In one corner stands CNBC's Darren Rovell. This sports business reporter hasn't just emerged as the top source in his field, but has also emerged as the self-appointed czar of all things Twitter. He even celebrated passing the 100,000 followers plateau with a list of 100 Twitter rules. Surely the modern day equivalent to Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Since then though, Rovell has found another life as the Lex Luthor of Twitter. He has been caught in battles with everyone from political reporters to late show writers to sportswriters and seemingly anyone in-between because of his unapologetic Twitter sovereignty.
In the other corner stands Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch. Himself a veteran of the Twitter wars with his ongoing conflict with ESPN PR making the Hundred Years War look like a small disagreement over tea. Deitsch boasts just 35,000 followers, but has the utmost respect of the industry. This sportswriter combines his robust media reputation with a sharp sense of humor and biting critiques while also going outside sports to provide relevant, interesting information.
But to know the significance of these two gladiators stepping inside the Twitter squared circle is to know their history. At Blogs With Balls 4 in New York City, Deitsch and Rovell shared the first ever award for "Best Sports Tweeter." The two men have traded barbs on Twitter for quite some time in a back and forth fight for ultimate sporting Twitter supremacy. (To make it clear from the start, we're fans of the work of both Deitsch and Rovell as both have their qualities that make it worth your time to follow.)
However, Deitsch and Rovell had never engaged in a public Twitter debate. Rovell's famous (or infamous) policy of not replying to anyone so as to "clog timelines" came under heavy fire as his DM/Unfollow deathblow became the stuff of mythical Twitter legend. Instead of replying and having a conversation with combatants, Rovell took the tact of sending a private direct message and then unfollowing the person. Underhanded tactics in the eyes of many. (***Update: After speaking with Rovell today, he claims the much talked about DM/Unfollow double hammer was a misunderstanding and he had unfollowed those individuals well before the DMs.) This week, Rovell changed this policy after another one of his famous (or infamous) Twitter polls revealed that his followers wanted to see his replies play out in public.
It was only a matter of time before these mega Twitter powers exploded, which they did Wednesday night. It started over a simple tweet about tennis. But make no mistake, this was not about tennis. This was about two Twitter titans, finally going head to head for the world to witness. Rovell vs Deitsch. Deitsch vs Rovell. Here's how it played out...
(And yes, I'm well aware that this overly dramatic, completely unnecessary, and drawn out description of a Twitter fracas like it's a World Championship fight is totally ridiculous and not newsworthy in any way... but it sure is fun.)
Nineteen tweets of fury that rival Hagler-Hearns and Gatti-Ward for their thrilling action... in a total sports media geek kind of way. Rovell-Deitsch I captivated the masses with neither man willing to give an inch and both landing haymakers throughout the skirmish. With both men left standing, we have to go to the judges scorecard, where, in a unamious decision, the victor of Rovell-Deitsch I is...
The SI offices are surely playing "We Are The Champions" on an endless loop in pure jubilation at the result.
Overall, Deitsch's quick wit and sarcasm were instrumental in his vicotry. Frankly, it appeared that Rovell was caught off guard by the sheer bulldog like tenacity and bite of Deitsch's sharpness. Blatantly mocking the "Rovell Gallop Poll" was a stroke of genius, but Rovell tried his best to let his facts do the talking while standing his ground.
Deitsch was weilding a secret weapon though. Like Bobby "the Brain" Heenan sliding a foreign object into the ring, Late Show writer Justin Stangel referenced his own DM/Unfollow encounter with Rovell and Deitsch used it to score the most effective shot. Deitsch then landed two significant body blows by first going after Rovell's Twitter rules and then his much criticized opinion on Tim Tebow and John Elway. But it was clear Rovell still wasn't going away.
The last word is always pivotal in a Twitter fight and it was here where Deitsch called his shot. This "walkoff tweet" was reminiscent of Larry Bird in the 1988 three point contest. His words were inconsequential. At that point, Deitsch knew he had victory in hand. You can't beat the walkoff tweet.
Given the history of these two, this will surely be the first in a long line of Twitter battles. Clearly these two are both smart guys and NBC Sports Network would be wise to take advantage of Deitsch & Rovell going at it on television, as Rovell gave an open invitation to Deitsch to appear on his weekly Friday night show. A televised duel would be smart, entertaining, combative, and informative. Deitsch v Rovell would make Skip Bayless v Stephen A. Smith look like grade school children fighting over their turn at four square. Although, I suppose that's what it looks like all the time anyways.
As for the actual merits of each argument... is Anna Kournikova still involved with tennis?