If you follow sports closely you probably have observed the news about professional athletes and their penchant for social media, especially in the form of Twitter. Several famous athletes have taken a dive into the Twitter pool. Why not? Twitter is a fabulous self-promotion opportunity, plus it gives the athlete an opportunity to engage fans in a way that helps them preserve some level of sanity. Rather than the mad dash to sign hundreds of autographs, an exchanged tweet or two can be a fantastic way for athletes to connect with their admirers.
As can be expected of any new media where there are some positives, there are also some negatives. It starts with the news media, which has taken an overwhelmingly negative tone in regards to how athletes leverage Twitter. This is understandable given the fact that several athletes have, at times, used Twitter to air grievances with their respective leagues, teammates or opponents. Some have gone so far as to complain about the officiating while a game is in progress. Other times it gets used for a little pre-game smack talk.
All of the major American professional sports leagues have drafted policies banning Twitter while games are in progress, but what the athletes do in their spare time is their business as long as they don’t engage in activity that breaches any of the terms of the much broader code of conduct.
Baiting Chad Ochocinco
Those that follow the National Football League are surely familiar with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco’s antics. Known for a mix of charm, charisma, smack talk, and raw athletic talent, the man is more than just another wide receiver–he is an amazing entertainer that leverages Twitter.
My wife and I, both Baltimore Raven fans, are fortunate enough to see Ochocinco and the Bengals on our TV twice a season as AFC North divisional rivals. The two teams last met on October 11, and passionate fans were constantly treated to coverage of Ochocinco’s tweets in the time leading up to the match. The most passionate of those fans has to be my wife.
Mrs. Forster seriously loves football. A conversation on our first date was a minor argument about whether John Elway was greater than Dan Marino. As the Ravens have settled in Baltimore, her passion for the team has been unwavering. Through thick and thin, she is a true fan.
On Friday October 9, my wife determined she’d had about enough of Chad Ochocinco’s antics on Twitter. Introducing her to the network months ago, she decided to sign in and give Ochocinco a piece of her mind (it’s a family trait).
“Looking forward to seeing you get your butt beat on Sunday, RAVENS are going to tear you to pieces!”, she tweeted. Not very ladylike, some might say. But she continued tweeting, saying, “You will lose badly this Sunday, can’t wait to see you get beat. RAVENS will be in 1st place!!!”
At this juncture, I arrived home from work. Having seen her tweets a few minutes prior, I informed her that she was wasting her time. I said that Ochocinco has more than a quarter million followers and that following celebrities on Twitter is usually pretty fruitless. “Give it up,” I said.
Those that know me well enough will understand that defiance is definitely a necessary trait for living with me, so she continued with a third tweet: “RAVENS win, 1st place here we come! 85 won’t be dancing in our end zone this weekend!!! Not in our HOUSE!!!!! BRING IT!”
An interesting turn of events
By now I was thoroughly amused at my wife’s persistent and apparent need to waste her time. I figured she was just blowing off a little steam when the unexpected happened in the form of a response, asking, “are you going to the game Ms Forster?” My wife was so excited by the prospect of interacting with a real life NFL star that she forgot to do the celebratory fist pump and “I told ya so!”
Shaking with surprise she said, “Cliff, what do I say to that? We don’t have tickets to the game. Lord knows we can’t afford to get them in Baltimore this close to kickoff, what should I say?”
I sat and thought about it for a couple minutes and then I told her, “You tell Mr. Ochocinco that ‘I am so rowdy they won’t let me into the stadium, and you won’t want me there! I love my RAVENS!!!!'”
“You come since you like them so much, I’ll get you 2 tickets!!”, Ochocinco replied.
Now my wife was literally about to freak out with child-like glee. She asked, “What do I say?!”
“A simple thank you should suffice,” I said. The following day, my wife was completely star struck. She couldn’t believe any of this was happening to her.
Meeting Mr. Ochocinco
After we landed in Baltimore, Ochocinco sent my wife details on where he would be and how to meet him downtown. We decided it was only proper to get him a small token of appreciation so, bearing some good humor in mind (given his persona), we decided on a McDonald’s gift card. Anyone that watches Hard Knocks on HBO will know why: Ochocinco loves a standard plate of hot cakes and sausage from the Golden Arches. But seriously, who doesn’t?
I returned from obtaining the gift card and my wife was waiting for me on the porch, flush, barely able to speak. She looked like she might pass out.
“I, I, I, just talked to him,” she said. “He gave me his cell phone number, I just talked with Chad Ochocinco!”
“Okay honey, calm down, what do you want to do?”, I asked.
Next thing I knew, we were packing up our little girl, getting in the car and heading downtown. Ochocinco had just left for a laid-back Baltimore hot spot–swanky, and not exactly the kind of place you would normally take a child–so my wife called and told him the situation. Like a gentleman, he made arrangements to wait for us outside as I found a spot to park.
When we arrived, he embraced my wife and gave her a peck on the cheek, shook my hand and greeted my daughter with a playful head rub. We talked for a couple minutes–gratefully, because we knew he was taking time away for this visit–but he never rushed us along. I only asked him for a single photo, which he graciously obliged. He handed my wife the pair of tickets, then bid us farewell and good night.
More than just tickets
To some, this may seem like a very simple thing. After all, he is a multi-million dollar athlete that makes a point to get fined a few thousand dollars a week for some petty infractions of league policy, but I have to say, the gesture far exceeded the monetary value of those tickets.
It may even seem a little cheesy to say, but I think Chad Ochocinco restored my wife’s faith in humanity in a way. All the way up to the point where we met, she wondered how she would be let down; she wondered how the rug would be pulled out from under her given the unexpected high she was on. But the letdown never came.
This man, sight unseen, knowing very little about us, entrusted us with his phone number, location and precious time. He allowed us a brief glimpse into his world and he treated us with a great deal of the hospitality and kindness we fear is missing from many who live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. He gave my wife a sense of joy and wonderment that is normally reserved for children on Christmas morning, and for that I will be forever grateful.
We went on to have a fantastic time at the game despite a result that did not favor the Ravens. Needless to say, we are eagerly looking forward to the week nine rematch.
So here’s to you number eighty five: The next time the league office comes down on you for trash talking on Twitter, or celebrating a little too hard in the end zone, Icrontic.com has your back. Keep tweeting and connecting with your fans.