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Sports Guy breaks Randy Moss story by “accident”

Posted by Mark Leccese  October 7, 2010 10:52 AM

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ESPN blogger and Boston sports nut Bill Simmons — known as “The Sports Guy” — used his Twitter account Tuesday evening to send a direct message to one of his 1,265,832 followers seeking “info,” he says, on a rumor he heard that the New England Patriots would soon trade star receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. The tweet was two words: “moss vikings.”

But, not entirely sure how Twitter works, Simmons didn’t send it as a direct message; he sent it as a tweet to every one of his 1,265,832 followers. The rumor went viral instantly. At 7:30, Simmons used his Twitter account for a series of tweets apologizing for accidentally tweeting the rumor — in which he repeated the rumor.

Sorry that last tweet was supposed to be a DM. Rumors swirling about a Pats-Minny trade for Randy Moss.

I am a moron with twitter on blackberry, that’s the 4th time I tried to DM someone and it came out as a tweet. Might be time for Tweet Deck.

As far as DM accidents go, that was a 3 on the Ray Allen Scale. Sorry. Hate passing along rumors, that’s why I was DM-ing for info.

If, as he says, he didn’t intend to publicly tweet the rumor at first, he sure meant to spread the rumor with his follow-up tweet.

This raises a disconcerting question: What is The Sports Guy? Is he, as he presents himself, a fan with a blog and Twitter account? Is he a journalist like every other sportswriter? Or is he some new combination of both?

If he’s a journalist and he had a scoop on the Patriots and Moss, why didn’t he tweet it right away? Does he “hate” tweeting rumors and had he intended to send a direct message to someone (a Patriots official?) seeking “info” to confirm the rumor? That’s what a journalist would do.

But once he blundered with Twitter and send out the rumor to the world (he deleted the original tweet a half hour later), why did he write a follow-up tweet spreading the unconfirmed rumor? That’s what a fan would do.

I haven’t read Simmons’ ESPN blog in years, but I was a huge fan of Simmons back in the late 1990s when he was working as a waiter and bartender here and writing The Sports Guy blog for AOL’s tiny and doomed Digital Cities Boston. What made Simmons so much fun back then is that he wasn’t a sportswriter sitting in the press box and travelling with the teams, he was just a Boston sports fan — a passionate, articulate and funny Boston sports fan — writing about Boston sports.

The internet made Simmons-the-blogging-fan possible, and it didn’t take him long to attract a good-sized readership (which he deserved). ESPN took notice and hired him, and Simmons became something else: a professional blogger with access to press boxes and athletes and team officials. As much as he tried to maintain his “every-fan” persona, he became a sportswriter, a journalist, a professional. That’s when his blog posts got much less interesting — much less different than what I could get from dozens of sports journalists — and that’s when I stopped reading him.

Simmons’ thumbing the wrong buttons in his Twitter app Tuesday night led to sportswriters piling on to report the rumor. Within minutes, the Pro Football Talk blog on nbcsports.com posted this:

Bill Simmons of ESPN is reporting, sort of, the existence of rumors regarding a trade that would send receiver Randy Moss from the Patriots back to the Vikings.

Jay Glazer, a football reporter at the Fox Sports website, a hour later launched his own tweets saying he’d had the story before Simmons.

Yes, vikes and pats have been working on trade that sends randy moss to vikes and r very close but can't be done ..

hey bill simmons @sportsguy33, damn you! Hahaha. I've been sitting on it allllll day. Was hoping to come outta left field and then u let slip. Classic! Good job

A few minutes later, on the Boston.com Patriots blog, Shalise Manza Young posted the rumor.

According to Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com, the Patriots and Vikings are in trade talks to send Randy Moss to Minnesota.

By 11:30 that night, the Associated Press reported it had confirmed the story with an anonymous source.

The New England Patriots and Vikings are discussing a trade that would bring star receiver Randy Moss back to Minnesota.

A league source spoke to The Associated Press about the discussions on condition of anonymity on Tuesday night because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

By 7 the next morning, WBZ-AM, the all-news station in Boston was running the Moss trade rumor as its lead story. And just before 9:30, the Globe’s Matt Pepin reported the trade had been made.

Turns out Simmons had accurate inside information; even though he professes to be just a fan, he’s a journalist, and, in this case, a good one with good sources.

Chris Chase, who writes an NFL blog for Yahoo! Sports, has the same problem with Simmons as I do — is he a journalist or is he a fan blogger or what?

Look, if this wasn’t an accident, I don’t blame Simmons for the initial tweet. If I had a piece of juicy gossip like that, I’d want to tweet it to all my 1.2 million 689 followers too.

But The Sports Guy can’t have it both ways. He can’t be the “man of the people” he positions himself to be and still try to play Matt Drudge on the side. Either use the connections to break news or keep them to yourself so you can say “I knew that was coming” in your next mailbag.

Simmons tweeted late last night that he’s going to explain the whole thing on his ESPN blog tomorrow.

the circumstances that led to my accidental “moss vikings” tweet are pretty funny. I will tell the story in Friday’s column.

I’m looking forward to that.

Follow Mark Leccese on Twitter at @mleccese.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, covered Massachusetts politics, business and the arts for more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and magazine writer. He has More »

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