by Ryan Isley
We live in a society now where the words “tweet” and “twitter” are everyday vernacular and being “followed” isn’t a bad thing – well at least not most of the time. As Twitter has changed many things in our everyday lives, it has really made an impact on the sports world.
Most leagues and teams have a social media person who runs a Twitter account to communicate with fans, run contests and give information about their league or team. Everywhere you look, there are players on Twitter – either just tweeting everyday things or talking with fans or giving away prizes to a lucky few.
Then there are the athletes who make Twitter blow up with their every move – on or off the field/court/course.
The three biggest examples of this are LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Tim Tebow. Baseball has plenty of players who get fans and tweeters talking, but none as polarizing as those three. And while NASCAR has Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Danica Patrick, they just don’t move the needle like LeBron, Tiger and Tebow.
The difference between LeBron, Tiger and Tebow and all of the other athletes is that almost everyone has a strong opinion on those three. People either love them or hate them, and there is very little indifference. With other athletes, there might be love and hate but not to the extent of those three.
We all know how the Twitterverse exploded during football season with Tebow. There were people who thought Tebow was great and people who thought Tebow was the worst quarterback ever. This was not just limited to the fans of the Denver Broncos – the team he played for – or fans of their opponents. It was nationwide with Tebow.
One of the things with Tebow was his religious faith, as he constantly showed his love for Jesus Christ and even started a celebration of dropping to a knee in a prayer formation – later dubbed “Tebowing”. People started taking pictures of themselves Tebowing in different scenarios and plastered them all over Twitter.
When I wrote a column suggesting that people needed to separate the two lives of Tebow – the football player and the religious ambassador – the response on Twitter was varied. I got some that hated it, some that loved it, but none that didn’t feel one way or the other.
The other two athletes showed this past weekend just how much they could get the Twitterverse to talk about them, as Tiger won the Memorial Tournament and LeBron continued to play in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals with the Miami Heat.
Anytime Tiger is in a tournament, he is going to be the biggest draw and the player who causes people to tweet the most on any given day of the event. This past weekend was no different, and with Tiger making noise on Friday, staying in contention on Saturday and then charging up the leaderboard on Sunday, Twitter was having a full-blown Tigergasm.
Ironically, many of those who don’t like Tiger have those feelings because of his off the course transgressions against his wife. They could care less if he is one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game or if he is just a weekend golfer with a 10 handicap – cheating on his wife makes him a bad person, no matter what else happens.
On the other side of the ledger, there are some who couldn’t care less about what Tiger did off the course and just love seeing him in contention, as he is one of the most awe-inspiring golfers to watch of all-time. Some casual golf fans will only watch a tournament when Tiger is in contention and when Tiger is in the hunt at a tournament, the tournament just becomes even that much more watchable, even for a golf enthusiast.
And then there is LeBron.
The rise of Twitter and the peak of LeBron’s career have intertwined and created some of the loudest buzz ever. There is not an athlete who sparks more opinions than LeBron James – both positive and negative.
We have seen it night in and night out in these playoffs – even moreso I believe than in last season’s playoffs – where fans leave no doubt as to how they feel about LeBron. There are fans who defend him while others mercilessly tear him apart. Each side of the aisle goes overboard in their tweeting about LeBron, but again – there is no middle ground.
Depending on who you follow on Twitter, LeBron is either the greatest player in the NBA or he is the worst player in the NBA. That’s how wide the opinions on LeBron seem to spread. No – seriously.
Just like with Tebow and Tiger, there are things that have happened off the court that make people feel the way they feel about LeBron. We all know what happened on July 8, 2010 when LeBron held a special on ESPN called “The Decision” where he announced that he would be leaving Cleveland for “South Beach” and playing for the Miami Heat.
Most of the hate for LeBron stems from that night – and some of it isn’t even from Cleveland fans. There are NBA fans who believed LeBron took the easy way out to win a championship and they immediately turned against him.
Love them or hate them, chances are you have feeling towards these three athletes and that is perfectly fine because that makes you just like everyone else. These three athletes one day very well could be the reason that Twitter breaks – but until then, fans will continue to pour out their feeling about each of them on the social media site.
Do you love or hate any of these three athletes? Are there other athletes you think belong in the discussion? You can leave a comment or email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org