Unnecessary roughness on Twitter

The Orlando Sentinel's Dana Summers pokes fun at Jay Cutler's Twitter-induced injuries.

For obvious reasons, Twitter is a gold mine for sports journalists. It provides near-instantaneous updates to your followers. It offers terrific insights from those whom you follow. It affords you currency on the ever-changing world of sports.

And then on the rare (but seemingly increasing) occasion, its mere existence helps spur a news story splashed across front pages everywhere.

Last Sunday, a knee injury to Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler kept him from finishing the team’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, a game the Bears lost, 21-14.

Within a day, the dominant narrative in the wake of Chicago’s season-ending loss focused not on the Bears’ sour ending but rather on the Twitter target found on Cutler’s back. As a seemingly fine Cutler stewed on the sideline late in the loss, a number of his NFL compatriots — some of them who had not even made it to the playoffs — had taken to social media to question his toughness.

“Hey I think the urban meyer rule is in effect right now, When the going gets tough……..QUIT,” tweeted Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who himself had sat out the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury.

These days, it’s difficult to find a popular athlete who’s not on Twitter. But unprecedented accessibility can be to their own detriment, especially when there’s no public relation corps hovering over their shoulder with a judgmental eye.

For another example, take former Florida safety Will Hill, who was ridiculed endlessly last week when his lewd and profane log of tweets was posted on a popular college football Web site. He has since claimed that the tweets — which date back several months — were not his own. I imagine few NFL executives will be inclined to believe him. In 14o characters or fewer, Hill surely cost himself a far greater number of contract dollars when he’s drafted this April.

As Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi wrote:

And now that athletes have their own media — social media — with complete editorial control, sports fans are seeing many of them for what they truly are:

Fools.

Will we see any measure of pushback from the professional and collegiate teams who oversee these athletes? It bears watching.

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