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Social media: Twitter is wild, wild West

2/8/2013
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Back when Twitter was not much more than a concept and its creators were developing the prototype, one can safely bet the following never came up: The site would serve as a platform where professional athletes can pick fights with one another.

Not just good-natured ribbing or the kind of pregame trash talk that is an accepted part of sports. No, we’re talking about the kind of exchange that goes from zero to if-I-see-you-in-the-street-I’ll-punch-you-in-the-face faster than a person can type 140 characters.

The social networking site has connected athletes and fans like never before. But more than simply allowing fans to interact with players, Twitter also is a platform that allows fans to watch players interact with each other. They’re conversational. They’re comical. But nothing gets more attention than when they’re confrontational.

The current leaders on that front appear to be Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett and Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Dockett -- along with millions of other people -- tweeted about McCarron’s girlfriend during the BCS National Championship Game, but it looked like the professional player and the soon-to-be-professional player had put any tension behind them.

An exchange ahead of last weekend’s Super Bowl indicated otherwise. The situation only escalated this week when Dockett suggested the two settle their beef “in the ring,” followed by McCarron pointing out that he had more NCAA championship rings and criticizing Dockett’s 2012 on-field performance.

While the McCarron-Dockett dispute is unique in that it is completely social-media driven -- both borne of comments on the site and playing out publicly for the entire Twittersphere to follow -- they’re certainly not the first athletes to air their issues to the social media masses.

From cricket to women’s golf, the Web is filled with list after list of athlete Twitter dustups.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora traded Twitter jabs for the better part of a season. A little while back, Miami Heat star LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson exchanged a series of posts regarding who was actually the “King of Cleveland.” (Just for the record, Cleveland is governed by a mayor, not a monarch.)

And then there is the UFC’s Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones. Not only have the two gotten into it on social media, but they’ll actually be looking to settle the dispute in the ring – OK, Octagon -- come April.

Could McCarron and Dockett be next?

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

The Golden State Warriors held a social media night.

New York Red Bulls fans can now buy tickets through Facebook.

The WWE’s YouTube channel surpassed the 1 million subscriber mark.

The University of Michigan “catfished” some of its football players to educate them about social media use.

The University of Arizona hosted a six-hour Google+ hangout as part of its Signing Day social media initiatives.

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