Twitter changes spectating

Soule is a sophomore news-internet and writing double major and can be reached at

Twitter transforms fan participation and improves the fan experience by welcoming sports fans into sports commentary.

While fans participate by simply attending athletic events, Twitter offers accessible, immediate communication between fan and commentator. With Twitter, fans can respond to announcers, players and coaches immediately. Plus, if announcers neglect a statistic or play, fans can generate conversation and change the commentary’s course.

Twitter also promotes more sophisticated fan commentary. Before Twitter, posters, body paint and chants comprised fans’ commentary. Today, though, sports programs often air fans’ tweets, promoting concise, pointed commentary. Only the best tweets earn airtime, after all.

The social networking site doesn’t only offer 140 characters of fame, however.

Twitter revolutionized fan mail, streamlining and expediting fan-to-athlete communication.

In 2004, I mailed a lengthy, question-laden letter to U.S. Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen. Months later, I received a generic postcard from Sasha, cueing my disappointment — she hadn’t answered a single question from my letter. With Twitter, though, athletes can immediately answer fans’ questions sans stamps and stationery.

Besides immediacy and simplicity, Twitter boasts a competition all in its own. While vying for bragging rights on the court, field, track, etc., athletes vie for bragging rights on Twitter. Namely, athletes vie for Twitter followers, creating competition beyond game day.

So, who’s worth following—and who’s not? Here are my picks for must-follow Olympians.

Lolo Jones’ clever, candid tweets make her a must-follow. The Olympic hurdler and Des Moines native tweets about her stardom, her single status and her sweet tooth. Despite high stakes and high stress, Jones’ wit prevails in tweet after tweet. Besides witty, she’s relatable, whether you’re a Drake student or an Olympic athlete.

On July 8, Jones tweeted, “You guys are counting down for the start of the Olympic Games, and I’m counting down till the end of them when I can eat ice cream and candy.” While I can’t understand the anxiety associated with Olympic competition, I can understand the anxiety associated with resisting sweets.

Another track star tops my must-follow list. South African sprinter and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius inspires on the track and on Twitter. From memorization-worthy quotes to awe-worthy photos of South African scenery, Pistorius’ tweets offer an instant pick-me-up.

While Jones and Pistorius charm via Twitter, Ryan Lochte disappoints. The U.S. Olympic swimmer’s tweets echo his interviews: dull and inarticulate. Namely, Lochte’s signature catchphrase, “Jeah,” exemplifies his inarticulacy. “Jeah” still confuses me, and even Lochte shares my confusion.

In a 2009 YouTube video, Lochte struggled to define his now-famous slogan.

“It means, like, almost, like, everything,” Lochte said. “Like happy. Like, if you have a good swim, you say, ‘Jeah,’ like, it’s good. Like, so I guess it means ‘good.’”

Lochte’s tweets showcase similar linguistic lapses.

After Nathan Adrian captured gold in the 100-meter freestyle on Aug. 1, Lochte congratulated his teammate via Twitter.

“I got goose bumps when he one,” Lochte tweeted. “Perfect race.”

Thankfully, Lochte didn’t doubly spoil the tweet with a “Jeah.”

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