Darren Rovell once (or probably a million times) called Twitter the world’s greatest sports bar, and it’s a good label. Like any sports bar, it’s got its collection of know-it-alls, wiseasses and, well, people you wish would just leave the bar, but which sport actually has the “best” Twitter?
Because this is the most boring time of the sports calendar, there’s no better time than now to try and figure it out.
Without using any technical data and instead basing it one thousand percent on opinion, let's break each of the four major North American sports’ Twitters into three categories: Teams/players, Reporters and memes/entertainment factor.
Each sport will be given a ranking from best (1) to worst (4), and the leagues’ Twitters will be ranked according to their total scores. Here’s what we’ll look for in each category:
TEAMS/PLAYERS: Really the least-important category as it relates to sports Twitter. Team Twitter accounts should serve two key functions:
- Press-releases/team news: Anything that goes on the team website can also go on Twitter. Very easy.
- Live-tweeting games: Because giving play-by-play of games on Twitter is the actual worst thing on the planet, but if every team does it, it should theoretically mean no media member has to to do it, therefore making that sports’ Twitter a far less cluttered space.
That’s it. They don’t need to be silly or funny, though that can certainly be a bonus. That said, for obvious reasons, team Twitter accounts can’t make the same types of jokes as fans and media members, and the shock factor of a team Twitter account cracking a joke has long faded.
As for players, they are regularly subjected to social media training, but enough of them have decided they just don’t care. Some players’ Twitter accounts are great for how funny they are (Roberto Luongo), while others’ presence lends itself to really entertaining stuff, even if it’s unintentional (J.J. Watt).
REPORTERS: This one’s a specific classification for news-breaking purposes, so “reporters” here means actual “reporters,” meaning the go-to people for reporting and news. Each sport has infinite writers who factor into another category here, but a key function as it relates to sports Twitter is getting breaking news. These people — the Schefters and Shams of the world — are the people who do it.
MEMES/ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR: This is where the real party happens. Each sports leagues’ collective Twitter is a community, and it isn’t the players or reporters, but rather the observers, who make or break it.
This category covers everything, from obsessive fans to witty writers to the life-savers who post endless GIFs. Using that Rovell analogy, this category is the people at the bar.
Memes/entertainment factor: 1
Last week, Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted a link to a report with the following caption: “Jazz, Celtics engage on Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade for Jae Crowder. Latest story with @ramonashelburn.”
It was a typical tweet from Wojnarowski: A piece of NBA news, which in this case came courtesy of a colleague. It was informative; it was relevant.
Yet it wasn’t until you actually clicked on the tweet -- not the link, but the tweet -- that the real party began. The top response: “Tatum > Fultz don’t @ me.”
To that, an account with “Trust the Process” as part of its name responded, “Your max guys are Hayward and Horford.” The Celtics fan responded, “Your future” with a picture of the 76ers’ young stars -- Markelle Fultz included -- standing in slings, braces and crutches. That then yielded a gif of Tom Cat spanking Jerry Mouse, with LeBron James’ face over Tom and Lucky’s face over Jerry. Back and forth it went.
That’s basketball Twitter in a nutshell. A piece of information about the Celtics’ salary cap turns into a marathon debate over whether the Celtics handled the draft right, complete with ridiculous memes and jokes. All within a matter of minutes. Basketball Twitter has the best fan engagement (again, saying this with absolutely no statistics) of any of these leagues, and that's what makes it great. That and stuff like this.
"i got i got i got i got loyalty, got royalty inside my..." pic.twitter.com/RpcrQKIp73— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) April 17, 2017
Memes/entertainment factor: 2
The teams/reporters combo here is a bit of a double-edged sword, as there are obvious news-breaking machines (shouts Bob McKenzie aka Bobby Margarita), but teams have become increasingly stingy with trying to hold news for themselves. That makes it important to follow teams for the sake of getting news, but it also takes a lot of the fun out of the rumor mill.
High marks for memes and entertainment factor because hockey is a highlight-heavy sport, making it perfect for GIFs. The number of users willing to clip and post GIFs has shot way up in recent years, meaning a hockey fan can keep up with each night’s action -- complete with visuals -- even if they don’t have access to the Center Ice package. Of course, it's also GIF-heavy enough that the worst parts of games can be social media highlights.
The beautiful game pic.twitter.com/xmC1r9zlAd— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 16, 2017
The reason the NHL gets the top ranking for the teams/players category is because it has the single best professional athlete account in the world: Roberto Luongo.
Happy Father's Day daddy........... pic.twitter.com/GgG1Kzx7FO— Strombone (@strombone1) June 19, 2016
Memes/entertainment factor: 3
While the NFL is the most popular league, the actual act of watching the game is so busy that there often isn’t room for Twitter. Any given game-watching experience can consist of the game that’s on, flipping to Red Zone and keeping track of one’s fantasy team(s). Twitter often takes a back seat.
That said, it is key to reference it for in-game updates on injuries, and the same group of reporters that bring that news are crucial in the offseason. Nothing beats a good Adam Schefter mini-meltdown over Jimmy Garoppolo trade rumors.
While the game-watching experience is already extremely busy, the league itself is also responsible for football Twitter taking a backseat. Last season, the NFL banned teams from posting highlights, including GIFs, of game footage, threatening to fine teams $100,000 for being repeat offenders. They relaxed the rule a bit before long, but still, how silly can you get? Oh, that's right, silly enough to think you're hot stuff because you tweeted the lyrics to the Fresh Prince theme. Cool?
I'll tell you what I'm not gonna do today, go back and read the first word of the last three days of Carolina Panthers tweets.— Feitelberg (@FeitsBarstool) July 7, 2017
Memes/entertainment factor: 4
A good rule of thumb is that if your Twitter avatar is a picture of you and your family on vacation, you stink. Baseball Twitter is a lot of avatars of people on vacation. Lot of people who stink.
Other than that, baseball Twitter has some catching up to do given that it wasn’t always cool with videos and GIFs being posted. Fortunately there are still a lot of creative people who are good with memes and mocking the hokeyness of baseball (cough Carrabis cough).
YES HI HAVE SANDOVAL MANY SPRING HOME RUNS IMPECCABLE WORKOUT PROGRAM VERY LIKABLE AND AGILE GOOD DEAL FOR YOU pic.twitter.com/gaBWCGGxUM— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) March 19, 2016