This is An Ode to…, a weekly column where we share the stuff we’re really into in hopes that you’ll be really into it, too.
Twitter is one of the great enigmas of life on this planet in the year 2018, capable of being a place of wonder, humor, and connections while also being a place of misogyny, trolling, and the source of crippling fear.
Sometimes, Twitter can encompass all of these things in the breadth of just a handful of tweets across 30 seconds.
Sports Twitter is no different. There are hot takes, unfounded insults, and trash talk between fans that gets surprisingly personal incredibly quickly. Oh, and some of the strangest Twitter drama around.
But it’s not all bad! And if you use a few of the tools that Twitter has to offer, you can build yourself a nice little corner of the internet and consume sports in all its glory, creating a nice little collective experience that was the whole point of social media in the first place.
Curating the perfect experience
The key to maximizing your enjoyment: lists. Twitter lists are a great way to filter out all the stupid chatter and harassment, enabling you to mainline a curated stream sports reactions.
Sports remains one of the few DVR-proof forms of entertainment left in our culture, meaning your tweet of amazement at a great catch or a home run won’t result in a string of “SPOILER ALERT” tweets from people time-shifting the show or living in a U.S. time zone or country where it hasn’t yet aired.
Instead, we all experience the roller coaster ride of sports together in real time. On Monday night, NFL rookie Sam Darnold made his highly anticipated first start as quarterback for the New York Jets and, in true Jets fashion, threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his very first pass, spawning a collective groan across my NFL Twitter list.
This happens several times a day too, depending on your team. (Side note: Darnold settled down and had himself a good debut as the Jets thrashed the Lions.)
Sports can turn on a dime and that’s why Twitter is such a great supplement for viewing.
Curation won’t always keep out the bullshit; sports seems second only to politics in really setting people off and leading to harassing tweets. Still, lists help make your experience a bit friendlier than Twitter normally is.
Always follow your favorites
Whether on their own or in a list, specific sports-related accounts have always brought me a lot of joy, mixing smart analysis with humor and, most importantly, occasional weirdness.
One of my absolute favorite sports Twitter accounts is the baseball-heavy Cespedes Family BBQ, an account full of weird, wonderful takes and GIFs named for the human highlight reel that is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
If you like that mix of weird and fun, but prefer college football, there’s also SB Nation’s Spencer Hall, who focuses largely on the sport that makes grown men yell at 18-year-old kids on their TV screens.
And Spencer grasps the absurdity in that — and everything else.
For an account that can cause all kinds of chaos and delight across sports Twitter, there’s ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He doesn’t bring the weird like these other accounts, but he delivers something just as valuable: big scoops.
Remember that period in the summer of 2017 where it seemed like every day around the same time in the late afternoon, either the Washington Post or the New York Times would drop a huge breaking news story that proceeded to blow up Twitter?
Imagine that, but with basketball news dumps dropped throughout the NBA season. His scoops are lovingly called “Woj bombs” because of the impact they have, thanks to Woj’s experience and credibility built through years and years of reporting. No one can suddenly alter the sports Twitter landscape like Woj.
Sports Twitter can also be incredibly thoughtful. Journalist Jessica Luther has always been a great source for compelling sports commentary on everything from the NCAA’s inept response to accusations of sexual assault against college football players, to the recent debate over the way an umpire at the U.S. Open recently treated Serena Williams.
No conversation about Serena is ever just about Serena, so talking about her individual actions can never be divorced from a bigger cultural conversation about systemic injustice without real worry for how critiques of her as an individual will be used.
— Jessica Luther (@jessicawluther) September 11, 2018
Luther’s perspective is a much-needed voice in the male-dominated industry of sports journalism and even sports as a whole. Her analysis of and enthusiasm for women’s sports is addictive and will absolutely have you tuning in to the WNBA Finals or the Women’s Baseball World Cup.
Team accounts are the only good branded Twitter accounts
Finally, there are the team accounts themselves. They inform, they interact, they do what brands should do: they promote. But sometimes these accounts interact with each other in a way rarely seen between major brands. For example: there’s trash talk.
Sometimes that trash talk comes back to haunt them, as it did with the L.A. Kings who went after the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the fall of 2017, only to see the Knights advance to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals.
These accounts also trade in frustrated sarcasm, as the Chicago Cubs account did during a rain-soaked weekend in Washington.
Yes, team tweets can be bad and cloying, too, but it’s no worse than the rest of Twitter. And for the most part, it’s usually much better.
Sports Twitter isn’t perfect, but it certainly offers a space where you can take respite from the flaming tire fire that is the rest of social media, while still enjoying what Twitter should be about: a shared experience with a dash of sports blooper GIFs.