Twitter can be a great place to get information, be entertained and entertain other people. It’s also been a gateway for athletes to communicate directly to fans, but on their own terms… selectively picking and choosing which fans to reply to or re-tweet without having the public stigma of appearing to overlook anyone (as they would when passing over people, say, in a crowd asking for autographs).
Some people have large followings because they’re informative, others because they’re funny, and others because they are outlandish. Athletes typicaly have large followings simply because they’re stars, and those followings grow when you add one or more of those other elements. LeBron James (3.2 million followers), Paul Pierce (2 million) and Kevin Durant (1.2 million) don’t have to say or do much, but their followings are gigantic because they typically add a little something to the experience.
Delonte West’s 16,000-plus following pales in comparison to the rest of the NBA, but it’s still large enough to get noticed. And that’s a bad thing for Delonte. His battle with bipolar disorder makes the immediacy of Twitter a dangerous outlet for stream-of-consciousness rants when his stream of consciousness sometimes cannot be controlled.
This weekend, Delonte West went on a profane Twitter rant apparently in response to questions being asked in the Dallas Mavericks locker room. He went off about his gun incident, which he blames for his only being able to command the league minimum, how the fallout of other issues in his life eat into his salary, and personal attack on a reporter.
He later tweeted his disappointment about not being able to travel with the Mavs on the team trip to meet President Obama. And now, his Twitter timeline is completely empty, with all of his tweets having been deleted over the past day.
A wild swing of anger, a wild swing of regret, and then erasing all history of what happened. If there ever was a way for Twitter to highlight bipolar disorder, that’s it.
The sad thing is people will look at Delonte on Twitter and laugh, like he’s some reality show on display for our mere entertainment. But there’s a difference between some jerk on TV desperate to hog the spotlight and Delonte West’s legitimate medical condition being laughed at and mocked. Delonte was right in one of his tweets when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, I’m not your side show.
The problems is, when that issue is put on display, it becomes a side show. Delonte is in a difficult situation, as are the people who cover him. Reporters struggle to deal with wild mood swings as they weigh how much of the true depth of Delonte’s difficulties should be made public. The difference in the locker room, though, is there is a level of judgement between Delonte’s behavior and public knowledge. There are journalists and human beings who act as a barrier between what is relevant information and what isn’t. And when his behavior is relevant to the team’s performance, it’s presented in a manner that is filtered respectfully.
I look at it this way: Just about everyone in the NBA is bottled water. Delonte comes from the tap. Sometimes its ok, but if you take it straight from the tap, you could get into trouble from time to time. The best thing to do is put a filter on it, and then you can feel comfortable with it.
Twitter is the tap. With no filter, Delonte gets himself into trouble. I don’t want to limit the guy. I don’t want to take away his ability to communicate with people. But Delonte needs a filter. And he’s only hurting himself when he doesn’t use one.
I like Delonte West. He’s fun and funny. He’s one of the hardest workers in the NBA and he’ll run through the proverbial brick wall for his team. The man plays a style that can help most teams. His biggest problem is a medical issue that just happens to be in his brain. You can’t ice it or wrap it or rest it for two weeks to make it go away. It’s a constant struggle that needs constant work. Twitter, for all it has done to change the landscape of how we consume sports and information, is simply not the right place for someone like Delonte West.
I hope for his sake he does more than delete his Tweets. I hope he gets out completely, and gets to a place where he can flourish as an NBA player, and live a long healthy life.