Many many words will be uttered before Ed Miliband’s speech to Labour’s conference this afternoon. The words that matter are those that he says, not all the speculation and hype. For now I have nothing much to add to what I said to Nick Ferrari on LBC and Nicky Campbell on Five Live this morning – many thanks to both for letting me plug Sunday evening’s night out with Kevin Spacey.
Instead I thought I might weigh in to the debate over twitter and sport following Europe Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s rather garbled statement on the subject.
I will quote it in full. ‘Not being a tweeter myself, we feel that tweeting and Facebook and all of these social sites can get one’s self into trouble. At the same time I think it’s important, the same as Corey [Pavin, US captain], that we focus on the job this week, and we are here to try and regain this lovely trophy that Corey has brought back for us. I think we have to focus on that job, and as Corey so rightly says, on Monday October 4, yes, you’ll find the team probably on social network sites. But not until then.’
I could spend a while deconstructing that whole passage but put simply, he doesn’t get it. And because he doesn’t get it, he thinks nobody else should. Without suggesting twitter is a religion – if it is, it is probably a transient one – Monty’s statement is a bit like an atheist manager saying believers shouldn’t cross themselves as they enter the field of play, or a vegetarian coach banning his players from eating meat. Or like Alex Ferguson saying because he chews gum, everyone has to.
The best coaches are control freaks. But they should work out what they need to control and what they don’t. Fabio Capello has learned some of that since the World Cup.
The US captain likewise thinks a twitter-free Ryder Cup team is likely to do better. ‘We talked about it as a team and we thought it best not to do it. We need to focus on playing and working on preparations and getting ready to play.’
Look, whether players tweet or not is unlikely to be the decisive factor. But the blanket ban that isn’t a ban – and the mistaken assumption that it can only end in tears – might at the margins affect the form and morale of those who DO tweet. Ian Poulter is a flamboyant character and a regular on twitter. My sense is that he enjoys it, enjoys the feedback and that probably helps his mindset.
Sport is a great area for twitter and the supporters’ experience is also helped hugely if they can follow some of the stars on the course and on their favoured sites. Ask cyclist fans who were able to add to their appreciation of the Tour de France the tweets of Lance Armstrong and others. It’ll be a shame if Stewart Cink’s 1.2m followers are denied his own tweeted perspective on the golf.
And in a tournament that is as much about psychological pressure as technical skill, I reckon good use of twitter could be just one more club in the bag. What better place to play mind games, like the one I played this morning asking if Nicky Campbell wouold let me plug the event with Kevin, or just ask about Labour. It worked — first question re Kevin. One nil to me. I can think of loads of ways Colin and Co could use twitter to pile it on for the Americans.
One final point for Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin. There will come a point in the tournament, guaranteed, when one or both will find something to complain about in the way the mainstream media are covering them or some aspect of the contest. Twitter, with the following some of their top players have, gives them a great vehicle for response and for shaping their own agenda.
Finally, how lonely did Tiger look in that photo on the steps of the US team plane as players and their partners stood together and he just looked so out of it and all alone? You can have all the fame, wealth, success and women in the world, but there is something so sad seeing him there alone whilst his team-mates stand alongside their wives and partners.