soon enough "W. JW." will be the Twitterized shorthand for spectacular play. And that will make me very sad.
2. "Shots fired!"
Let's start with the obvious -- in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and any other of a dozen gun-related massacres you care to name, this bit of shorthand for a Twitter dis is wildly inappropriate. Pointing out that Darren Rovell is in the tank for SportsCorp, Inc., or that Peter King writes way too much about coffee in his football columns is hardly equivalent to exchanging gunfire.
Twitter is made for piling on extra commentary. If you insist on RTing a Tweet that calls out a prominent sports commentator, state whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment. Don't just giddily snigger, "Fight!" and wait to see who wins before patting the victor on the back.
3. "You really need to turn on (so-and-so's great performance) right now."
First of all, don't tell me what to do. I got a wife for that...
This sort of heads-up is actually one of Twitter's main calling cards, a sort of hipster wire service that drops alerts when you are otherwise engaged, be it with reading Harry Potter to your kids, romancing your mate, or just giving sports a break for a while and watching Duck Dynasty instead.
But is this boring construction, with its overtones of despotism and exclusiveness ("if you were really down, you'd already be watching, fool"), really the best we can do? And give us some specifics. If Justin Verlander has 15 strikeouts through six innings, or Nick Foles has four touchdown passes at halftime, just Tweet that. Drop the attitude and give me a reason to tell my kids that they won't be getting the final score of the big Quidditch match until tomorrow night.
4. "Drop the Mic"/"Mike Drop"
This multiply-spelled phrase is used to convey that there is nothing more to add to the perfection of another's Tweet, often a bon mot or putdown of some sort. But of course, Twitter's raison d'etre is to add further commentary to just about everything. So this is an oxymoron on the order of "jumbo shrimp."
Also, for the white dudes who use this phrase incessantly (and it's mostly white dudes) -- Chris Rock is so 1997.
5. "You guys..."
For some reason many writers, all younger types, mostly from Brooklyn, use "You guys" to address their followers. Here's a tip for those of you who do so -- imitating how a teenage girl talks to her four friends sharing a ride to the mall in her Jetta isn't the best way to roll on Twitter, or anywhere else for that matter.
6. "This--... (followed by a link or a RT)"
This supposedly minimalist lead in to someone else's work or thoughts is meant to convey profundity by directing the reader to some Internet tastiness with as little bombast as possible. I do appreciate the instinct to clam up, believe me, but "This--" is simple bandwagoning. Worse, it implies a hint of co-conspiracy of thought where none applies, as though the RTer hews so closely to the original thinker's line of reasoning that the two are virtually interchangeable. In fact, if the reader wants to go ahead and credit the person who simply writes, "This--" with the bit of brilliance that follows, go right ahead.
That's kind of the point.
Sorry, the RT is just fine to denote piggybacking of thought. No need to add your extraneous two cents.
7. The ironic quote, attributed to "no one."
This is where the Twitterer taps out a made up quote aping an apparently impaired fan at home, then supplies the punch line. As in, "'Boy, I sure do wish there were more stoppages for replays!'--No one ever."
I'm not sure where this bit of inversion first lifted off, possibly old Bill Simmons columns. It was clever when Bill or whomever first did it, but it's a tired trope seen dozens a time a day on Twitter now. So let's all agree to stop it dead in its tracks.
8. "(Player X) is good at basketball/not good at football."
You see the rhetorical trick here? Supposedly making some sweeping, if obvious, statement on the excellence or mediocrity of a given player by stating in base terms that names his or her sport. In other words, reacting to a Big Papi grand slam by Tweeting "David Ortiz is good at baseball."
Yet even worse is the opposite approach. "Blaine Gabbert is just not good at football." Actually, he is. In fact, the instrument has yet to be invented that can accurately measure how much better he is at his trade than you are at yours, Mr. Twitter Snarktopus.
9. "He's getting all the yards/points/touchdowns."
A goofy way of saying a great player is having a torrid start to a certain game, as in he's eating so much there won't be any left for the others.
Why not just say that? A little metaphor is good for the soul.
This is an insta-Tweet to a particularly good/bad/interesting moment in a game, generally something unusual. I don't mind the sentiment, but just using the single word and a period is not only a waste of 135 perfectly good characters, it is utterly devoid of context. Those of us who may not be on Twitter 24/7, and thus like to scroll back in time a bit to see what our feed provided over the last several hours, have little to no context of what "Damn." refers to.
Please add some description, or at least a hashtag, for those of us with lives to lead.
11. "Heat Check"
I'm all for bringing some street lingo onto Twitter, and at first, this Ruckerism was a fun way to describe Steph Curry launching 3s from 35 feet, you know, just 'cause.
But just as "Ball don't lie!" got co-opted and corrupted by the man, "Heat Check" is now so commonly used on Twitter I refuse to react to it, even if it means that I miss out on Curry dropping 40 points on someone (and he's my NBA fantasy team's main gun). Let's all get together and move on to the next dope bit of street lingo, know what I'm sayin'?
12. "Beast Mode"
Similar to "Heat Check," this phrase meaning a player is performing otherworldly feats on the field of play is more played out than using the phrase "played out."
And given the racial makeup of most sports to which "Beast Mode" is applied, there is a bit of unease attached to ascribing animalistic frenzy to predominantly African-American athletes that makes me wince every time it's used. I'm glad Marshawn Lynch, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre and others co-opted it for fun and profit, but can't we describe the virtuoso physicality of black men with another, less loaded description?
13. "This is fun"
Twitter is already overloaded with sponsored nonsense, photos of meals at restaurants at which you will never dine, and links to young adults getting whacked in the genitals. To further pollute my feed with this utterly useless comment on what presumably is a great game I'm trying to enjoy is banned forthwith.
14. Any use of haiku
Many, many moons ago, when I was the student reading announcements over the Rye (N.Y.) High School loudspeaker to my fellow Garnets, I was ironically using haiku, the 5-7-5 syllable poems originated by the Japanese, to describe various events, such as victories on the sporting green, bake sale announcements and the certain unfortunates forced to attend detention that afternoon.
There's just no way using haiku on such a modern application as Twitter can possibly be cool.
Maybe it's me.
15. The tweet as jeremiad
Jason Whitlock, to whom The Wire is as sacred as the Koran is to pilgrims to Mecca, uses Twitter to bash Breaking Bad whenever he can. Brian Kenny of the MLB Network can't stop trying to #KillTheWin, i.e. remove the victory stat from our collective lexicon. Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated endlessly pushes obituaries from The Economist, pokes fun at Colin Cowherd and rips "Monorail Salesman" Skip Bayless.
OK, so he's right about that.
Nevertheless, there is a fine line between pushing an agenda on Twitter (by the way, be sure to check @robwein for links to places where you can buy my book The Victory Season!), and tilting at windmills. So let's place an upper limit on the number of Tweets given to any particular person on any particular topic.
140 has a nice ring to it.
* * *
Robert Weintraub is the author of the books The Victory Season and The House That Ruth Built. He writes regularly for the New York Times, ESPN.com, Football Outsiders, CJR, Slate and many others. Follow him on Twitter @robwein.