I love Twitter. For those of you who follow me you know I’m something of a tweetaholic. As the social network has become more and more mainstream over the past couple of years, it has turned into many peoples’ go-to source of news. My favorite part of Twitter isn’t even the conversational aspect of it, but rather the ability to feel you are always in the loop 24/7. This applies to interests across the board, but for me (and for the purpose of today’s column) I’m of course referring to sports.
A few years ago sports fans were forced to wait for a reporter to write a column and post it on their website, or turn on ESPN and wait for them to cycle through 20 other stories before they got to the one you cared about (if ever thanks to being a Buffalo sports fan.) Today however, it’s all about immediacy. With Twitter it’s as if we are close pals with Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport and have them feeding us “insider” information on a constant basis. Of course the reality is you or I are just one of the over 2 million people that follow Schefter, but you get the idea. As fine and dandy as that all is, we sometimes forget that with all the benefits that Twitter provides, it also has its downfalls… Enter Jairus Byrd.
This past Tuesday trumpets sounded and the clouds parted as Byrd decided to concede and end his holdout with the Bills. As many have already pointed out, the timing wasn’t a coincidence. By signing the franchise tender before training camp broke, Byrd insured that all $6.916 million of his one-year deal would be guaranteed. Bills fans took to Twitter to express relief and excitement that their Pro Bowl Safety had returned. The joyous festivities however, didn't last long. The next day several people took to Twitter to relay what they had heard on ESPN’s new show ‘NFL Insiders.’ The word on Twitter was that well-known ESPN reporter Ed Werder had stated, “that a source told him Byrd hopes to be dealt by the deadline.” Well, that almost immediately set Twitter ablaze.
As Buffalo fans, we have become accustomed to less than stellar news, but this was different. This heart wrenching update didn’t come from Tim Graham at the Buffalo News, or one of the guys over at WGR. No, this came from a couple individuals casually watching ESPN and relaying the message to their followers on Twitter. Of course just to make things even more interesting, an account that appeared to be Werder’s sent out a message using the popular hashtag #BillsMafia, to let people know that it was “strictly his opinion” that Byrd would request a trade. Notable Buffalo sports bloggers/writers jumped all over this to inform the masses that the earlier information was incorrect. Instead of it coming from “sources” it was simply Werder’s opinion. Only problem? It was a fake account that someone with way too much time on their hands put together to mess with Bills fans (as if we needed any more messing with.) Once it was quickly discovered that the account was missing an “r,” @edwederespn instead of @edwerderespn, the same people that minutes earlier had been informing others of the initial misinformation, were apologizing for providing misinformation of their own. Confused yet? Welcome to the club.
The fake account quickly went inactive, but the damage was done. Bills fans all across Twitter were left confused as to what exactly Werder had said on TV. At that point I knew we had a story on our hands, so I did a quick search of Werder’s name on Twitter and found that numerous accounts, big and small, were reaching or to Werder to clarify exactly what he said. After a couple hours Werder must have taken a look at his account and realized that the Bills Mafia was inundating him with questions, because he posted a response, which was as follows:
This was the beginning of the end for Werder’s popularity in WNY. Many fans were displeased with the apparent 180 that had been taken from his earlier report. Frustration reared its ugly head, as it often does, with people telling Werder to “admit he lied,” “stick to having you're head up Jerry Jones' (you know what)” and that he was a “joke of a reporter.” These of course are only a few examples and are the family friendly variations, as you can feel free to go on a more nitty-gritty search yourself.
I myself was rather frustrated with the end of the tweet stating that Byrd “may even hope for an eventual trade.” What the heck does that even mean? If you think about it, couldn’t every single player in the NFL eventually hope for a trade? Was Werder trying to tell us he was some sort of soothsayer, or fortuneteller?
I actually ended up having a short conversation with Werder later that night, after I had tweeted him about something unrelated, where he informed me he wasn’t that savvy with Twitter on his phone. You don’t say…
In the end other national level NFL reporters, as well as local media guys, picked up where Werder left off to fill in the pieces. They confirmed that Byrd was indeed displeased by having to sign the franchise tender, but then again that isn’t uncommon. NFL players try to capitalize on contract years and with Byrd cementing himself as one of the best at what he does, playing on a one-year deal with risk of injury or depreciated play is not ideal. Of course for Bills fans, going through several hours of utter chaos on Twitter wasn’t ideal either.
As I said earlier, the ability to so easily spread and obtain information is as much a curse as it is a gift. Fact checking disappears, because one, being “first” has become most important and two, us bloggers rely on what we read from primary sources and have no real way fact checking ourselves. I’m not trying to say we should only listen to traditional journalists when it comes to news, because I know many “new-age” bloggers that do an amazing job covering sports, but we just need to remember to use common sense. You never know where the next Ed “missing an R” Weder is lurking…
Tweet of the Week:
This just about sums it up…
Have your own opinion on this week’s column or a topic you want featured in next week’s column? Get at me on Twitter: @BradleyGelber