The FIFA Women’s World Cup set a new Twitter record for the highest rate of tweets per second on one topic earlier this month, illustrating how integrated the social media is becoming in the world of sports.
Is This Thing On?, or ITTO, is our Wednesday column showing how everyday people use technology in unexpected ways.
Twitter announced the news with its own celebratory tweet after Japan beat the U.S. in the women’s final game, “New Tweets per second records! End of the #WWC final: 7196 TPS.”
The 7,000-plus milestone eclipsed the record set in May when Osama bin Laden was killed, as well as the 5,000 high reached five separate times during Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Many fans and pundits across the globe consider this year’s World Cup final a classic, after Japan beat the Americans 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie in extra time.
Japan’s team, called “Nadeshiko” after a frilly pink carnation that symbolizes beauty and stoicism, stunned the soccer community with their astonishing run, beating out Germany and then Sweden before silencing the U.S. in the big game.
Several famous names joined in on the record-setting Twitter celebration, including fashion maven Nina Garcia, who tweeted, “Thank you so much Japan and US for this amazing game. You showed us a lot about courage, perseverance and hard work.”
President Barack Obama took to Twitter, too, passing along his pride in the women’s team and congratulations to Japan. And, around the planet, people caught up in the excitement tweeted their comments, cheers and support on Twitter, showing how the media is expanding beyond breaking news and becoming the digital age’s virtual sports bar.
The excitement over the remarkable victory over the U.S., Asia’s first soccer world title at any level, was tempered a bit when some of the team’s players over-celebrated. And, just like the final minutes of the big game, Twitter helped publicize these off-the-field exploits as well.
Saki Kumagai, the defender responsible for the historic World Cup-winning goal, received a warning by the Japan Football Association after a fellow celebrant began Tweeting the remarks she was making while reveling in the win with friends in Germany. 20-year-old Kumagai reportedly criticized coach Norio Sasaki, described the clubhouse’s atmosphere in negative terms, and showed a nude photo of teammate Karina Maruyama from her mobile phone.
Kumagai was rebuked by JFA vice president, but beyond the specifics of her comments, the Japanese soccer player’s unfortunate post-victory tweeting incident is a prime example of the influence the 140-character tweet has among athletes and others in the sporting world.
Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated announced its first ever “Twitter 100″ list, naming those the magazine considers the most influential Twitter handles in sports.
The magazine polled more than 50 of its staffers identified as hard-core Twitter users to get a feel for the feeds they considered essential in their daily consumption of sports news, information and entertainment — including players, broadcasters, agents, attorneys and reporters. Twitter users picked players not for their amazing talents on the field, court, ice, or ballpark, but on how well they used the social media.
The NHL’s Paul Bissonnette @BizNasty2point0, with more than 115,000 followers, was named by the influential magazine as the top pick, stating by way of explanation, “He may be a fourth-line grinder, but Bissonnette is the most entertaining hockey player on Twitter.”
Of Irish golfer and recent U.S. Open champ Rory McIlory, whose @McIloryRory has over 540,000 followers, SI said he “isn’t prolific, but he posts fun pictures and doesn’t censor his charming, goofy, fun-loving personality.”
And, the fairer sex is well represented, too, with the U.S. women’s soccer team’s midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who has nearly 50,000 fans following her @mPinoe tweets, making the list.
Non-athletes include ESPN’s fantasy analyst and Howard Stern fan Matthew Berry, soccer writer for “The Times of London” Oliver Kay, and one-stop shop for Premiere League soccer needs — and 23 year-old American chess Grandmaster — Hikrau Nakamura.
The stunning victory, the touch of scandal, and the rise of rankings for Twitter specialists all recreate the way the players in games of sport interact, and will continue to do so.