Somebody Stop Dennis Dodd

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I know I said I wouldn't be writing much about the Iowa Hawkeyes, but someone has to stop Dennis Dodd and his witch hunt on the school's football program.

It’s time for Dennis Dodd to stop.

The controversy that was is the story Dodd keeps trying to resuscitate.

In his latest CBS-sanctioned witch hunt against Kirk Ferentz and Iowa Hawkeyes football program, Dodd throws speculation to the wind – predicting mass transfers as the ultimate punishment for the supposed wrong-doing that just had to have happened during those post-season workouts in Iowa City last month.

“With the school currently in the middle of a three-month investigation into the incident, dealing with possible transfers could be the next issue for coach Kirk Ferentz,” Dodd pontificated in his latest (Feb. 15) column on CBSSportsline.com, calling it the next potential “stain” on the program and Ferentz. 

Problem is, there’s no whiff of any transfers … by any Iowa players … involved in the workout or not. NOTHING. The only one still crowing about transfers is – you guessed it – Dennis Dodd. In fact, Ferentz just wrapped up a pretty fine 2011 recruiting class.

We’ve been here before when Dodd claimed University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics workers should have broken federal HIPAA laws and disclosed private health information about the Iowa football players hospitalized following those workouts. He was rightly shouted down for such nonsense, and should be for this latest piece of trash that CBS Sports passes off as journalism.

Interestingly enough, Dodd has not turned to his Twitter following to generate conversation around his latest post. No link to the site, no thought-provoking tweets to get his 8,600 followers talking. Perhaps the hundreds of tweets and replies the last time kept him from Twitter this time.

In the meantime, a few right-minded sports fans used Twitter to ridicule Dodd again, this time in smaller numbers. That tells me Dodd’s rants are less effective. People are tired of tirades. His idiocy is getting ignored.

And that, folks, is how you stop Dennis Dodd.

Thanks for being a fan.

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Social Media and the Super Bowl: The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of De-Tweet

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Adding this logo to my blog won't help me erase the bad memories of Super Bowl Sunday.

Well that sucked.

My beloved Pittsburgh Steelers lost the Super Bowl. It hurts to type it. Hats off to the Green Bay Packers, whose fans – many of whom I count as good friends – were very kind to me on Facebook, Twitter (and in person) following the game. 

And even though I offered in-game tweeting tips in my last blog post, I found myself too nervous, too into the action – to do the Super Bowl tweet thing. I managed a few meager posts on Twitter and one on Facebook, riding a black-and-gold wave of emotion from quarter to quarter.

I was watching both, though, which got me thinking that the Super Bowl really is the ultimate combination of social media and sports. Not just because of its importance to the sports world – yes, the Super Bowl is the most important, most-watched, most-hyped sporting event around. But the Big Game also combines music, pop culture, celebrity – and this year even politics.

So Twitter and Facebook accounts across the globe were humming with activity on Super Bowl Sunday. Inbetween comments about action on the field, there were just as many – and probably more – pithy, snarky, humorous and tasteless ones about the newest round of Super Bowl commercials, the botched National Anthem and the, ahem, interesting half-time show.

Even for a sports nut like me, it was hard to take my eyes off Twitter to watch the action on TV. There was just as much entertainment flashing on my 4-inch Mesmerize as on the 50-inch plasma. It was surreal to see so much activity in two places at once.

Green Bay Packer fans are fancy on the Tweeters.

After the game, Green Bay Packer fans plastered their Twitter timelines and Facebook Walls with an assortment of woo-hoos and digital high-fives. Pittsburgh Steelers fans consoled and cried with each other, wondering out loud what might have been.

I went to bed.

But I wanted to read more, and first thing Monday morning I was back on Twitter and Facebook in search of the social highlights. I’m not the first to accuse our society of an obsession with technololgy. We (I) have a love affair with smart phones, and TV has become that third wheel, creating awkward moments when we become so engrossed with the social, we forget about the live action.  

Those Generation Y-ers (all you 18-28 year-olds out there) are mostly to blame, spending more time online than in front of the TV. A whopping 42 percent were watching online video at least once per month, according to a 2008 BusinessWeek report. It’s only grown since then I’m sure, and Gen-Xers are catching up fast.

For social media, it means integration with TV, eventually combining one into some usable format that can go with us but be there when we’re home. I’m sure somebody a lot smarter than me is already creating such a device. And that’s good news for sports fans like me who are hooked on social media.

Especially if my Steelers are playing.

Thanks for being a fan.

5 Twitter Tips to Boost Your Fan Experience on Game Day

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In addition to being a social media dork by day, I also throw myself into cheering wildly for my two favorite sports teams – the Iowa Hawkeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers (who happen to be playing a pretty big game later today).

Just ask my wife and kids – if I’m not watching the Hawks or Steelers (both conveniently don the black and gold, by the way), I’m reading or tweeting about them.

More recently – I’ve been doing BOTH. Sort of like that old Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup commmercial, I’ve discovered Twitter (and sometimes Face book) and live sports go well together. It was this past season when I really began to appreciate the melding of sports and Twitter.

Let me preface by saying this new fan activity is NOT part of any live game experience. So, no, I was not tweeting while in the stands at Kinnick Stadium. Wouldn’t think of it. And as a long-distance fan (I live in Wisconsin) of the Pittsburgh Steelers, social media engagment is a great way to connect with like-minded fans (some of whom also live in Wisconsin, belive it or not).

However, with all social media conversations – especially Twitter – you have to have a thick skin and be prepared to cut through the clutter to find your sweet spot. Live sports moves fast, and so does the fan conversation. Keep up, contribute or get left behind. Or worse – ignored.

Be patient, too. It takes time to find the fans you appreciate – and who appreciate you. There’s a ton of nonsense out there – from every team in every sport.

With that in mind, I offer these 5 tips to get started on your Twitter/fan experience:

  • Create a follower list of your favorite sports teams: That includes fans, writers, coaches and players. Twitter lists are a great way to differentiate any other activities or passions you might share on Twitter.
  • Don’t overdo the RT. Once you’ve joined a team’s following – large or small – you don’t have to RT everything about your team. It becomes downright ridiculous to read the same tweet 25 times.
  • Use your team hashtags (#) when posting. This helps tell your followers – especially those who don’t follow your team – that this tweet is about the #Steelers or #SteelerNation.
  • Send a quick disclaimer if you’re going to be in-game tweeting. Your non-sports followers might cut you some slack if you warn them ahead of the big game.
  • Include a sentence about your team loyalty in your Twitter profile. This gives any potential follower the heads-up that, hey, you’re passionate about your team, and that your tweets will reflect that passion.

Got more tips? Add them in the comments below.

For now, I’m headed to the big screen to watch my Steelers play in Super Bowl XLV. You might even catch me tweeting about the action, too.

Thanks for being a fan.

Steelers Win Game AND Fan Appreciation With Social Media-Inspired Photo

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Hosting the AFC championship game has become old hat for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve done it 15 times now – more than any other NFL franchise.

So how could the Steelers front office make the matchup with the New York Jets any more awesome? How about snapping a technology-inspried, 360-degree, high-definition photo of the entire stadium?

Hats off to the Steelers (and McDonald’s, I guess) for making it happen with the GigaPixel FanCam. It’s a great way to engage fans – not only during the game – but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (as well as e-mail).

The image itself took between 5-7 minutes to shoot. Fans can “navigate the panoramic image and look around, as if they were standing in the middle of Heinz Field for a frozen moment of time just before the opening kickoff of the 2010 AFC Championship Game,” according to Steelers.com. But the best part is finding yourself in the picture and tagging yourself – similar to how photos are tagged on Facebook. However, with this image, the resolution is a little higher – as in 5 billion pixels high. At publication, several hundred tags had been added to the image.

Nice work, Steelers. Winning games is tough, but innovating with 70,000 people – all at the same time – is even tougher.

Thanks for being a fan.

Some Athletes Should Take a Twitter Vacation

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In an ideal world, social media provides everyone with an engaging way to communicate with people of all kinds.

In the sports world, social media is often a channel filled with ugly, hateful and often ridiculous messages.

I’ve already touched on the Jay Cutler issue from last week in this Fourthand140.com post. And much of the mouth-breathing that happens on social networks around sports – specifically Twitter – comes from fans, as it did in the Cutler case.

But athletes can just as easily make fools of themselves in 140 characters or less.

Enter Antonio Cromartie. Already a defensive back with a reputation for being loud-mouthed, number 31 also uses his Twitter account to talk trash to fans, followers and other players.

In the past week, he’s reached out his 76,000+ followers to:

1) Physically threaten Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck.
2) Belittle and berate followers and fans.
3) Alienate himself from other NFL players as it relates to the fast-approaching collective bargaining agreement. 

Let’s also not forget Cromartie’s public strategy for covering Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward in the AFC championship game last week – outlined to the media as this:

“Grab his ass by the throat and choke the s— out of him.”

Stay classy, 31.   

Thankfully, Cromartie is headed to the offseason, where his venom will have less impact. But his actions on Twitter are unfortunate for fans and followers alike.

Why use Twitter like this? Perhaps the on-field trash-talking persona feels just as good online for players like Cromartie. Because he’s not alone. Other athletes use Twitter as a tool for intimidation, anger or mean-spiritedness.

Some high-profile examples include the Buffalo Bills Kawika Mitchell and his less-than-enthusiastic welcome to teammate Richie Incognito; the Maurice Jones-Drew/Jay Cutler fiasco, which MJD has backed down from somewhat; and the ongoing team photo fiasco with Green Bay Packers “teammates” Aaron Rodgers, Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley. Many others could make the list…

I’m a social media purist, so when I see this kind of behavior, it’s disappointing. It’s even more so when it comes from athletes who should know better, or at the very least, should take the high road. Cromartie has done neither.

The collision of social media and sports has been a fast and violent one, giving fans unique and authentic views of the lives of athletes. Many times these are glimpses they could never have gotten without social media. Other times, unfortunately, they see very raw, uninspriring and disappointing behavior.

As ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill put it, “Sports thrive on personalities… Twitter isn’t perfect (what form of technology is?) but at least it doesn’t always give us such a one-dimensional view of athletes.” 

Yes, we need those personalities to make the games – and the inevitable off-seasons – more interesting. But that doesn’t excuse decency or kindness. I’m not asking for a sanitized glimpse into their world – just one that has a little more civility.

Thanks for being a fan.

Twittericulous: Fans, Players Torch Jay Cutler on Twitter

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Jay Cutler is not a likeable fellow. But no one deserves this.

Dinged with an undisclosed knee injury during Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Packers, the Bears’ coaching staff pulled their fiery yet controversial starter for Todd Collins.

And ridiculousness ensued.

Following the injury (which the Fox announcers handled POORLY), Cutler was seen sulking on the sidelines… sitting alone on the bench… riding a stationary bike. 

That’s when the bloodbath by Bears fans, Cutler-haters and even current and former NFL players began on Twitter, where the break-kneck speed of 140 characters and no common-sense filter played out for all to see.

I get that Twitter can be a cesspool, no matter the topic. But many of these were Bears fans (presumably) who were throwing Cutler – torn knee ligaments and all – under the bus. DURING the game!

Here’s just a PG-rated sampling of the Twitter nonsense:

“Wow, I bet the fact that Jay Cutler isn’t out on the field fighting with his team is just eating him alive!! #sarcasm #CutlerSucks

“HEY there is no medicine for a guy with no guts and heart” #Bears #Packers #CutlerSucks

“I’d rather bet that the #Cutler trending topic shifts to #CutlerSucks by the end of the game, than bet on the final score. Takers?”

These were tweets DURING the game. The Packers had not finished off the Bears until late in the fourth quarter. With third-string QB Caleb Hanie leading the way, the Bears came ever-close to knotting the game up at 21.

Following the loss, though, Bears fans took their anger from Twitter to the parking lots surrounding Soldier Field.

Yes, they actually burned Jay Cutler jerseys – presumably the ones they wore into the game. Above is a picture of one such incident – shared on Twitter.

Bears fans quickly forgot why their team was even playing that day. Jay Cutler (and a pretty stout defense) led them to the NFC North title and a No. 2 seed. It was Cutler’s ability to complete passes to a less-than-stellar receiving corps that helped the Bears reach the playoffs.

Still, Jason Whitlock, current and former NFL stars, sports columnists and commentators piled on, and continue to do so despite the knowledge that Cutler tore his MCL and that he was not cleared to play by his coach and team medical staff.

So, I say – enough.

Twitter will continue to be a junkyard that’s 90 percent garbage. With so many users, that’s inevitable. But sports fans don’t need to stoop to the that level.

It’s time for some sports civility on Twitter. If you see it, call these “fans” out on it. Don’t pile on. Unfollow. Block.

Sure, Jay Cutler is easy to hate on. But this time, he didn’t deserve it. And this kind of nonsense has no place in sports – or social media.

Thanks for being a fan.

John Elway gets social media

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No need for fourth-quarter heroics here. John Elway scores early and often in his rookie season on Twitter.

With a freshly-launched Twitter account and just a few tweets under his belt, the Broncos new executive vice president for football operations, Hall of Fame quarterback and Super Bowl MVP is off to a tremendous start.

Let’s hope other NFL executives take notice.

Elway was thrust into a coaching search to replace Josh McDaniels, and unlike many NFL teams, #7 is using social media to be incredibly upfront with the process while also engaging fans online.

He’s promised to lead the team back to glory, and on Jan. 13 chose John Fox to coach the team.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have him lead the Denver Broncos,” Elway tweeted after the hire.

Safe to say, Elway doesn’t believe in hiding behind his front-office role, either. His run-up to the coaching decision was as open as you’ll see in sports. It was candid – and refreshing – to see this kind of transperancy in sports. Elway knows everything he’s doing will be scrutinized by Bronco fans and the media.

Here’s a snapshot at some of Elway’s first tweets: 

  • “Looking forward to getting down to work and finding the right head coach to lead the Broncos.”
  • “Looking forward to our interviews with Eric Studesville and Perry Fewell on Sunday.”
  • “I can tell you that we’ve reached out to the Texans regarding Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison and hope to speak with him”
  • “Just received permission to speak with Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. Previously was HC at Arizona State and Boise State”
  • “Interviews with Perry Fewell and Eric Studesville went well today. We’re looking forward to speaking with John Fox on Monday.”
  • “Rick Dennison and Dirk Koetter are all set to visit us tomorrow.”
  • “Meeting with Rick Dennison and Dirk Koetter later today. We’ve got our questions, but what’s the one thing you’d ask?”

Elway’s social savvy is great news for Bronco fans. The last tweet is especially encouraging – seeking fan feedback and engaging Bronco Nation is a great use of social media. Elway deserves praise for his quick start on Twitter. Bronco fans are lucky to have him in the front office – especially if he continues to shine on Twitter.

As far as winning games goes, that’s to be determined.

Thanks for being a fan.