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Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has turned Twitter into a creative outlet

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011; 11:51 PM

IN INDIANAPOLIS Jim Irsay's conversational highway has a new exit every 20 seconds, so in many ways, it's remarkable that he can condense his thoughts into 140-character micro-packages on Twitter.

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For Irsay, the colorful owner of the Indianapolis Colts, there are few simple questions and fewer quick answers. In person, he's not a 140-character kinda guy.

"I think some of the best stuff comes from a place you don't know," says the 51-year-old Irsay. "When you clear away the junk, clear away the fear, and get a direct source feed from a place we don't know, you get flashes of words from the universe and you don't know where they came from. But there they are."

Somehow, that sums up what Irsay is doing on Twitter. His unpredictable feed is unique in the sports world. As his Colts' team prepares to open the NFL playoffs Saturday against the New York Jets, Irsay has found a direct pipeline to fans, creating an endless conversation that includes lucrative giveaways, philosophical musings and 1970s flashbacks. It's all there, from the absurd ("I know it's a sin but I have a crush on Sara Palins feet. . . .") to the witty ("Never Post . . . when your toast . . .").

Irsay is a musician known to take his guitar on the road, whose broad and vague strokes surprise few who know him. "He has a poet's soul," says Joe Ehrmann, a former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman and close friend of Irsay's for many years. "He thinks in a poetic way."

It's also not surprising that Irsay sought such an outlet - "The 6 billion of us on this planet, whether we like it or not, are extremely connected," he says - but it is perhaps odd that Twitter is the medium that hooked him.

'Igniting sandcandles'

Irsay's office is filled with grown-up toys. A recording studio in one corner. A giant 12-foot case that holds the scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote "On the Road." Framed letters written by Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. Six huge flat-screen TVs. Even Jerry Garcia's famed "Tiger" guitar. But there is no laptop. He doesn't have one. Irsay opens his brief case and fishes out an old Sprint phone, slightly smaller than a brick. "Still works," he says.

So he's no techno-freak. But others in the organization thought he'd like Twitter and began encouraging him to join. His first tweet came from his Blackberry on Dec. 1 at 9:50 p.m., something about "igniting sandcandles of compassion and forged mettle of understanding."

"From the jump, I thought it was a fake account," says Colts wide receiver Taj Smith, an active tweeter himself.

No, it was just the start of a journey. Irsay has averaged nearly 50 tweets a day since then, many of them a mish-mash of quotes, poetry and lyrics, from Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan. Irsay explains: "It's simply a conversation in my mind that I share with others. The interpretation is left to the person who reads it."

Smith, only 27, says he often seeks out an interpreter for Irsay's thoughts. And the owner himself once tweeted: "I understand my own Tweets 80 per cent of the time . . . the other 30 per cent . . . I'm just as confused as you!!!!

He once tweeted that NFL owners had a holiday gift exchange and he drew Miami owner Steve Ross's name - "he gave me frozen Black-Eyed Peas/I gave him Timothy Leary's frozen head," Irsay tweeted.


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