Monday, January 16, 2012

What if Andre Agassi had a Twitter?

Remember when Agassi's hair looked like this?
Agassi circa 1989. Courtesy of Carine06 on Flickr.
Well apparently he does now, but that's not what I'm talking about.

What if he had one back in the 90s? Back in his "bad boy" days?

I'm in the middle of Agassi's autobiography, Open, which is a well-written and incredibly detailed, look at the tennis pro's life, especially the early part. It's often not pretty, from rebellion to mental breakdowns to drug use.

Something Agassi discusses at length in his book is the way he is - often unfairly, in his mind -characterized by the sports media. It starts with his hair and bad boy attitude, then continues with his "Image is everything" persona and then goes to writers saying that he is dropping matches on purpose. It's not pretty and, at least by his account, it's largely not true.

When these events are taking place, in the early and mid-90s, the sports media controls the conversation. Agassi doesn't really have a voice of his own other than the few quotes reporters throw into their stories. Writers characterize him by the way he looks and by his actions on the court, whether it's fair or not. Agassi's thoughts and ideas were filtered through a camera lens or a reporter's notepad.

But what if he had the technology of now? What if he had Twitter? What if he could control the conversation, say what's really on his mind, explain to his fans and followers why he does things? How would that have changed the perception of him?

Obviously, part of the answer lies in how he would have used the medium. Would he have been open and up front, or would he hide behind an image and not put much substance out there? There's no way of telling. But I imagine, reading his book now and seeing how open he is, that the public would have gotten a view of him they wouldn't have imagined.

I imagine sometimes it would show a young kid who is doing everything he can to get used to this international tennis stage, trying hard to succeed but failing more often than not. Possibly followers would see that the hair and the outfits were just show. At the same time, I imagine there would be dark moments after tough losses, where he would rant about how he hated the sport, how he felt about opponents and officials and reporters.

That's the risk athletes take when they join social media. Yes, the fans can get a clearer, less filtered look at the people they see on TV. But some things need to stay hidden, at least for a while. It's just so easy for someone to punch a few keys on a phone and press send.

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