Yo, athletes: Twitter truly can b bad 4 u!

I thought tough guys flexed their muscles.

Not their Twitter accounts.

The new rage among athletes seems to be typing their macho on small gadgets. Who knew fingertips would replace the bicep?

Take last weekend, in the NFL playoffs, when Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler left the game after a reported knee injury. TV showed him mostly passive on the sidelines, even as his team went down to defeat. The Bears would later reveal he had torn a knee ligament.

Nevertheless, before the team had even cleaned out its lockers, Twitter messages began to fly – from current and former players! – accusing Cutler of a lack of toughness.

Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted: “When the going gets tough……..QUIT” and “he can finish the game on a hurt knee… I played the whole season on one.”

Deion Sanders, the glib former superstar turned TV analyst, tweeted: “i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart.”

Carolina safety Gerald Alexander wrote: “I’ve never played in a playoff game. This guy was one game away and he quit! That’s BS!”

Well. He’s right about BS.

Acting just like those they criticize

Since when did this become the rage – athletes racing to express their thoughts? There was a time you had to drag a player from the back of the locker room just to get a mumbled quote about “gotta stay focused … 110% … one game at a time.”

Who knew there were so many closet Shakespeares in there? All they needed, apparently, was a writing tool that fit in their pockets.

They’ve got it now – iPhones, BlackBerrys, Droids – and here is where the Twitter/Facebook universe is taking us: All thoughts must be expressed. Filters are for weaklings. Say it loud, say it proud!

And never have to look a man in the eye.

How cowardly for these athletes to take apart one of their own from the comfort of their living rooms. The very thing they always whine about the media – “You’re not there on the field!” – they now violate with fast-typing thumbs.

At least the media do interviews, go to locker rooms, attempt to talk to the principals involved. Apparently people like Jones-Drew and Sanders feel just because they once held a football, everything they say about the game or its players must be accurate.

Even from 1,000 miles away.

A case of eating their own

This past week, New York Jets safety Antonio Cromartie criticized the NFL labor talks, calling both sides a nasty name.

That prompted a tweet from Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: “Somebody ask Cromartie if he knows what CBA stands for.”

That prompted Cromartie to tweet to Hasselbeck: “I will smash ur face in.”

That prompted Hasselbeck to tweet: “Sorry for the joke man. No hard feelings.”

Apparently, “smash ur face in” has the same meaning on Twitter as it does in person.

But this is just another chit in the endless pile of the new sports communication. Athletes want to control their messages, their images and their “brands” by having constant access to the world stage, which many egotistically feel is nearly a birthright.

Well, here’s a flash for the jocks. They soon may yearn for the day when they only had to talk to sportswriters. There was at least a sense of decorum in that dynamic, and the team’s public relations staff often herded off controversy.

Now that players can go right to the public to craft their image, many will find that they’re not very good at it. Shooting your mouth off doesn’t make you popular, just boorish.

And turning on your own – as Cromartie and Hasselbeck have done, and as so many have done on Cutler – only proves this noble brotherhood among athletes idea is largely a myth.

Probably created by the media.

You know. The old kind. Before the thumb became mightier than the sword.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/mitch.

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