Twitter has its place, but it should be far away

Alex Rodriguez strikes out in the fourth inning

Alex Rodriguez strikes out in the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles during ALDS Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 10, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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Twitter will celebrate its seventh birthday July 15, so perhaps it should be forgiven for often operating at a second-grade maturity level.

That is part of its charm and part of its curse. It also is why it continues to be the most disruptive new force in jocks' relationships with the media, the public and sometimes their own teams since 24-hour sports talk radio arrived in 1987.

Speaking of which, WFAN's Mike Francesa still owns the gold standard anti-Twitter rant, when in May 2012 he famously said it "should be against the law" for journalists and athletes because of its chronic inanity and inaccuracy.

"It is incessant," he said. "It never stops. It is boring. It is tedious. It creates all kinds of stirs on nonsense."

In fairness, the same can be said of sports talk radio. But also in fairness, he was right.

While Twitter has led journalists with itchy posting fingers down many treacherous paths, it has been an even bigger headache for athletes who aren't used to thinking before they type.

The list of Twitter transgressions is too long to recount here, from all manner of politically incorrect insensitivity to personal attacks to the spectacle of the Lakers' injured Kobe Bryant second-guessing strategy during a playoff game.

All of which brings us -- as it inevitably must when it comes to any sports-themed controversy -- to @AROD, who until May 31 was more commonly known as Alex Rodriguez.

The fact that it took A-Rod only nine mostly innocuous, upbeat tweets updating his rehab to push Yankees general manager Brian Cashman into an expletive-punctuated suggestion that he shut up is a quintessentially A-Rod-ian development.

So is the fact that as of Thursday afternoon, Rodriguez had not posted again but also had not deleted the Tuesday tweet that infuriated the GM, in which he updated his status without team authorization:

"Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news -- the green light to play games again.''

And, finally, so is this: Rodriguez's physical condition and motivation for joining Twitter in the first place now are part of a web (no pun intended) of intrigue surrounding his health and the Yankees' contractual obligation to him.

We shall see, but don't be surprised if it somehow plays out partly on Twitter, where Rodriguez's varied interests are reflected in a funky follows list that includes Jay-Z, Tiger Woods, Kings of Leon, Magic Johnson, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Reid Brignac, The Rock, Greg Norman and, yes, Bryant.

Someday Twitter, too, shall pass, but the era in which athletes mostly were seen and heard only through the filter of mainstream media outlets obviously is gone forever -- for better and more often worse.

Just ask the Jets' Mark Sanchez, who this week found himself, um, exposed in a video dancing bare-tushed with two young women, evidently on a recent visit to the Napa Valley. He did not appear to be doing anything illegal or immoral, yet he became an Internet fascination for a few hours.

So much for Francesa's on-air plea last year that "there should be a little mystery back in sports" when it comes to players over-sharing. Oh, well. This is the century we live in, no if ands or butts about it.

Let's give the final word to one of Francesa's callers that May 2012 day, "Terry from Long Island," who said the problem with Twitter simply is this: "It allows imbeciles to share their thoughts with us all day long."

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