As I was growing up in the nurturing (sarcasm intended) bosom of New Jersey in the late 1980s and early 1990s, my family was one of the fortunate few to have a home computer. Thus, we were also among the first to be exposed to the wonders of what then was still a fledgling and mysterious Internet.
Though we were lucky to have a local newspaper—the Newark Star-Ledger—that was just as good at keeping us abreast of nonlocal news as it was keeping us up with what was going on in the tri-state area, I still found myself soaring through the World Wide Web on the back of our blazing 14.4 kbps modem in search of sports scores and information that I couldn't get in the paper.
I used to ask my parents how they managed to survive before AOL. Now I'm starting to wonder how I got by before developing my Twitter feed.
For me, much of my feed is related to sports. I've also got the requisite number of comedians, celebrities, hard news outlets and—gasp!—people I actually know on there. But sports seems to be what keeps drawing me back over and over, all day long, in search of the latest information from the world of athletic endeavors.
With local newspapers and television stations simply unable (or unwilling?) to provide comprehensive sports coverage beyond our immediate area, Twitter is where I go to get my fix. And here's a list of the pushers that feed my habit, broken down into some handy, dandy categories:
The national perspective
It's easy just to flip on ESPN and watch a couple of minutes of that channel to get score updates via the ticker running on the bottom of the screen. And SportsCenter can (at times) be a good info collective, at least when the anchors and analysts aren't overblowing the results of one particular team or player.
Through Twitter, you get individual insight from the reporters actually chasing down the stories, rather than from the talking heads with pancake makeup. That's why I turn to writers like pro football guru John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN), pro baseball experts Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) and Peter Gammons (@pgammo), and college sports grunt Pat Forde (@YahooForde) to get a better perspective.
Of that group, Forde is my favorite. Like many Twitter-using reporters, Forde often retweets comments sent to him by regular Joes—though they're often not as ridiculously critical of him as most of Olney's followers seem to be—either to answer their queries or refute their statements. He also has blessed me with the term HLA, which stands for Horrible Loss Alert, in reference to a top-rated college football or hoops team in danger of pooping the bed.
Beyond those guys are some more esoteric and eclectic national voices, such as self-professed college hoops "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi); self-appointed hater-of-all-things-NCAA front office Jay Bilas (@JayBilas); and a guy that keeps me plugged into world of poker, Andrew Feldman (@AFeldmanESPN).
The Phoenix sports scene
Two of the people I am most jealous of in this world also happen to be among my most closely read tweeters: Arizona Republic D'Backs beat writer Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) and Republic Suns scribe Paul Coro (@paulcoro). Both do an excellent job of providing not just live in-game tweets of their respective teams, but also perspective on how those clubs are looking beyond just the box scores. They also both happen to be former high school sports reporters who, unlike me, managed to keep their journalism careers on a continuous upward path.
Others to follow from the Valley include Kevin Zimmerman (@offensivelyfoul), a blogger from sports website SB Nation who provides his fanlike take on not only Phoenix sports but also the University of Arizona football and basketball teams; new D'Backs TV play-by-play man Steve Berthiaume (@BertDbacks), who even before getting the job was a great source of MLB news, notes and observations; and D'Backs pitcher Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32), who earned permanent Twitter feed status after turning a harrowing incident—he was struck in the head by a line drive in September—into Twitter gold by posting this nugget the day after he was released from the hospital following skull (!) surgery:
"WELL IF BEING DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL ISNT THE BEST TIME TO ASK ABOUT A THREESOME THEN IM FRESH OUT OF IDEAS."
My hope for this season is that he live-tweets from the mound without getting called for a balk.
Local sports coverage
Most Twitter users are probably satisfied with the status quo in terms of local coverage of the UA; i.e., the posts from the morning daily's beat writers or from the pretty faces who "cover" sports for the TV networks.
Me, I prefer the insight of two people who have what can safely be described as "intimate knowledge" of the Wildcat basketball and football teams: radio play-by-play voice Brian Jeffries (@catspbp) and recently retired UA sports information director Tom Duddleston (TomDudd). Both of these guys get to witness what no one not wearing a jersey or coach clothes gets to see or hear.
Lastly, drive-time radio talk show host Jody Oehler (@jodyoehler) is as fair and balanced as they come when talking about the Wildcats. Considering he's paid by the school to be the public address announcer at Arizona Stadium, his take on "our" teams via Twitter is equal parts critical and laudatory. One of his best of late: "Kaleb Tarczewski's summer job this year should be traveling around Tucson opening jars for people."
Best of the rest
This last category of favored sports tweeters runs the gambit, from the farcical world of the Onion Sports Network (@OnionSports), which recently noted that the value of the U.S. dollar plummeted after the Baltimore Ravens signed quarterback Joe Flacco to a $120.6 million contract, to the self-deprecating nature of sports writer/poker junkie Norman Chad (@NormanChad), whose Couch Slouch column for The Washington Post is essential reading.
And two of my more recent discoveries both cater to some of my strange obsessions: sports gear and the declining quality of sports broadcasting.
Uni Swag (@uniformswag) is the go-to account for those who want to know anything and everything about the latest clothing, equipment and logo design updates by professional, college, even high school teams. Warning: The feed is strangely heavy on college lacrosse info, so if you can handle that you'll get a lot of great pics of the sporting world's never-ending upgrading of its wardrobe.
And Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing), which I was sad to learn has been doing this since 2006 and I'm just now finding out about it, regularly skewers the worst of the worst among TV and radio personalities. No, it's not just about Bill Walton. It's about all of the bad apples, especially those who routinely make us wonder how they keep their jobs. This account's blow-by-blow recap of ESPN's pointless debate last week on the topic of "who would beat who, the (basketball) Heat or the (hockey) Blackhawks" kept me riveted and wanting more.