John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


Writing from Twitter

Twitter debuted “Twitter for Newsrooms” on Monday as an online guide for journalists on how to best use the social networking site. It focuses on enhancing the quality of online content as well as the quick dissemination of that content to a wider audience.

I think this is a great idea. As long time readers of this blog know, I’ve been a fan of Twitter for years and I regularly use it to promote my own writing and as a forum for my alleged wit.

There’s no better way to keep track of breaking news stories. I’ve learned about dozens of trades through the Trending Topics feature and have often learned about other hot stories through Twitter. In fact, most of the feature stories I read I’ve discover through Twitter.

In other words, I’m really looking forward to exploring TfN.

Coincidentally, the Canadian Press had been using Twitter as a source for quotes for some time, taking the tweets of athletes (or politicians or whoever) from verified accounts to add colour to our news stories.

Recently, CP’s sports department has composed entire stories from these tweets, adding greater context to developing stories. I’ve written two of these articles.

The first was reactions from NHLers (and NBA star Steve Nash) on the pivotal Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins.

“NHLers react on Twitter to Game 6 action”

Watching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final brought back some emotional memories for Bret Hedican, something the retired NHL veteran was only too happy to share with the world.

Hedican was one of several NHL players, both current and retired, took to the social networking site Twitter on Monday night to weigh in on the Boston Bruins' 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

"I've won and lost a Stanley Cup game 7!," Hedican tweeted. "I remember both like they were yesterday! Heartbreak & Elation!" (Read more…)

On Sunday we applied the same idea to the opening match of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup as Canada took on Germany.

“Soccer fans cheer on Canadian women against Germany via Twitter in World Cup”

As Christine Sinclair scored for Canada’s in its 2-1 loss to Germany at FIFA’s Women’s World Cup on Sunday, fans and players took to Twitter, often tweeting directly at the forward.

“@sincy12 That was soooo pretty! Love watching you play! Come on, 1 more!!” said Leslie Osborne, a former player with the U.S. national team and current captain of Women’s Professional Soccer’s Boston Breakers after the strike at the 82nd minute.

Despite playing most of the second half with a broken nose after taking an elbow in the face, Sinclair scored in the 82nd with a brilliant free kick to the top right corner, cutting Canada’s deficit to one and shocking the German fans. (Read more…)

I think that both articles did well to take advantage of the instant access afforded by Twitter and also allowed for more candid – if horribly written – comments from athletes who’ve been trained to clam up whenever a microphone is in front of them.

Hopefully, “Twitter for Newsrooms” helps CP and other news organizations take full advantage of social networking sites.


Los Suns are a team anyone can admire

Grant Hill and Steve Nash celebrate as the Phoenix Suns down the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

The Phoenix Suns honoured their Latino fan base in the best possible way Wednesday night – they beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-102 and took a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

However, news stories leading up to the game didn’t focus on the outcome of the series, but on the Suns’ choice of uniform.

At the behest of owner Robert Sarver they wore orange jerseys with Los Suns emblazoned across the front as a nod to the Arizona Hispanic community’s celebration of Cinco di Mayo and to protest a new state law that will require all immigrants to prove their American citizenship.

It serves as another example of why the Suns are the most likeable team in the National Basketball Association.

When the defensively-minded Spurs and Detroit Pistons were dominating the league, boring fans to tears, Phoenix stepped up to make the league exciting again.

Under former head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Suns developed a fast-paced high octane style of play that emphasized speed. “Eight seconds or less” was their credo, pushing to get a shot off less than 10 seconds after they’d inbounded the ball.

Although its express train offence was briefly derailed by the addition of centre Shaquille O’Neal, Phoenix regained their high-speed attack this season under coach Alvin Gentry.

They’re anchored by Canadian point guard Steve Nash who is renowned for his good nature and charitable spirit.

“I’m proud of our owner for making this stand but we’re not out there to alienate,” Nash said. “We want this to be all about love in our community. People, regardless of whether they agree with me or not, we have love for everybody.”

Nash was joined in 2007 by Grant Hill, who had regained some semblance of his all-star form after losing several seasons in the prime of his career to nagging ankle injury problems. His perseverance and sincere personality has endeared him to many fans.

“Grant Hill never ceases to amaze me,” says Gentry. “There’s a 37-year-old—he hates when I say that. Here’s a guy who plays on our team that’s been in the league for a long, long time. He just does a good job.”

“Everything we ask him to do, never complains. He’s always on the best perimeter player. He never complains. He just plays. He’ll forever be my favorite player. He really will.”

Phoenix is one of those special teams that everyone can get behind. The Suns work hard on the court. They are exciting and a breath of fresh air in the NBA. Off the court, their players are approachable and considerate. They are genuinely nice people.

And now, Sarver has found a way to tastefully protest to a law that has offended many people. It’s a classy move, and one entirely reasonable for a team that is captained by a foreign national and relies upon the play of Latino players like Robin Lopez and Leandro Barbosa.

The Phoenix Suns are the feel-good team of the playoffs. Hopefully they’ll triumph over San Antonio and continue on to the NBA Final.


The Arenas Rule

With an unseemly Arenas Rule Point rating of 8, no NBA executive should consider Stephon Marbury as an addition to their team ever again.

As I was writing Tuesday’s piece on why players leave Toronto’s sports teams, I began to toy with the idea of athletes who have moved from team to team, and came to the conclusion that there’s a point where any general manager should see a player’s team history as a red flag.

I call this policy the Arenas Rule, after recently disgraced Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas who, thanks to his criminal gun charges, will likely be joining his third National Basketball Association team sometime this summer.

Here’s the technical language:

Arenas Rule (also known as the Shaq Threshold) – Any athlete who has played for three or more franchises in their professional career is not worth signing as a free agent or trading for under any circumstances.

The Rule only applies to athletes who’ve been previously selected to their league’s all-star teams and/or won an individual award (MVP, Rookie of the Year, Triple Crown, Defensive Player of the Year, etc.)

The logic is simple. Although this former all-star might pay dividends when playing, they’re not worth the trouble off the court/ice/playing surface of your choice. It relies on the assumption that, like a first date who has to count off their exes on their fingers, they’re not worth the time or effort.

Presumably, this veteran player has a nagging injury, is locker room poison, has an unwieldly contract, has lost a step due to age, is crazy or a combination of all of the above. Somehow, someway, they are damaged goods.

Each team they play for adds an extra Arenas Rule Point on to their evaluation, increasing the risk of the move exploding in the GM’s face. Any athlete that has an ARP of 3 or higher is bad news and is going to severely damage the team’s chemistry, salary or reputation.

There are some stipulations that can both add or subtract from an athlete’s ARP score:

Nash Caveat (also Seller’s Remorse) (ARP rating = 0) – Referring to NBA All-Star Steve Nash who was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Dallas Mavericks only to re-sign with the Suns as a free agent, the Caveat stipulates that a player shall not have a second tenure with a team count against their ARP score.

By all accounts, Nash is a not just a great player, but a great person. So likeable that even Canadians comment on how nice he is, the Suns welcomed him back with open arms, having regretted ever letting him get away. A player shouldn’t be punished for a GM’s hasty decision making.

Millbury Allowance (ARP rating = -1) – Used judiciously, the Millbury Allowance forgives players who were traded in incredibly lopsided deals.

An acknowledgment that not all GMs are created equal, the Allowance refers to former New York Islanders GM Mike Millbury who regularly traded away his best players for terrible returns. For example, Roberto Luongo is one of the best goalies active in the NHL today, but has an ARP rating of 3. He’s been moved from the Islanders to the Florida Panthers and then to the Vancouver Canucks. It’s not his fault that Millbury didn’t know what he had. The Millbury Allowance restores Luongo’s ARP rating to an acceptable 2.

Davis/Trump Proviso (ARP rating = -1) - A team move, merger or a league’s collapse shall not count against a player’s ARP rating, as the extra teams listed on their resume were because of the financial and/or mental instability of the team or league’s leadership.

Herschel Walker is one of the best running backs in National Football League history. However, he would have been the best running back in United States Football League history and led the New Jersey Generals to several championships, had the league not folded.

Of course, he went on to play for four NFL teams, flagging him as an undesirable addition to any roster. (Although makes him an ideal candidate for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.)

Lindros Rider (ARP rating =+0.5) - If a player demands to be traded before their rookie training camp, an ARP point of 0.5 shall be added to their total score on the assumption that they are a budding prima donna.

In his young career Eli Manning has already earned a 1.5 ARP because he refused to play for the San Diego Chargers. Instead, he was traded to the New York Giants.

The demand should have been a warning to former Giants GM Tom Coughlin that Manning would suffer from erratic play, crippled by human emotions that his brother Peyton was not programmed with.


David Beckham has earned an ARP rating of 6, having played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, the Los Angeles Galaxy (+2) and AC Milan.

Green Card Caution (ARP rating = +1) 

Any athlete who has played professionally outside of North America will have an extra ARP assigned to their rating in addition to the standard penalty.

Players will not be penalized for beginning their careers outside of North America. However, should they play more than 10 games in North America and then move to a professional league outside of the United States or Canada, the rule applies.

If labour issues halt a North American league’s regular season, this rule is suspended for the duration of the work stoppage.

 NOTE: For soccer players, replace “North America” with “Europe”.

What’s that? Stephon Marbury is the starting point guard with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons? Yeah, you better believe that he’s crazy.

Neon Deion Condition (ARP rating = x1.5) = Applies to any “two-sport” athlete who participates in more than one professional sports league in a single calendar year.

Bo Jackson could’ve been a fantastic baseball player. Or a fantastic football player. He chose both. The decision cost the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Royals an all-star because he required hip replacement surgery at the ripe old age of 28, when he should have been in his athletic prime.

The Royals (or Raiders) should’ve turned him away the second they realized he was going to be playing in another league.

The next time you hear that your favourite team is pursuing a veteran free agent or trading for a seasoned all-star, consider the Arenas Rule and do some math with the various stipulations. If you come up with an ARP of 3 or higher, you should be concerned.