LeBron James unfollowed the Cleveland Cavaliers last week on Twitter, which apparently was the equivalent of the Pope skipping Easter Sunday Mass for a bingo tournament. There was a global uprising of sorts, which speaks to two phenomena — LeBron and Twitter — that have careened out of control.
Dating back to well before his lamentable “Decision” when he took his talents to South Beach live on ESPN in prime time, all things LeBron have become all-day fodder.
LeBron doesn’t make a right turn on red without Sports Nation parsing every steering component of his Kia K900.
If LeBron so much as sneezes, most observers discuss his health-care plan, some wonder if it means he’d be better off playing in warmer climes, others conjecture he might be allergic to buckeyes and two — maybe three — people say, “Gesundheit.”
This is all a product of the unrelenting and unsparing all-you-can-stomach media consumption that now strangles America; we’re talking both old media (TV, print, talk radio) and new media (Twitter, Instagram and the like).
LeBron’s generation — and mine, too, reluctantly — is drawn to Twitter. We’d be better off drawn to a cotton candy maker.
LeBron himself is a Twitter twit, tweeting in bunches. Most of it is benign.
On Feb. 8: “Good morning! It’s that time, time to put that work in. #StriveForGreatness”
On Jan. 9: “Wow!!!! The NFL playoffs has begun”
(Okay, so it’s not John Steinbeck, but who among us is?)
But LeBron also engages in “subtweets” — subtweets are passive-aggressive tweets addressed to an unknown or implied party, sort of like when my wife, Toni, leaves the toilet seat up with my poker room player’s card floating in the bowl.
Subtweets are trickier terrain, and LeBronologists spend late nights trying to decode them.
Anyway, here’s the problem with Twitter:
Like most recent new-age technology, it’s two steps forward and one step backward. It connects you to the world instantaneously, on matters serious and silly; it’s alternately irreplaceable and irredeemable. It appears to be a community of ideas, but often degenerates into a community of ignorance.
At any given moment, an online lynch mob is gathering on Twitter.
(Trust me, I know — I’m on Twitter a lot. My only justification is this: Instead of burdening my aforementioned wife with my whining, I burden scores of strangers. It’s a great way to release stress; on the other hand, you’re always one drunken tweet away from ending your career.)
Twitter rewards those who react fast; it demands that people weigh in quickly and decisively. Which, to me, is abundantly unfortunate. There’s a reason to step back and consider a situation before blurting out the first thing that occurs to you — it’s called THINKING. Largely because of Twitter, it’s out of fashion these days to gather your thoughts before speaking your mind.
So when LeBron unfollowed the Cavs — not sure why he was following them in the first place; he leads the team and practically runs the franchise — the Twitterverse erupted.
(By the way, LeBron still follows Mario Chalmers. Mario Chalmers? He has, like, 17 followers, and 14 of them are just following him so they can block his jump shot. Note: In reality — this is somewhat inexplicable — Chalmers has 1 million followers. My goodness, Kyle Korver only has 156,000, and he can actually shoot.)
As it turns out, LeBron switches into “playoff mode” every year, blacking out social media; he just did it a little early this time. He usually signs off on all platforms during the postseason — he calls it “Zero Dark 23.”
(I do something similar when I disconnect my cable box every weekday morning — I call it “Zero Dark Skip Bayless.”)
While LeBron supposedly has shut off the world, he’s still available to the world. We’ll watch him on the court and on commercials; we’ll hang on his every word, via TV or Twitter.
Heck, I’m going to friend him on Facebook next week.
Q. A Danish professional soccer player quit his club because a teammate was sleeping with his wife. I’m no Miss Manners, but shouldn’t the teammate be the one who leaves? (Bill McGregor; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
A. That reminds me of the old joke: Guy comes home and finds his best friend in bed with his wife. He says, “Jimmy, I have to, but you?”
Q. Why do pro poker players who compete indoors wear sunglasses and pro tennis players who compete outdoors do not? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Why do we park in driveways and drive on parkways?
Q. I heard you say on TV once that you’re not as stupid as you look. Are you absolutely sure? (Craig Pearce; Indianapolis)
A. This is why I have Shirley open up all correspondence first.
Q. On their recent trip, did any Tampa Bay Rays happen to defect to Cuba? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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