The Age of Twitter has already provided sports enthusiasts with a timeline full of funny, embarrassing, offensive and overly candid nuggets of information, courtesy of the athletes (and yes, owners and coaches) who seem unable to lay off the TWEET button at vulnerable moments.
It has been a huge charitable endowment to sportswriters, who are rarely above fashioning entire stories from 140-character gaffes. And it has been a recurring nightmare for the teams trying so desperately to project an image of sportsmanship and dignity.
But lately, instead of playing their natural role as flustered diplomats, sports teams seem to be taking another approach: If you can’t beat ’em, out-tweet ’em.
It started oddly, but fairly harmlessly yesterday when the Buffalo Bills posted a report on their web site announcing that head coach Doug Marrone has BLANK TYPE OF CANCER (seriously). Firestorm ensued, of course. And then the post disappeared. Marrone later issued a fairly testy statement explaining that he had a cancerous mole removed, and was fine.
OK, false start Buffalo. Five yards.
The Seattle Seahawks, the team that usually does everything right, did something even weirder today. They released a statement announcing that quarterback Russell Wilson is divorcing his wife, Ashton. Maybe they wanted to “get ahead” of the news. It was still a highly unconventional maneuver, or will be considered such until next week’s press release about Pete Carroll’s predilection for wearing silk panties.
These self-inflicted posts were odd, but they came and went rather quickly. As opposed to the slow-motion spit-fight between the Oakland A’s and the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium Authority.
It started at 8 p.m. last night when the Stadium Authority – through their good friends at Full Court Press Communications – distributed a release titled “Oakland-Alameda County Stadium Authority announces 10-year lease offer made to Oakland A’s & MLB today.” The release went on to detail recent improvements at the aging Coliseum, including 10-percent less sewage in the dugouts on rainy days.
One hour, seven minutes later, the A’s responded with an emailed statement of their own. Attributed to no one in particular, it read, in part: “While the proposal was for 10 years, it did not address all of our issues. Consequently, we cannot accept the terms of the offer.”
Oh, snap! It was like the lady saying no to the man’s marriage proposal on the Jumbotron in the middle of a sold-out NBA game.
But the little drama wasn’t finished. At 11:44 a.m. today, the Stadium Authority announced that Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid would be available approximately 40 minutes later to set the record straight – because “many of you have requested the opportunity to chat with the Coliseum Authority representatives.”
Actually, all we requested was a continuation of the public shouting match, and the Authority obliged at 12:28 p.m. with yet another statement. This one accused the A’s of owing the city and county more than $5 million in back rent and of demanding that the Authority offer rent subsidies of $3.5 million per year. The statement made it clear that the city/county landlords were eager to keep negotiations alive.
This offensive did not please the A’s. In the old days they might have phoned a key columnist or two and suggested an angle that undermined the Stadium Authority. This being March of 2014, they went back to Internet. At 2:33 p.m. came another team release, this one in the voice of A’s president Michael Crowley. He pointedly refuted the Authority’s claims and signed off with this door-slam: “We have nothing additional to offer and as a result there will be no further negotiations.”
And that’s where we stand, though I admit that I haven’t checked my email in five minutes. It’s a bad look for a professional baseball team and elected public officials, but it’s a lot of fun for the rest of us. I just wonder how long it will be until an A’s player or Oakland City Hall worker tweets an apology on behalf of his or her indiscreet bosses.