My Twitter battles with Rooney, Ferdinand and Tyson
Time for a belated new year quiz.
Question: Who said, in 2010, that Twitter was 'a pathetic, juvenile,
pointless waste of time' Answer: Erm, that would be me.
Piers to Ferdinand… Ask which team has the most fans who live within 30 miles of stadium. Won’t be your lot, Sicknote
In a stunning transformation only
rivalled by the aptly named Robbie Savage becoming a ballroom dancer,
I've gone from Twitter's most scornful enemy to a man so obsessed with
it that virtually my every waking moment is now spent with a crafty eye
on Blackberry alert for cyberspace attacks from all manner of sports
stars, celebrities and members of the public.
(In fact, a large chunk of my sleep
is consumed with it, too. I regularly wake up, in a cold sweat, having
had absurd nightmares about someone breaking into my account and
tweeting 'I LOVE SPURS' to my 1.7million followers.)
Banter: Wayne Rooney and Piers have clashed on Twitter
Piers to Owen… Only criminal thing around here, Bench-warmer, is you getting 100k a week to sit on your a***
The reasons it's so addictive are obvious: 1) It has become a fantastic primary news source. For journalists like me, I get almost all my breaking news from Twitter, as it floods in from all over the world on a second-by-second basis.
2) It's a brilliant way for anyone remotely famous to control his or her own PR. An inaccurate story in the papers Just stick a tweet out, correcting it. An abusive review No problem, tweet a load of abuse back at the critics. They soon back off. No need for lawyers, publicists, or screaming matches with hard-bitten hacks.
3) Feuds. Real ones, surreal ones, joke ones. Oh the joy when I realised you could tweet Manchester United stars personally, ridiculing them for everything from their dodgy haircuts to offensive swimwear. And even more delicious when they began firing back like enraged Rambos on acid.
TWIT FEUD 1
Newcastle’s Joey Barton v Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere August 2011
Accused of getting Gervinho sent off after scrapping with him on the opening day, an angry Barton takes to the internet in an explosive debate
Barton: ‘If he [Gervinho] doesn’t dive then the incident doesn’t happen. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten involved, but diving and trying to win a penalty is s***. Needs stamping out. If there’s contact, go down — but don’t blatantly try to con the ref. Refs have it hard
Wilshere: ‘@joey7barton was in the
wrong. He should not have got involved and assaulted Gervinho like that.’
‘Maybe Gervinho should not have
reacted like he did as two wrongs
don’t make a right but Barton was
Barton: ‘@JackWilshere hardly
And then it’s Shearer’s turn…
‘Right off now to watch MOTD, it’s
what Saturday nights are all about.’
Barton: ‘Bad shirt, shoes and
views from Shearer again. Sort
it out slaphead…’
If I'm honest, it's this last category that appeals to me most. Winding up sportsmen or celebrities on Twitter has become my favourite hobby, one that is fabulously illuminating about the people involved.
Who'd have thought Joey Barton would turn out to be a sharp, funny, Orwell-quoting tweeting machine Or that Michael Owen would be so overly sensitive when he reaches his bedtime Or that Robin van Persie – my current footballing god – could make me do an impromptu conga just by sending me a surprise tweet saying he found me 'funny' Or that I'd become direct message (the secret way that Twitterers can talk to each other) pals with Mike Tyson
Some sportsmen tweet the same way they play, especially the cricketers.
Take on Freddie Flintoff and he'll belt you back into the cyber-stands so hard you wish you've never tangled with the Big Man. Kevin Pietersen has a good linguistic whack on him, too, and isn't afraid to use it. One false move with him and he'll reverse-sweep you into public humiliation.
Michael Vaughan is measured, intelligent, classy and amusing. Graeme Swann just winds everyone up. And Shane Warne tweets like he bowls: with boundless energy, passion, emotion, heartache, romance, ecstasy and a lot of chirping.
Boxer Lennox Lewis, unsurprisingly for a man who once beat me at chess 39 times in 40 games when we filmed Celebrity Apprentice USA together, is a crafty, quick, formidable opponent.
Though I always have the last laugh – since my record against him is one-for-none, as I constantly remind him. I won the Apprentice, knocking him out in the semi-final. Floyd Mayweather is nasty, confrontational and brutal, witness him calling out 'punk' Manny Pacquiao last week. But the most unlikely tweeter is Tyson, who is calm, reflective, humble and sincere.
Tweet that! Joey Barton gets stuck into Gervinho
A changed man, if ever there was one. In the end, though, it's the footballers with whom I derive most satisfaction from doing Twitter battle. They tend to have the most followers, the biggest egos and the most reactionary styles. Rio Ferdinand thinks of himself as the selfappointed King of Twitter. I dubbed him 'Sicknote' and he responded by labelling me 'Moobs' – an unnecessarily cruel jibe about my torso, which unfortunately made me and everyone else laugh out loud. Mainly for its obvious accuracy. Truth hurts like nothing else on Twitter.
TWIT FEUD 2
Wayne Rooney Jan 2012
‘Funny how people think i got kompany sent off. Im not ref. i didnt give red card. But it was a clear red card. 2 footed tackle’
The United striker dismisses claims he got Vincent Kompany sent off in the FA Cup clash between Manchester United and Manchester City.
Rio's problem, like all sportsmen, is that his Twitter power is very dependent on his form. When he got skinned repeatedly by Lionel Messi last season, I was able to drag out the 'Messi-cre' hashtag in tweets to him for about six months.
And I've noticed that his cocky, brash tweeting style has taken a definitely more measured tone since his recent performances have dropped. Hard to keep telling people to #stayonyourfeet if half the time you yourself are #stayingoffyourfeet as yet another striker nutmegs you.
There's also, how can I put this delicately, a slight 'intellectual tone' barrier between us. When I once tweeted Rio with the words: 'Even United fans are begging me to stop tormenting you, it's like Einstein verbally jousting with a lobotomised amoeba', he replied with: 'You're deluded, I've smashed you all over the twitterverse – now get your slippers out and concentrate on controlling your farts!' Classy.
Piers to Rooney… Go celebrate over another drunken dinner with your team-mates, there’s a good Shrek
His colleague Owen is another I enjoy 'bantering' with. I quickly discovered his Achilles' heel was any interaction of a humiliating nature after 11pm at night, when he seems to be more tired and emotional. When I first nicknamed him 'Bench-warmer', it was at just such a time, and I thought he'd explode with fury. But he's learned not to tweet late at night and to stick it to me with just as much gusto as I stick it to him.
Of course, as in life itself, for every moment of ecstatic self-satisfaction, there are also indescribable lows. One of my least favourite Twitter moments came when Manchester United beat Arsenal 8-2 earlier this season. Our worst Premier League defeat ever, and a more depressing, agonising, tormenting result it would be hard to imagine any Gooner ever suffering.
TWIT FEUD 3
Rio Ferdinand Nov 2011
‘@SeppBlatter to say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject.’
The Manchester United defender piles the pressure on Sepp Blatter to quit as the FIFA president is engulfed in football’s racism storm.
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Caught out: Darren Bent on Twitter
Rooney, who I dub 'Shrek', is a good tweeter. When I once asked him as he attended an awards ceremony if he'd scooped the 'Fastest Transfer U-Turn of the Year After Big Cheque Arrived' award – he fired back: 'Did you win 1 for most boring show of the year' My battles with Rooney usually prompt the most sustained outpourings of gloating abuse I have to endure, as United fans all over the globe race to endorse their talisman's sentiments.
TWIT FEUD 4
Kenny Dalglish Dec 2011
‘Very disappointed with today’s verdict. This is the time when @luis16suarez needs our full support. Let’s not let him walk alone.’
The Liverpool manager responds to the Football Association banning and fining striker Luis Suarez for racial abuse.
Ah, the abuse. Let's discuss. One thing that any famous person has to be endure on Twitter is endless verbal 'banter' – or rather, mindless verbal aggro. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who actually derive a vicarious thrill from posting unbelievable filth towards celebrities, and sportsmen in particular. I've got a pretty thick skin, so can laugh at it. Others are less immune. Lee Westwood actually quit Twitter for a few months, disgusted by the stuff people were tweeting him. And make no mistake, it is disgusting. The worst kind of terrace vitriol. I choose to ignore them, or retweet the ones who make spelling mistakes – thus exposing them to the very ridicule they seek to exact.
Lord Sugar has a more basic response mechanism, deploying the phrase 'P*** off, you p****' on an almost daily basis. Which never fails to make me chuckle. Either way, being famous on Twitter is not for the faint-hearted.
TWIT FEUD 5
Jose Enrique July 2011
‘The club is allowing all the major players of the team to go. Seriously, do you think it is the fault of the players Andy [Carroll], Nobby [Kevin Nolan] etc etc.’
‘The [sic] give the money I have already. They lie all the time. But is no for money is because they don’t want spend in the club and bring quality players that’s why everybody go.’
The Spanish full-back, who had not signed a new contract, denies claims that he has been offered a big rise and prompts his exit from Newcastle.
A Twitter feed says a lot about a
person, especially famous sportsmen. Before Twitter came along, I was
one of the many who thought Joey Barton was a violent Neanderthal thug.
Indeed, I wrote a whole column eviscerating him in these very pages to
Now, Barton's no choirboy and I still wouldn't want to bump into him in a McDonald's at 4am. But his Twitter feed has revealed him to be a fascinatingly complex, surprisingly intelligent, very quickwitted and often breathtakingly honest man.
Whether he's railing against his employers, insulting TOWIE 'stars', quoting Descartes, or moaning about his new son Cassius's bowel movements, Barton is tweeting as everyone should tweet – fast, furiously and naturally. As a result, he can also be as reactionary, abusive, petulant, impetuous and aggressive as you'd imagine Joey Barton could be.
But I've definitely changed my view of him. And that's the power of Twitter. It allows you to get inside the head of people like Barton and understand them better.
TWIT FEUD 6
Darren Bent Dec 2011
‘Sadly injury meant I wasn’t able to do
that today. Gutted not to be involved. Never knew popping out would cause an issue and for that I apologise.’
The striker is forced to say sorry to Aston Villa fans after one posts a picture of him Christmas shopping while his team were losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool.
I'd enjoy going for a pint with him,
something I'd have deemed unthinkable a year ago. Though he'd probably
have another drink in mind. When I passed my one million followers mark,
he tweeted: 'Well done Piersy, Pimm's all round on the croquet lawn'
As a result, despite my furious protestations that I went to a comprehensive school like him, his army of followers (one million and rising) now religiously taunt me with cries of 'Tally-ho!' Very annoying. Like I said at the start of this article, I never used to 'get' Twitter. Now I do, and genuinely can't imagine life without it. Which I guess, as my wife constantly says, makes me, officially, a gigantic twit.