We’ve recently noticed a curious dynamic regarding the relationship between NFL players and Twitter.
In an industry where the men who play the game compete with each other regarding cars and wives and salaries and, um, foot size, there’s a new — and very public — tool for determining who’s doing the best.
It’s Twitter, and the key metric is the number of followers that a given player has attracted.
Why else would players like linebacker Nick Barnett (10,212) and running back Ryan Grant (4,670) of the Packers promise to donate fairly significant sums of money upon reaching specific follower thresholds?
Others are resorting to different tactics than charity. Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (3,087 followers) teased a “major announcement” on Monday, and as it turned out he was merely declaring victory and retreating in his lingering contract squabble with the club.
NFL Network’s Warren Sapp (17,738) described the matter on his own Twitter page as a “hoax” aimed at getting more followers.
Dockett has done little to dispel that notion, given the text of his latest (as of this posting) entry: “My twitt fans help me get my followers up. RT this message thanks.”
So why do these guys care about their followers? As one league source told us last night, “It’s not like they’re making any money off it.”
We suppose that, in an indirect way, popularity on Twitter could help companies sift through the best candidates for endorsement deals. But the only immediate source of gratification for anyone who uses Twitter is the number of folks who have decided, for whatever reason, to track their updates.
And we feel the same way about our own Twitter page (11,317). Though the fact that we use the new technology as a way to disseminate headlines and story links creates a real business reason for maximizing followers, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t keep an eye on the total follower count, especially as we continue to fall farther behind guys like Rich Eisen (23,775) and Peter King (26,987) and Chris Mortensen (13,503) — and as we accept the fact that Adam Schefter (2,404) will soon be waving at us (or perhaps giving us the finger) as he zooms by in the passing lane.
Still, it’ll be interesting to see what players do in order to get their numbers up, especially as training camps open and they’re all pressed together in close quarters for the next seven months.