After the news came out last week that the NBA's Charlie Villanueva had used Twitter to provide an update to fans during halftime of a game (and then went on to score 19 points in the second half to lead the Bucks to a win), Coach Scott Skiles and the Bucks decided to put an end to Villanueva's halftime tweets:
"We made a point to Charlie and the team that it's nothing we ever want to happen again," Skiles said. "You know, (we) don't want to blow it out of proportion. But anything that gives the impression that we're not serious and focused at all times is not the correct way we want to go about our business."
A few days later, Shaquille O'Neal sent fans an update via Twitter hinting that he would be giving them halftime "tweet".
"Attention all twitterers I'm a tweet at halftime and not get fined like vill a new wave a whteva his name is," Shaq wrote. He followed through on his word, and Suns coach Alvin Gentry knew about it beforehand and didn't care.
Using Twitter to provide real-time updates to fans during games is an awesome way to give fans access to the players they love and get them closer to the game. Fans still crave the same thing they always have--access--but teams need to make sure they're taking advantage of new technologies to deliver this. If fans are closer to the game and players, it's good for the teams; creating stronger fans equals more revenue.
I'm all for preserving the game and making sure players are focused, but the benefits of using Twitter outweigh any potential negatives. Besides, how much focus can you lose by sending a 140-character message? Is this really any more distracting than when players are asked to give halftime interviews?
It looks like the new Women's Professional Soccer league also sees the value of Twitter in involving fans in the game. But they've taken it a step beyond just tolerating halftime tweets. During the league's first game on March 29, players will be allowed to use Twitter to provide real-time updates throughout the game, from the sidelines. It will be interesting to see if this is a one-time-only thing or if it is something the new league will embrace throughout the season. For a league that is seeking to attract fans in any way possible (and what league isn't?), I think this is a great move that will generate some buzz and have some of the bigger leagues watching closely. What do you think?