Twitter and the American Footballer

Jozy Altidore made headlines last week for the wrong reasons with his Twitter outburst after inexplicably showing up late to a match. This saw the striker, who is on his fourth club in fifteen months, suspended.

Altidore’s skill set may be impressive but his body of work both at the club level and as an international is hardly Premiership caliber, at this point. Hull took a flier on Altidore based largely on potential and perhaps an impressive goal against Spain this summer. The player should be thankful he has an opportunity at such a young age to play Premier League Football.

But Altidore, in his now infamous Twitter message/ “apology” showed he has in fact developed an unhealthy sense of entitlement. For a player who at 18, commanded the first ever eight figure transfer fee in MLS history, and at just 19, is on one of the highest weekly wage bills in Hull City’s history, it can be somewhat understood. But nonetheless, Phil Brown was more than justified in suspending his striker, and has been overly generous in allowing the player an opportunity to win back his place on the subs bench.

While Altidore’s “apology” may have been done with the right intent, Twitter which has so often been the communication tool of choice for the player was not the proper venue. That should have been arranged through the club itself, and his manager Phil Brown.

Instead of sulking, Altidore should be taking the opportunity to learn from Jan Vennegor Hesselink, whom he backs up at Hull city. After all Hesselink is a player who has featured in a Champions League semi-final, a World Cup and the European Championship.

Altidore’s outburst was the latest incident of an American footballer expressing frustration, anger and perhaps a certain degree of immaturity on Twitter.

This summer we’ve seen some notable Twitter outbursts. Brian Ching was fined by MLS for calling the ref a cheat. But Ching is a consummate professional who made a mistake. Don Garber was right to fine the Dynamo forward, a minimal amount and simply move on.

But in the case of a trio of young American starlets, Charlie Davies, Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore, Twitter has become a vehicle to proclaim frustrations or simply to express an opinion about matters.

Freddy Adu expressed frustration with Bob Bradley and the US coaches in a June tweet, where he implied that the coaches mistrusted his defense despite the amount of work he had put into that aspect of his game. Adu consistently used Twitter during his prolonged exodus from Benfica to spread lobby for a new club, something that was perfected by English international Darren Bent this summer.

Bent, our readers will recall stated he wanted to go to Sunderland but Tottenham wasn’t allowing him to join up with the Stadium of Light based outfit. Bent proclaimed he did not want to go to Stoke or Hull in a Tweet, and only to Sunderland. After a hefty fine, Bent was finally granted his wish and sold to Sunderland, where he has been outstanding this season.

In the summer before the tragic, early morning car crash that Charlie Davies was involved in, the young American striker too was active on Twitter.  Davies often gave an insight into daily matters with the US National Team that we otherwise do not see. At one point, Midfielder Stuart Holden had hacked into Davies Twitter account after a training session in Miami. Certainly, this helped to keep the mood light in US camp, but having some personal experience as a writer with how controlling the USSF is about the message coming out of those camps, I suspect that the coaches were not amused by either Holden or Davies actions.

Davies proclaimed just a week before his tragic accident both on Twitter and to reporters that the US could win the World Cup next year. It was a brash statement, the type that perhaps would never have been made in the pre Social networking internet world. It was also the type of rhetoric that creates a ridiculous expectation around a US team that quite frankly isn’t going to contend to win a World Cup in the next two cycles.

In many ways, Altidore, Davies and Adu are no different than the rest of us that frequent social networking websites. The three young American footballers have taken the currency of their generation and counterparts and used it to express themselves. However, being a professional sometimes requires restraint and biting your tongue. Hopefully, Altidore and his counterparts can learn from his unfortunate mistake.

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