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Athletes on Twitter pull back the curtain



Just for a second, before thinking about the fact that some athlete's civil liberties are getting trampled, and before we get the American Civil Liberties Union on speed dial, maybe we should be grateful.

Twitter may be taking over the world, but the newest rage is coaches banning it.

Stifling a football player's thoughts? Making sure a basketball star doesn't comment, via the Internet? Well, that's what some coaches are doing now, and while they may be banning their charges for the wrong reasons, it just might be for the best.

Not all of us want our football players to be human, our baseball stars to have a conscience or our basketball players to have a life. Sometimes, you just want them to play the game, and not tell what they're planning for the evening.

You want to follow your favorite athlete via Twitter, but really, do you want to hear what they have to say? Because it isn't much. Consider the following tweets from the last month:

Texas Tech linebacker Marlon Williams wondered why his coach was late for a meeting. Texas Tech lineman Brandon Carter divulged that "This is not how I saw our season."

Coaches all over the country, like Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach, have taken to banning players from Twitter " and then banning them from playing, suspending Carter indefinitely for violating team rules. Leach, a former University of Oklahoma offensive coordinator, said it had nothing to do with Twitter, but Carter's update on his Twitter page was nowhere to be found after his suspension was known.

The ban may seem severe, but really, are we missing out on anything?

"We've addressed it to our players," said Shawnee High School football coach Billy Brown. "We know it's out there, but we really don't have rules against it. We don't let them bring phones in the locker room, so we don't have players texting and doing all the stuff during games or before or after games. Now, when they get home, that's something else."           

Once players get home, the general public gets a one-man (or woman) PR release in random, texted thoughts.

Tune in, and you get to learn that Blake Griffin likes the movie "Babe" (from Oct. 7), and Oklahoma City Thunder rookie James Harden is going to The Cheesecake Factory (from Oct. 11). Kevin Durant loves "Marley & Me" (Oct. 11), and Russell Westbrook just woke up from a "bomb" nap (Oct. 11).

Really? How could we go on without this kind of insight? Good thing coaches want to ban that kind of gold.

And every time Chris Paul tweets or Shaq texts, your favorite athletes aren't just athletes anymore. They are regular folks, busy with dry cleaning, car washing and groceries " the kind of things we do. No more superheroes. No more worldly. No more impressive. Just lame. We expect our friends to shovel that kind of drivel into our inbox; we don't expect anything except greatness from the pros, and it takes the fun out of that last-minute touchdown drive or that key three-pointer at the end of the game.

But seems like everyone does it.

Jeff Capel, OU's men's basketball coach, has a Twitter page, as do numerous Big 12 coaches. No one doubts Capel's coaching ability, but when relegated to 140 characters or less in two-dimensional form, he doesn't come off looking like John Wooden.

Bob Stoops recently commented he was going to get on a social networking site. You want to know what Stoops thinks about playing Texas, but instead you're going to hear about the new tires on his minivan.

Twitter could be a vehicle for deep, insightful communication, but it's more about the mundane. And yet, coaches are concerned.

"Anybody that wants to play for us doesn't have a Twitter page," Leach said recently during a Big 12 coaches' teleconference.

But apparently, the Oklahoma football team has insulated itself from the idea of social networking. Doesn't happen here.

Stoops told Sooners Illustrated, "I asked our team "¦ right before we left the field, 'Does anybody have a Twitter account?' Nobody put their hand up. It's my understanding since I asked if they had an account that they don't, since no said they did."

Hard to believe no one at OU has a Twitter page, but if they did, it would be harder to believe it wouldn't be banned.

And maybe that's OK. Of course, it would be fun to know what kind of ice cream Sam Bradford likes.

Andrew Gilman is a former reporter at The Oklahoman. He now owns Fusion Communication, a media consulting business.

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