Bill Simmons starts Randy Moss trade rumors on Twitter

"moss vikings"

With those two words, Bill Simmons unknowingly (or knowingly -- we'll get to that) started a rumor saying disgruntled New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss(notes) was close to being traded to the Minnesota Vikings. The columnist quickly backtracked, though, explaining that the two-word Tweet was intended as a direct message to one person and wasn't supposed to go out to his 1.2 million followers.

"Sorry that last tweet was supposed to be a DM. Rumors swirling about a Pats-Minny trade for Randy Moss."

Simmons' inadvertent revelation was quickly followed up by multiple confirmations of potential trade talks. Those were subsequently shot down with multiple denials of any discussions. As of midnight ET on Tuesday night, Moss was still in New England. The old "smoke/fire" idiom likely holds true here. There's too much going on for these rumors to be completely false, but that doesn't necessarily mean Moss should start digging purple bandanas out of his closet just yet.

The discussion of what a potential trade means for the Vikings and Patriots can be held off until later. For now, let's look at the origin of the rumor:

1. Simmons was so embarrassed about the gaffe that he waited at least 30 minutes before deleting it. For fun, I just timed how long it took me to Tweet something and then delete it. Sixteen seconds.

2. The direct message function on Twitter for Blackberry was Simmons' scapegoat:

"I am a moron with twitter on blackberry, that's the 4th time I tried to DM someone and it came out as a tweet. Might be time for Tweet Deck."

The regular Tweet and DM functions on Twitter for Blackberry are separated by three tabs. Sending a direct message requires typing in a specific person's Twitter login. It's an easy mistake to make, I suppose. It's execeedingly difficult to make it four times, though.

3. By itself "moss vikings" means nothing. It could have been a premature Tweet that had yet to be completed. It could have been a far-flung trade proposal Simmons had discussed with J-Bug. (We all know how he likes those.) It could have been referencing the Moss mooning that was back in headlines Tuesday. It could have been anything. The main reason people thought it was a trade rumor is because Simmons came out and said so in his next Tweet. It's like he wanted to break the story without having to stand behind it. "Here's this piece of news, but don't hold me responsible if it's not true."

Look, if this wasn't an accident, I don't blame Simmons for the initial Tweet. If I had a piece of juicy gossip like that, I'd want to Tweet it to all my 1.2 million 689 followers too. But The Sports Guy can't have it both ways. He can't be the "man of the people" he positions himself to be and still try to play Matt Drudge on the side. Either use the connections to break news or keep them to yourself so you can say "I knew that was coming" in your next mailbag. (It's like when Jon Stewart tries to downplay his political opinions by throwing up the "don't listen to me, I'm just a comedian" defense. What's wrong with being both?)

4. By the time Simmons eventually deleted the Tweet, the Twitter hashtag #sportsguyDMs had become the best Internet meme since Cigar Guy. And, not surprisingly, Friend of the Corner Matt Sussman was leading the way. ("Really? They found that Rick Reilly plagiarized a column? #sportsguyDMs" is my personal favorite.)

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