May 26, 2013 in Sports

In this case, Twitter a treat

A Grip On Sports
 
Associated Press photo

Brian Urlacher’s retirement, announced on Twitter, was met with glowing tributes.
(Full-size photo)

On the Web

Vince Grippi has an opinion about everything local, especially sports. Every Sunday we provide samples of his daily riffs. Read him daily at spokesman.com/sportslink.

Thursday: Social media is an interesting beast.

Sometimes it can bear sharp teeth, ripping into, say, Sergio Garcia, after his  ill-advised comments about Tiger Woods and a dinner entrée. And other times it can be a beauty, as it was yesterday when the Chicago Bears’ Brian Urlacher  announced his retirement from football.

I find Twitter an invaluable resource for this job. By following a multitude of sports writers, broadcasters and the like, I keep up-to-date on breaking news and the day-to-day minutia of modern sports. But there is a downside to instant person-to-the-world communication.

When something odd happens – a bad play, an idiotic statement, a loss in a winnable game – Twitter tends to overload with inanity. It’s that side of Twitter that people cite when condemning the medium, and rightfully so.

But there is another side to Twitter and it surfaced yesterday. It happened when Brian Urlacher, the longtime Chicago Bears’ middle linebacker, announced his retirement.

All of a sudden my timeline exploded. Not with people bitching about what the Bears had done to Urlacher (they sort of forced the 34-year-old out the door) or any other negative response. Nope, it exploded with people praising Urlacher and what he represented. And the best part of it? It was mainly from his peers.

I follow a couple of former Washington State players who are in the NFL and they retweeted comments from other NFL players. The main thrust of the tweets: Urlacher was a player who played the game the “right” way, with his heart, his mind and his body. Guys like the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas saying they considered it “an honor” to have competed against Urlacher. Teammates praising him as a mentor and leader. Opponents acknowledging how tough he was.

It was a public display of affection even your old high school gym teacher could approve of.

It was a great way to send out a football player who epitomized toughness, a trait still greatly admired in a sport that demands it.

Friday: It is hard to be labeled. No matter what that label is. But for a professional athlete, one of the hardest labels to live up to is potential.

The word may have claimed another casualty yesterday.

Jesus Montero always had the potential to be a major league star.

It surfaced early when he was in the Yankee organization. It was stuck to him when he was part of the trade that sent Seattle’s Michael Pineda – another player with unlimited potential – to New York. It was brought up nearly every day last year as Montero struggled to acclimate himself in the major leagues as an everyday catcher. And it began to be accompanied by the word ”unrealized” as this, his second season, began to go sour.

Something had to be done.

The label needed to be torn off. So the M’s tried to perform a labelectomy yesterday,  sending Montero down to Triple-A Tacoma and  letting it be known Montero’s  days as a catcher are over. Montero will be giving another type of mitt, one you use at first base, for an occasional look, but will be penciled in the Tacoma lineup often as a designated hitter.

The hope is he has the potential to become another Edgar Martinez, or a reasonable facsimile. But right now the Mariners really hope Montero will settle down and then settle in as a big league hitter, free of the pressure of trying to learn how to be a passable defensive catcher at the major league level.

The potential is still there in a sense, as he does have a bat with pop. But anyone with a modicum of catching knowledge could see last year there was little in the way of potential  for Montero to become a decent catcher. He was too stiff and not nearly athletic enough to perform the tasks needed at a high enough level. Those same deficiencies have the potential to limit his ability to be a first baseman – it’s a tougher position than it looks.

Which leaves designated hitter.

Because Montero was part of a high-profile trade, he’ll be given every opportunity to reach his potential at that spot, more than likely filling the role day-after-day for the Rainiers. And if the M’s season takes a nosedive and decisions are made to make a few deadline trades for the future? Then Montero may just be back in Seattle filling the designated hitter role as the M’s once again build for “next year.”

At least the potential is there.


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