September 09, 2010
(Ed. Note: Having some linking issues here on Y! Sports blogs, if they aren't working properly.)
Blogging about Tampa Bay Lightning back-up goaltender Dan Ellis's(notes) Twitter feed ranked somewhere between 'root canal with a butter knife' and 'marathon of Jennifer Aniston comedies' on my to-do list today.
It's a tired, overblown story that's brought out the most sanctimonious responses from around the hockey world; and I'll be the first to hold up a mirror on that accusation.
But, alas, I feel there should be some closure now that
Ellis's agent or Lightning media relations staff the plucky
goaltender has announced
the end of his Twitter feed (@33dellis).
And this is, in the end, a good thing.
Dan Ellis is the rare professional hockey player with something interesting to say about himself, his profession and his League. If you think we chased him off of Twitter because of that candor, you're both giving us way too much credit and missing the point: Which is that if you really, really want Dan Ellis to be an engaging and positive voice among NHL players, then it sure as hell wasn't going to be within 140 characters.
To reset the uproar: Ellis was one of the more prominent NHL tweeters, with over 12,000 followers, and one of the more candid. He admitted a desire to "stir the pot" on several occasions, only to bristle when the pot boiled over.
The first instance of this was when he proclaimed that being a professional hockey player was a specialized skill akin to a heart surgeon. The second was this week, when Ellis's clunky prose muddled a message about the financial stresses of professional athletes into one of an NHL player making $3 million in the next two seasons, bitching about finances in this job market.
This led to a scathing string of comments tagged as "DanEllisProblems" that portrayed him as an oblivious, spoiled athlete, while also lobbing some personal shots at him and his career. This led to our blog publishing a post on Tuesday that sought to point out how Ellis's words and behavior on Twitter reinforced that misguided perception, to his detriment.
Then Ellis hit back, and the hornets' nest was shaken again. Then the sanctimonious indictments and defenses of Ellis began. Then the local papers in Tampa covered the story on Wednesday, and not coincidentally Dan Ellis said goodbye to Twitter on the same day:
Twitter was a great way to see inside the life of athletes outside of public media. But this is even too much for me. I feel bad for the sincere followers/fans who just wanted a glimpse of things from the inside. But with the recent explosion... I am shutting down my twitter because in no way shape or form do I want this to disrupt my team.
I deeply care for my teammates and faithful followers. This has all been misconstrued to no end and ppl's feelings are getting hurt.
There was never any intention in my tweets to undermine ppl who are in different income brackets. I donate 10% of my salary each year to help under privileged kids across the world. as long as I play in the NHL my peldge (sic) will remain the same to The Garth Brooks Foundation
I deeply care for the less fortunate and make many efforts to be of even marginal help. I wish you all a happy twitter experience and...
Hope you do not allow this misunderstanding to form the basis of your opinion of me. I welcome any of you to meet me in person to chat.
But no longer will I xpress things through this medium. Thx again to all the good ppl I have met on twitter. I wish you all the very best.
Peace out twitter!
When in doubt, go with the under-privileged kids ...
Look, if you're one of these folks that thinks I'm a tool (thanks, XM Home Ice this morning) or a douche (thanks, Twitter) for "forcing" Dan to take his ball and go home, that's your right. Just like it was the right of Ellis's followers to ridicule what they thought were offensive opinions about his salary, and just like it was Ellis's right to broadcast those opinions in the first place.
And just like it was our right to cover this conflict for the news story it was, as other blogs did and as the MSM did as well. Read our post again. If you believe we're taking personal shots at Ellis or doing anything but attacking his oblivious approach to social media interaction, we'll respectfully disagree. This wasn't about silencing him; it was about waking him up to the fact that he was hurting his reputation.
Speaking of respect: Was it an uncivil discourse in general? Absolutely. Things got personal, things got nasty, and if you read Ellis on TBO.com, that's the reason he's leaving:
"They got pretty nasty, a little bit personal, but you know what, I think when people, especially in this area, get to know me they are going to realize I'm not a jerk.," Ellis said after an informal pre-camp workout at the Ice Sports Forum, his first time skating with many of his new teammates.
"But unfortunately some people took some pretty good jabs at me, most of the same old goalie comments. But I've been a goalie a long time, so if you want to call me a sieve, a pylon, I've heard them all. So, unless you have something original, save the 140 characters."
And, luckily for Ellis, he's taking his own advice. Twitter wasn't for him; not for issues or views that deserve more than 140-character chunks that can easily be misinterpreted and scrambled on the Web.
Again: This wasn't our crusade to silence a player. If you believe that, I'll direct you to our post about Ellis being traded to the Montreal Canadiens in which we hoped he would continue "to be hockey's Twitter MVP" with (since deleted) tweets like this:
Just saw a 6'5 200+ pound tranny in the grocery store. Sure am seeing some cool women today! (2:15 PM Jun 27)
So maybe that's the lesson. That Twitter is great for frivolity, slices of life, Paul Bissonnette(notes)-esque whimsy; and not-so-great for communicating the plight of the pro athlete's finances or frustrations. Keep it light, keep it civil, and keep it personable -- advice this author and the #DanEllisProblems crowd would be better for accepting as well.
I like Dan Ellis. I don't like what he was on Twitter. I'd like to read more from him on a less restrictive platform. We were going to extend an olive branch and offer him one here, but he blocked us on Twitter and we couldn't message him. So, with that, the offer stands: Anytime you've got something to say, Dan, you have an unfiltered soapbox here. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or use Facebook. Or start a blog. Or write a newspaper column. Really, do anything that'll allow you to express yourself in a way that contradicts the unfortunate persona you achieved on Twitter, assuming it's an inaccurate one.