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Burn It Down

I didn’t watch the Grammys. As a musician, I’m sure there was a point in time when the Grammys somehow mattered to me, but it may have pre-dated my learner’s permit. To sum up, I think Eddie Vedder said it best when he accepted Pearl Jam’s Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy for “Spin the Black Circle” and said, “I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.”

But I was aware of it via Twitter, and professor Steve Dittmore wrote a blog post about how much better watching the Grammys was with Twitter along for the ride. I know what he means: I’ve wrung more enjoyment out of State of the Union speeches, the Oscars, and presidential debates through Twitter. But Dittmore says something I couldn’t disagree with more. Quoting the ever-awesome Ann Powers, he believes that Twitter “makes us crave the next amazing thing just after we’ve consumed the last one” and he believes this means Twitter will never have the same impact on sports viewing that it did for him with regard to the Grammies.

There are a couple holes in his argument. Firstly, he further cites Powers, who wrote, “Any pause to absorb unfolding events offers a chance for observers to turn away.” He goes on to say that sports are filled with pauses where we might change the channel but that “[t]he Grammys … did not allow us to shut off the show.” Wait, what? The Grammys had commercials, just like sporting events, right? If the pull of Twitter was what kept him transfixed through the commercials, why can’t Twitter do the same for sporting events? I would say the very same thing has happened for me watching basketball games. This argument he puts forth is the (actual) definition of begging the question with regard to Twitter’s potential.

He also asks, “How great would it have been for the NBA if Jeremy Lin’s clutch 3-pointer last night was followed by 10 more minutes of playing?” This is about as nonsensical a question as you could ask, I think. If Lin’s 3-pointer were followed by ten more minutes of basketball, it wouldn’t have been a clutch 3-pointer. There’s a reason they put Album of the Year last on the Grammys, and it’s the same reason they play the last minute of the game at the end of the game. Would the Grammys have been improved with ten more minutes of show after Adele’s win? Endings give meaning.

To me, Twitter reaches its ultimate potential during compelling games, such as the wonder that was the NBA playoffs last year. The people I follow on Twitter are some of the smartest, funniest, most astute observers of the game, and their interjections and commentary are some of my favorite parts of following basketball. When their discourse collects around one great moment, it’s something wonderful.

Take, for example, Kendrick Perkins’ evisceration by Blake Griffin. I wasn’t watching the game, but as soon as it happened, my Twitter feed erupted with exclamation points and all-caps. Blake Griffin had just killed a man with a basketball. There were calls for video, calls that were answered within minutes, and then the commentary began in earnest. It branched off into discussions of the best dunks of all time, accompanied by video. People discussed the definition of “dunk.” It was a great chance to relive Vince Carter’s dunk on Frederic Weis.

Or consider Kevin Love’s buzzer beater against the Clippers. I was watching this game, and even though my brother, father and I jumped up at that moment, what was maybe even more fun was watching the reactions over Twitter, including maybe my favorite tweet of the last couple months from Zach Harper: “IT WAS NICE KNOWING YOU, TWITTER! BURN IT DOWN!”

What made that comment from Zach stand out to me was that it wasn’t even about the shot itself. It was an observation about what was about to happen to this shared communicative space over the next few minutes. It expressed both the giddiness of the shot, the win, and all that, but also the joy at how all of us on Twitter were about to go bananas trying to outdo each other with humor or wit or incisive comparisons.

During a game, Twitter is an ideal place for pithy observations that can liven up an average contest. But at the end of a fantastic game or at the moment of something spectacular, Twitter can turn into a glorious reverberation, a vibrating echo chamber that lets us reflect and relive moments that are all too often fleeting.

Steve McPherson

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2 comments
  1. Steve Dittmore said:

    You make valid points Steve. My initial post needed to be quick because I had several appointments today. Let me expand on my thought… As a person with only a passing interest in music and as someone who had never heard of Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj and Deadmouse, I enjoyed the Grammys because of the interaction.

    If I were watching a sporting event involving a team about which I was passionate, I likely would not enjoy the interaction as much. Sports rides on emotional investment, something I suggested to Ann via Twitter. She replied that music fans are invested too, and offered that music fans are full of snark, which I don’t see as much in sports. That likely made my experience more enjoyable.

    As for the breaks and the Lin example, in sports we wait two hours for the possibility of that one exciting moment. The Grammys had these moments every 7-8 minutes. It seemed there was always one around the corner. That is what I was reacting to.

    I appreciate you thought enough of my initial reaction to write about. Please say hello to my hometown. I grew up in Wayzata.

    • Your response makes complete sense. One thing that’s interesting in terms of both music fans and sports fans is that each hardly represents a single demographic. I would guess there are more serious sports fans than serious music fans (let’s say arbitrarily in terms of dollars spent on said area of interest), and that most of those sports fans are indeed not very snarky. But the sports people I follow on Twitter tend to be pretty damn snarky, and that’s part of what I love about them.

      You’ll get no argument from me that Twitter is a great way to engage with something you’re only passingly interested in. Hence my comments about the State of the Union address, for instance. But I do think that even in an average game, occasional Twitter interaction has kept me more interested/invested in it than if I were watching it by myself.

      The way we consume culture and communicate about it is fascinating and I’m glad there are thoughtful people out there discussing it.

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