I often wonder what it is I love the most about Twitter.
Is it the instant ability for virtually anyone in the world to warmly wish cancer upon a member of my family? Or the friendly banter with a reader who spends most of their 140 characters on four-letter words, because my eye does not see a trade the way his or hers does?
Is it the slick and dirty way some deranged stranger can send out what appears to be a retweet of my account, as happened this week, framing me as a horrible bigot? Or, in the case of Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, is it the 24-hour privilege to go off half-cocked, with an intended defence of his wife that was noble but about as misguided and uninformed as a Cornell grad could possibly be?
Yes, while opportunity for a great job or the perfect relationship comes along a scant few times in a lifetime, thankfully good ol’ Twitter is open 24-7 to screw them both up. It is cyberspace’s 7-11, where libel, heartbreak and unthinkable mean-spiritedness spin like week-old wieners on the greasy rollers of our smart phones.
Let’s start with Scrivens, who emerged from his debut behind the sad-sack Edmonton Oilers Thursday night to see that one Anthony Vasquez-Peddie, who sports the heady title of “national on-line sports editor for Sun Media,” had posted an entry entitled: “Big loser in Oilers-Kings trade? Mrs. Scrivens.”
The article turns out to be entirely a lazy borrow of someone else’s work, itself an uninspired bit based on the cliché that hockey wives would rather live in Los Angeles than Edmonton. As has been said in journalistic circles, when the response to your article’s theme is a droll “No kidding?” you might work a little harder to inform.
But alas, a Sporting News writer had combed through Jenny Scrivens’ Twitter account to cull several tweets about how happy she was to have returned to her home in Southern California when her husband was traded to the Kings by Toronto in the Jonathan Bernier deal. Then, a medley of innocent, cheerful tweets by an L.A.-loving woman were presented in a way that led the reader to conclude that she was Lauren Pronger II, and that the Oilers’ ability to sign the pending UFA Scrivens could be affected.
Neither writer informed readers that neither the Kings nor the Anaheim Ducks have goalie jobs open this summer for Scrivens to return to SoCal, or that Scrivens is from Spruce Grove, which lies just outside Edmonton.
Her final tweet—“Thank you to the @LAKings and #Kings fans for welcoming us to LA. Sad to leave my hometown, but excited for @scrivens_30's hometown!”—was buried at the very bottom, an opaque attempt at balancing a misleading and disingenuous bit of work.
The story caused Scrivens to snap. Luckily (we jest) Twitter was right there to help. In a series of five tweets that we’ve edited together, he erupted:
“Hey @AVPreports,” Scrivens wrote. “Classy move writing a slam story by cherry-picking tweets my wife sent to make it seem like she doesn't like Edmonton. You’re gutless. And to those of you who commented on the article or tweeted at her about how she's lazy (even though she's not in Edmonton now because she has a fulltime job in LA she can't just up and leave), or that she married rich (even though we got married while I was playing in the AHL), or that she's dumb (she's an Ivy League and graduate school grad), just know I’m embarrassed … to say that you are an Edmontonian. Way to make my family feel welcome.”
It was a hearty, spirited defence of his wife. But there was one problem—Scrivens had the wrong guy. The original piece had been written by one Sean Gentille of the Sporting News. He works out of Pittsburgh.
Vasquez-Peddie works in the GTA. What he would later call “gossipy clickbait” on his own Twitter timeline was basically a retweet of Gentille’s work.
You know, the same way someone says something inaccurate on Twitter, but it gets 1,000 retweets anyway?
Ah, Twitter. A fastidious fact-checker you are not, n’est pas?
Recently, after I’d written a column on my belief that fired Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel’s two biggest roster issues were Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane, somebody on Twitter concocted a tweet that began RT @SportsnetSpec and then used the rest of the 140 characters to spew racist remarks.
It was re-tweeted I don’t know how many times, and it still echoes throughout the Twitterverse today, even though the coward who built it has deleted it from his timeline.
Had I had actually written that tweet, you wouldn’t be reading this column. I would have been rightfully fired on the spot.
But I apologize anyhow, as I am sure some people bought the ruse and were offended.
Scrivens’ apology, at the time of this writing, had not yet been issued. But it is expected, as surely as calm follows the storm.
Welcome back to Edmonton, Ben. It’s cold here, yes. But not nearly as cold as Twitter.