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Reporting from the Jock-O-Sphere

3/25/2009
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There will be no words of disgust from Scott Skiles. Shaq won't be secretly "shhhhhhhing" us at halftime.

Instead, when the ladies of the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom take to the Home Depot Center on Sunday to participate in the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer match, there will be tweets, and their coaches won't mind.

It won't need to be done in private when no one is looking. In fact, it's encouraged: the WPS is getting proactive about Twitter in its first-ever game, selecting certain players to update their individual Twitter accounts via cell phone during the match.

Well, not actually during the match. It won't be as gimmicky as a goalie busting out her cell phone after a save and typing, "That ball had late-breaking action and stung my hands a bit! Oh wait, here comes another one! TTYL!"

Starters will only be updating before the game, at half, at the conclusion of the match, or if they're subbed out. Bench players will have the freedom to tweet all game from the sidelines.

But even still, where is the line here? What sort of a message does this send to the general populous if an upstart league is mandating its athletes focus on Twitter during its inaugural game? Are they more worried about marketing and promotion than the actual product on the field?

"We would never allow a communication medium to infringe on the integrity of the game so we're going to carefully monitor this," WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. "From my position, what's most critical in this analysis is that one, the players are maximizing their performance on the field for their team, for their fans. Secondly, that the coaches have control over and set the environment they need for success."

Adding to this, WPS has decided to do this on a trial basis, gauging how things go during the inaugural match. Other teams in the league have expressed interest in it, but if things go kaput during the first match and there is little fan response, don't expect the league to shove it down players' throats the entire season. But for a league that is starting up during an incredible downturn in the U.S. economy, there's no harm in trying. Any new way to engage fans is welcome, as long as its done in the way Antonucci described.

But will it work? Well, if the response the league got on Twitter when it originally announced this initiative is any indication, it just might. There was plenty of chatter about it, both positive and negative.

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Keith Olbermann may be ranting and raving on MSNBC now, but let us not forget, he still has his hands in the sports world as a commentator on Football Night In America. He also contributed the foreword to Baseball Prospectus 2009 this year.

Monday, he began "Baseball Nerd," a blog over at MLB.com. A sample:

"The skinny blond guy in the Rangers' uniform staying low-key in the tunnel between the clubhouses and the field was not a minor leaguer summoned to take the road trip in hopes of a late-game at bat," he writes. "It was actor Owen Wilson, getting into what is apparently his next character—that of pitcher—in his next film, opposite Reese Witherspoon. Coincidentally, Ms. Witherspoon was on "The Tonight Show" last Wednesday with your faithful Nerd, and offered viewers a bewildering variety of jokes based on the German words 'Ausfahrt' and 'Einfahrt.'"

This first entry seems more like a reporter's journal than a blog based on commentary, but time will tell on the direction Olbermann goes with this. That is, if he even continues to update it past Opening Day.

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Over at Playboy, Jordan Farmar brings to our attention something you may not think about when it comes to the starter vs. the bench player:

"Playing more minutes definitely helps because it's about rhythm and timing," he writes. "The reality of our games, which are all televised, is that coming off the bench means more sitting time than most people realize. Once we're done with warming up before the game, you go through the National Anthem, announcement of starting line-ups for both teams, all the TV commercials before the tip off, and then the reserves are sitting for about 30 minutes of real time—even though it's nine to twelve minutes of game time. So it's like forty-five minutes from the end of warm-up to when the reserves get a chance to go in. Then you play for six to nine minutes, sometimes spread over the first and second quarters. Then the reserves sit for the rest of the half, maybe six minutes of game time, but probably twenty minutes of real time. Then you got a fifteen-minute halftime, then another twenty-something minutes before you go in again right before the fourth quarter. That means you've been away from game action for almost an hour."

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Marshawn Lynch returns to his Yardbarker blog, and addresses his recent legal troubles like only he can:

"It's been kinda rough dis last month on me," he writes. "But I held it together and stayed strong…I figured what don't kill me make me stronger…I know I messed up before and even fumbled, but it's something about me that a lot of people wouldn't believe…I put my shirt and pants on da same way u do…"

Keep putting them pants on, Marshawn.