Celtics

Looking back on 10 years of Boston sports Twitter

Kobe Bryant gets in the face of the Celtics Rajon Rondo after the two had words, Ray Allen holds on to Rondo. Jim Davis/Boston Globe

COMMENTARY

You may not remember where you were or what you were doing on March 21, 2006, but it was quite a big one for Boston sports.

It was on that day 10 years ago that Adam Vinatieri agreed to jump ship from the Patriots to the Colts. On that same day, the Red Sox traded Bronson Arroyo to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena. On that same day, the NFL was buzzing after Paul Tagliabue stepped down as commissioner (effective July 31) and the search for his replacement was already underway. “I’ve seen a lot of things in business, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything that requires the skill set of different expertise that this job does,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, shortly before handing the job to a man with the skill set of a broken lawn chair.

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But for all that went into making March 21, 2006 a randomly historic Boston sports afternoon, nothing was more significant than what happened over in San Francisco, where Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted out the world’s first tweet.

“Just setting up my twttr,” Dorsey wrote.

Barely anyone saw Dorsey’s message because it was posted on an internal server. Twitter.com didn’t go live until July. That raises an interesting dilemma within the tech community: “Which came first, Twitter or the first tweet?” And the answer is: Who cares? Instead let’s use the 10th anniversary of the first ever tweet as an excuse to have some fun and look back on what we’ve learned over a decade of Twitter overlapping with Boston sports. First, with an interactive history lesson called NAME THAT TWEET.

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Here’s a chronological run down of when and how some of Boston’s favorite teams and current/former favorite athletes joined Twitter. Can you pick out which tweet was their actual first tweet?

December 15, 2008: Boston Celtics

A) @celtics: Seeking our 15th straight win tonight when Utah visits the Garden. “They’re going to bring it and you’ve got to try and stop it” – D Rivers

B) @celtics: Seeking our 15th straight win against Utah. Tonight we’ll live tweet everything KG says and swears in the huddle!

May 29, 2008: Curt Schilling

A) @gehrig38: The instance, then WoW, then bed…

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B) @gehrig38: The instance, then maybe a weird Hitler meme, then bed…

March 28, 2009: Paul Pierce

A) @paulpierce34: Man its a beautiful day here in the Beantown I’m just chillen today to all my twitter friends doc gave us the day off so I just plan on…

B) @paulpierce34: Man its a beautiful day here in the Beantown I’m just chillen and even today KG + I aren’t worth three first round picks!

April 15, 2009: Vince Wilfork

A) @wilfork75: Hey I am new to this Twitter thing. Is this a tweet or a twit?

B) @wilfork75: Hey I am new to this Twitter thing. Is this a tweet or a twit or is coach gonna fine me either way for even using this?

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April 21, 2009: New England Patriots

A) @Patriots: Houston Antwine, Jon Morris & Jim Nance are the 2009 Patriots Hall of Fame finalists. Vote for the 2009 Enshrinee @ http://www.patriots.com

B) @Patriots: Here’s our first tweet. We’re just doing what’s best for the account.

April 24, 2009: David Ortiz

A) @davidortiz: on the way to the field doesnt get better then Red Sox-Yankees

B) @davidortiz: on the way to the field, only thing better then Red Sox-Yankees is a bottle of Big Papi Hot Sauce.

May 18, 2009: Boston Red Sox

A) @redsox: This is the official Twitter of Red Sox Nation, from the Sox front office. Will gradually ramp this up. Start out here: http://is.gd/B3sm

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B) @redsox: This is the official Twitter of Red Sox Nation, from the Sox front office. Start out here + buy some patronizing junk! http://is.gd/B3sm

July 9, 2009: Boston Bruins

A) @NHLBruins: Dev Camp is underway at Ristuccia Arena ^MC

B) @NHLBruins: Hi all. Mr. Jacobs was furious that we opened this account until he realized that Twitter’s free. ^MC

April 21, 2010: Rob Gronkowski

A) @RobGronkowski: Check out Verizon’s NFL Mobile app – live draft video, alerts, player profiles and draft analysis– it’s all you need!!!

B) @RobGronkowski: Sup guys! Giving out a free NFL Mobile app to my first 69 followers! Nahhh just kidding. Or maybe not — lol!

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June 2, 2010: Rajon Rondo

A) @RajonRondo: www.facebook.com/RajonRondo

B) @RajonRondo: www.facebook.com/IAmSmartYouAreDumb

(Answer Key: The first one. It’s always the first one.)

***

By the time Rondo joined, Twitter had hit its stride — and sports were a giant part of that. With a thirst for constant knowledge and borderline insane banter, sports fans and Twitter were a perfect fit. On June 17, Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Lakers broke a world record for most tweets per second at 3,085. The next week that record fell in the moments after Japan upset Denmark in the World Cup, and it would continue to fall during every major sporting event thereafter. Bottom line: Twitter was a cyber juggernaut.

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In May 2007, about a year after the official launch, Twitter had fewer than 300,000 unique monthly visitors and they tweeted less than 5,000 times a day combined. By the fourth quarter of 2010, there were 54 million monthly users tweeting 50 million times a day. At the end of 2011, users more than doubled to 117 million. At the end of 2012, it was 185 million. At the end of 2013, it was 241 million. At the end of 2014, it was 288 million. At the end of 2015, it was 305 million.

Twitter’s growth has fallen off in recent years. At this point it’s barely growing at all, and there’s uncertainty surrounding where the site is and where it’s going and how exactly it plans to turn a profit. But for now, Twitter is here. For better or worse, it’s a part of your life. I know its a part of mine. I can’t remember the last day I haven’t checked in on Twitter at least once. I can’t remember the last time I went more than a few waking hours without needing to see what’s going on, knowing that something is always going on, but also knowing that I’ll be somewhat annoyed by whatever’s going on. It’s a love/hate dependency that so many struggle with, and with that, here are some general thoughts and tips after years spent living at the intersection of Twitter and Boston sports.

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Five Examples of Twitter At Its Best:

1) Times of Crisis: The Boston Marathon will forever be the inspired standard by which greatness of Twitter is measured here in Boston. From the second those bombs went off until the moment “younger brother” was captured inside that boat, Twitter was at the forefront of letting you know what happened as it happened. It helped keep people safe. It helped people know that their loved ones were safe. It helped bring the city together when it couldn’t afford to be apart, and Boston will be forever thankful.

2) The endless news cycle: Twitter is a sports fanatic’s dream. There’s no ceiling on what you can learn and how intensely you can follow your favorite team. You want to know who’s scrimmaging with the starters at Celtics practice? You got it. You want real time updates of batting practice at Ft. Myers? You got it. You want an in-depth look inside your starting quarterback’s locker? MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

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3) Championship Celebrations: The 2011 Bruins, 2013 Red Sox and 2015 Patriots titles were all enhanced by the presence of Twitter. For one, it brought everyone together. You could be on your couch but feel like you were in a sports bar. Even if you did celebrate alone, you could do so in the company of real time video from inside the locker room. Forget your fake internet friends — you could celebrate with the team! And once the parade rolled around a few days later, there was no reason to battle the cold or the traffic or the excuses to skip out on work. Thanks to Twitter, you were basically riding a Duck Boat.

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4) Power to the People: Before Twitter came along it was much easier for bad people to get away with bad things. Make no mistake, if not for Twitter, Tom Brady would’ve missed the first four games of this past season. Corrupt organizations like the NFL would continue to lie and manipulate and pull their powerful strings in every which way. But Twitter helps hold people accountable. Without Twitter, Donald Sterling would still own the Clippers. Without Twitter, Phil Simms would still call football games for CBS — no wait. At any rate, Twitter gives good people an arena to combine forces and take on evil, and that’s a powerful and important tool.

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5) Getting to know athletes: It gives these guys a chance to connect with the fans without a pack of awkward, smelly reporters sticking microphones in their face. It allows them to talk when they want to talk about whatever they want to talk about. It allows them to be people and show a side that you’d otherwise never see. It makes the connection between players and fans stronger than it’s ever been.

Five Examples of Twitter At Its Worst:

1) Times of Crisis: The Boston Marathon will forever be the sad standard by which the dangers of Twitter are measured here in Boston — most notably as it relates to the time between the attack and when the authorities officially named Brother 1 and Brother 2 as suspects. Over that time a lot of innocent people had their names dragged into a really horrible conversation, and Twitter was at the forefront of that lazy speculation. It was a dangerous mix of access and emotion and a lesson that none of us should ever forget.

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2) The endless news cycle: What is breaking news anymore? It’s basically click bait. It’s baseless rumors calling out other baseless rumors for being baseless. It’s seeing a headline, thinking “Ooh, this might interesting,” then clicking, getting blasted by an autoplay video, reading a two paragraph story that’s hardly even a story and then clicking away with nothing gained except for the sudden urge to shower.

3) Championship celebrations: It’s all fun and games until your team heads to the White House and we all remember why sports and politics should never ever mix. Remember Timmy Thomas? Remember Thomas Brady? And God forbid your star player uses the President as pawn in his corporate selfie game.

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4) Power to the people: Yeah! Power to the people! But really — “people” — it’s OK to take a day off once in a while. The Twitter mob can do good, but it functions at like a 50 percent success rate. Not to mention, while it’s great that Twitter gives everyone a voice, so many of those voices are without a face. And so many of these faceless voices are just pathetic, jealous and resentful excuses for human life.

5) Getting to know athletes: Which is great until you start learning things that you wish you never did, and know you can never unlearn.

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They say you should never meet your heroes and Twitter offers lessons on that daily.

Five Tips For Media Members Looking to Make Twitter Better

1) Don’t complain about travel: You didn’t pay for the flight and you’re not paying for the hotel but you’re getting points on both. It’s really not that bad. Or if it is feel free to text your husband, wife or partner, and let them tell you you’re being a baby.

2) Don’t make it about you: See if you can go a full day without a tweet that has the word “I” in it. Then try for a full week. Next up: A full life.

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3) Don’t tweet play-by-play: Or if you want, open a second account where you can do that kind thing, and let your followers know “Hey I’m about to live tweet a split squad Spring Training game if it’s been a while since your eyes bled!”

4) You’re a reporter not a member of the morality police force: Fans don’t need be told what’s good or bad in this crazy world. Or if they do, it shouldn’t come from you.

5) Don’t let a few loud stupid fans shape the way you talk to or about all fans ‚and maybe someday down the road, fans will return the favor.

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Five Tips For Better Enjoying Twitter in General

1) Don’t feed the trolls: If an attention-seeking media member writes a garbage article aimed to make you mad, the least efficient move is to tweet out the link with a note about how mad you are. You can if you want, but just know this is a win for the writer and will only inspire more writers to do the same.

2) Don’t retweet Darren Rovell.

3) Follow more than just sports and news, but comedians and accounts that tweet random pictures of cute animals.

4) Fight the good fight but don’t bang your head against a wall. It’s Ok if people don’t agree with you. It’s not your duty to change them.

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5) If you follow someone that regularly upsets you, stop following them. There’s enough unavoidable anger and sadness in this world and no need to bring it upon yourself.

And really that’s the key. For me at least. This is just one Tweeter’s opinion but over the last 10 years — although mostly over the last seven or so — Twitter’s greatest impact has been increasing the intensity of life as a sports fan. It’s made the highs higher and the lows lower, and as is often the case, the losses stick around longer than the wins. It’s hard to rid yourself of the bad taste and just as hard to replenish the good. Over time it’s easier to associate Twitter with negativity than optimism. It’s easy to get bent out of shape by the trolls and fake morality and the obsession with finding something to be angry about. It’s easy to take a step back and think: Why am I even doing this? What kind of life is this? Why have I refreshed my feed three times in the last three minutes when it’s more than likely that the next update will just make me more frustrated than I already am?

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But then you remember that it’s all a joke. Really. Sure there are those special stories and historic moments — like the marathon, the championships, DeflateGate and even Aaron Hernandez — that we’ll remember forever through the prism of our Twitter experience. But those things happen when they happen. You can’t force that kind of significance. Just because Twitter can change the world doesn’t mean that it has to every single day. In the meantime, for the majority of the time, it really is a joke. It’s real information packed inside layers of silly surface entertainment and it’s up to us to not take it so seriously and extract our own personalized version of fun. I mean, can you imagine what Twitter would have looked like on March 21, 2006? Of course you can. It’s so intense. There are so many hot takes. It’s so serious and — 10 years later — plain old hilarious.

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“Vinatieri’s a traitor scum!”

“Belichick a cheap egomaniac!”

“The Patriots are doomed! The Patriots will never find a kicker who can come close to replacing Vinatieri.”

“Wily Mo Pena is a steal! He’ll own the Green Monster!”

“Theo’s done it again!”

“Arroyo’s done! He’ll be out of the league in a year!

“Well, it’s tough to see Tagliabue go — but Goodell’s been groomed for this!”

“I’ll tell you this: Roger Goodell is ready for the job.”

“The NFL is in great hands, folks!”

“Just setting your twttr? #wellactually, Jack. It’s Twitter. Come on, man. Get a clue.”

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