NBA Finals MVP LeBron James of the Miami Heat has nearly 6.7 million followers on Twitter. Backup catcher Ryan Lavarnway of the Boston Red Sox has a little more than 6,000 followers.
But there they are — athletes famous and infamous, big names and nameless guys at the end of the bench — all giving us a piece of their minds … 140 characters at a time, anyway.
With that, here are the top five sports tweets of 2012:
5. A teammate has his back (San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis): Willis took to Twitter to help defend his teammate, wide receiver and punt returner Kyle Williams in the wake of the 49ers’ loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship. Williams had fumbled twice and was receiving more than his share of Twitter hate from angry San Francisco fans after the loss.
“@KyleWilliams_10 keep ur head up. U r my brother n teammate N I would put u back there all over again. We all lost this game tonight not u” — @PatrickWillis52
4. Happy New Year from the recovery room (Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson): While other folks were out on the town tearing it up, Peterson was still recovering from reconstructive surgery on his knee for an injury suffered late in 2011. Whatever the doctors did, it worked — Peterson has come back with a vengeance and far ahead of schedule. Expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the 2012 season, Peterson instead was in uniform for Minnesota’s opener and currently leads the NFL with 1,600 yards with three games to play, a pace that would net him a career-high 1,969 yards.
“My time bringing in the New Year was great! Thanks to family & a lil Blue Bell country ice cream.” — @AdrianPeterson
3. Giving credit where credit is due (Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson): Johnson scored a goal against the Washington Capitals and opted to go “Tebowing” on ice. Johnson said later that his friends told him he had to do the move popularized by the NFL quarterback if he scored a goal.
“@TimTebow thanks for letting me borrow your move last night. Proud to be associated with a winner like you. #donewithrespect” — @JackJohnson3
2. Snitches get tweeted about, even if they didn’t snitch (NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp and former New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey): A back-and-forth on Twitter got a lot of attention after Sapp took to his account to reveal that he knew Shockey was the man responsible for getting the Saints in trouble over the bounty scandal … except that Shockey was cleared of being the tattletale by none other than suspended Saints coach Sean Payton. At the very least, it got a guy who’s been out of the league for several year and a guy who couldn’t find a job in the league this year some headlines — even if they weren’t deserved. (Note: @elnicastro is identified on his Twitter account as Luca Nicastro of Ottawa/Oakville and apparent got his 15 minutes of fame because Sapp replied to a tweet of Nicastro’s.)
“Just Heard Who The Snitch Was” — @QBKILLA
“BINGO! RT @elnicastro: Shockey ..?” — @QBKILLA
“@QBKILLA @elnicastro my (expletive)!! I don’t even play defense! Haha” — @JeremyShockey
“@JeremyShockey that’s not the issue!” — @QBKILLA
“@QBKILLA ask the comish haha” — @JeremyShockey
1. The insider was on the outside (actor Rob Lowe puts himself in the middle of the Indianapolis Colts-Peyton Manning divorce): With the rise of social media, the news can come from anywhere … even an actor. Of course, the information may not be that reliable, but as with anything in life, consider the source. Lowe created a stir when he tweeted that he had information that Manning was going to retire. In retrospect, it seems kind of silly — Manning has thrown 30 touchdown passes for the Denver Broncos this season. That’s not bad for a retired guy.
“Hearing my fave, #18 Peyton Manning will not return to #NFL. Wow. #Colts.” — @RobLowe
“#Colts fans, let’s hope my info is wrong. Don’t like being wrong, but this time … I’m hoping #NFL #Manning” — @RobLowe
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a radio commentator and freelance sports journalist.