Pete Carroll | “Social Media Is Very Volatile”

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll isn’t about to ban his players from using social media (like several college and professional coaches have). Heck, the guy even has a Twitter account of his own. All he asks is that his players don’t cause any distractions with their actions. But when you have a confident group of youngsters, that’s not always easy to avoid.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is Seattle’s ”most wanted” suspect right now. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s causing distractions, but he’s been making plenty of national headlines with his social media use lately:

Richard Sherman | U Mad Bro?

The controversial picture Richard Sherman posted on Twitter

The first incident came after Seattle’s upset win against New England on October 14th. Sherman posted a picture of himself in the face of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with a quote he added saying, “U mad bro?” In his tweet Sherman wrote, ““He told me and [safety Earl Thomas] to see him after the game when they win. . . I found him after.” It was the tweet heard round the NFL (everyone and their mother were talking about it), and Sherman has since deleted the tweet from his account. However, you can still find a different picture on Sherman’s account of a dejected Tom Brady walking off the field with a tweet saying, “Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan against us.”

That was just the start for Sherman. Two weeks later, he was back at it again. For the Seahawks showdown against Detroit, Sherman changed the name on his Twitter account to Optimus Prime, the Transformers nemesis of Megatron, which is the nickname given to Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. It was so highly publicized the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen actually called Sherman before the game to share his support. The Detroit players didn’t think Sherman’s antics were quite as funny.

“He took a shot at Brady, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said, “Take a shot at coaches. Whatever. That’s disrespectful to this game, but maybe he doesn’t have a lot of respect, who knows?”

Sherman is actually a smart guy. He took a path unlike anyone else before him. He is the only kid from his high school in Compton, California, to ever go to Stanford University (which isn’t easy to get into even as an athlete). He played five years for the Cardinal as a wide receiver and a cornerback. He majored in communication, and it now looks like he’s the ultimate self-promoter. His tweets — and his solid play this season — have put him on the NFL map.

“Social media is very volatile,” said Carrol, “It’s something to be dealt with in respect, because you can make mistakes. You have to know what you’re doing. We have a way that we operate and our guys are learning how to do it.”

Sherman isn’t the only one to make waves in the Twitterverse lately. University of Idaho tight end Taylor Elmo might not see the field for the rest of the year because of a tweet. After head coach Robb Akey was fired two weeks ago, Elmo reportedly sent out a message saying, “U of idaho is stupid as hell for what they did. Fire a man to keep your own job???” The tweet was targeted at Idaho athletic director Rob Spear, who obviously didn’t take to kindly to Elmo’s remarks.

Elmo’s tweet is generally viewed as immature, and you should chalk it up as a college kid making a mistake. But believe it or not, Richard Sherman isn’t that far removed from Elmo, who is a redshirt junior, in terms of age. Sherman is only 24-years-old (Elmo is 22), playing in his second season in the National Football League. Sherman is actually one of 21 players currently on the Seahawks 53-man active roster who are either a rookie or second year veteran.

Pete Carroll Seahawks Head Coach

Pete Carroll

“When you have a bunch of young guys trying to figure it out – figure out what it takes — they’re trying to feel their way a little bit,” Carroll said. “I want us to speak as much as we can as one, and represent all of us when we send our messaging out. Sometimes the way it comes out — we’re learning.”

While social media has opened a door into athletes’ lives that we’ve never seen before (we get to see their Halloween costumes, hear their opinions, etc.), it’s also caused plenty of problems. Athletes were under scrutiny before, but now they’re in the public eye even more with social media. Someone (usually those jerks in the media) is always looking for them to make a mistake.

“It takes savvy,” said Carroll. ”savvy is usually gained through experience.”

In a sports world of “coach speak” and clichés, I’m all for athletes using social media. It allows us to see who these guys really are when they’re not on the field or speaking into a microphone. The only problem is, many athletes don’t realize that Twitter is the podium of social media. Tweets are used as quotes by the media all the time now. Nothing on social media is ever off the record.

Yes, social media can cause problems, but it also helps fix problems. Richard Sherman made headlines for his smack talk, but he didn’t make headlines for his retweet that helped raise money (and encouraged others to do so as well) for the American Cancer Society. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald just wrapped up a social media campaign to raise funds for breast cancer research. Love even let Fitzgerald shave his head for the effort — a video you can watch on YouTube. There are numerous examples of athletes stepping up for a good cause all over social media.

Just like Pete Carroll, I’m a proponent of athletes using social media. It’s a relatively new concept to everyone and it’s bound to evolve over time. The cool thing is — from Joe Shmoe in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, to Tim Lewis in Seattle, Washington, to the President of the United States, we’re all learning how to use social media together.

What do you think about athletes using social media? I would love to hear your opinion on either side of the issue. You can leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of sports, travel, music and more.

Covering The Craziest Monday Night Football Game Ever

I had the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers circled on my calendar for a long time. Ever since I started my new job in Seattle, I was excited for September 24th clash. I’m a television sportscaster, but I’m still also a huge sports fan. That’s what makes my job so incredible. I was paid to be on the sidelines for what turned out to be one of the most thrilling and controversial finishes in NFL history.

I’ve covered an NFL game before, but that was back in 2006. It was the NFC Championship between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks beat the Panthers that night, 34-14. I was relatively new to the television business, so that was easily the most fun I’d ever had at a sporting event. The crowd was incredible. Aside from one other moment in my life (after Edgar Martinez hit the go-ahead grand slam against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series and the fans inside the Kingdome erupted), I didn’t know humans beings could make so much noise. I couldn’t even hear the guy standing right next to me, because it literally sounded like ten fighter jets were flying right by my ears.

Monday Night Football CenturyLink Field

The Packers and Seahawks clash on Monday Night Football

That’s exactly what CenturyLink Field sounded like again last night. The place was rocking for Monday Night Football. The real “this is actually happening” moment for me came when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson trotted onto the field for pregame warm-ups. The stadium was still filling up, but the crowd that was there made plenty of noise. I got chills thinking about the magnitude of the game. A former University of Wisconsin quarterback facing off against Wisconsin’s team — the Green Bay Packers. That was one of several great storylines. I just had a feeling it would be a special night.

Defense was the name of the game in the first half. The Seahawks had eight sacks in the first 30 minutes. It was pure domination. Chris Clemons had four sacks in the first half alone. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Bruce Irvin also had two sacks — both of which were predicted by my photographer Paul Koehnke (pronounced ‘Kinky’ — seriously). Aside from a 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate in the second quarter, the game was at a standstill in Seattle. The Seahawks led the Packers 7-0 at the intermission.

Green Bay made the appropriate halftime adjustments and dominated time of possession in the second half. They started running the ball, which opened the passing game for Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks defense was still stout when they needed to be (even though they were tired as hell thanks to the ineptitude of the Seahawks offense), holding Green Bay to just 12 points. Seattle’s impressive defensive effort was completely overshadowed by what happened late in the game.

Trailing 12-7, the Seahawks had one last drive to beat the Packers. They got the ball with :46 to play. After a 22-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice, the Seahawks were on the Packers 24-yard line, and well within striking distance. The next three passes were incomplete, leaving the Seahawks with fourth down and only :08. Russell Wilson took the snap and all the receivers made a beeline to the end zone. Wilson was forced to roll left and eventually fired away. I was standing in the back corner of the end zone, so the play literally unfolded right in front of me. I remember watching the ball fly through the air and seeing it drop into the mess of players. At first it looked like M.D. Jennings picked off the pass, but then I took a closer look when the players were on the ground. I saw that Golden Tate had his arms around the ball as well. The officials rushed in and ruled it a touchdown. If you somehow missed it >> watch the play right here.

Golden Tate | Monday Night Football

Seconds after Golden Tate caught the game-winning touchdown

Chaos — that’s the best word to describe what happened next. The Seahawks players swarmed the end zone to celebrate the touchdown. I was among the cameras that circled around Tate just seconds after his game-winning score. Packers players were lost in the mix, and it almost looked like a fight was about to break out. Reporters were shoving their microphones in Tate’s face and the play wasn’t even reviewed yet. Players, coaches, and — I don’t even know who else — were all over the field. While you were watching replays on television, I saw Packers and Seahawks players barking at each other all over the field. I honestly thought a brawl was going to break out. I even saw Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll grabbing some of his players to keep them out of trouble.

I don’t know how, but order was finally restored as the teams went back to their sidelines. That didn’t last long though. The place went crazy again after the game-winning touchdown was confirmed by the replay officials. The Seahawks extra point unit went on the field to finish the game, but the Packers went to the locker room. Everyone else stormed the field again. Seahawks were doing interviews and cameras were following players around as they were celebrating. Meanwhile, the Seahawks special teams guys knew they still needed to kick the extra point. They were looking around and throwing their hands into the air, basically saying what I was, “What in the world is going on right now?” It was truly pandemonium, which finally ended with the Seahawks heading into the locker room without kicking the extra point.

Fans were making their way to the stands, while I was heading to the locker room to get postgame interviews. All of a sudden the Seahawks were coming through the tunnel back onto the field. In what was already an embarrassing situation for the replacement officials, Seattle still needed to kick the extra point to end the game — like the special teams players had thought earlier. Nearly five minutes (if not longer) after the touchdown was confirmed, with the stadium almost bare, Steven Hauschka made the extra point, finally bringing an end to what was one of the strangest moments I’ll ever experience at a sporting event in my life.

Tim Lewis KOMO | Monday Night Football

That’s me (holding the white notepad) during the final, controversial play of Monday Night Football

It was funny to listen to all the conversations in the media room. Everyone was either debating the call or telling their version of the final eight seconds of the game. Some people were convinced that Tate came down with it, while others thought the ruling a joke. The official call was that it was a “simultaneous catch”. Simply explained — a tie goes to the wide receiver. So, even though M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate both had their hands on the ball, the advantage goes to Tate. The debate/stories didn’t end at CenturyLink Field either. Everyone at my television station was talking about the game, and even folks at the grocery were in debate when I walked in after work. Everywhere you turned — it was the topic of the night.

I was looking forward to covering Monday Night Football and it was everything I hoped it would be — and much more. Like I said in my report from CenturyLink Field last night, people can debate all they want, but in the end it’s a win for the Seahawks, a loss for the Packers, and an even bigger loss for the NFL and the replacement officials. Some are already calling it the “Play of Infamy”. No matter what it’s called – it’s one of the most exciting finishes we’ll ever see on the gridiron and I was on the field for every second of it.

I would love to hear what you saw in the final eight seconds of the game! Was it a touchdown or an interception? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Leave a message below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more great sports coverage!

Letting [Players] Go Is Never Easy

In the movie Bull Durham, the Bulls manager has to tell Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) that he’s being cut. The skipper says, “This is the toughest job a manager has…” right before he breaks the news to Davis. It’s an emotional exchange between player and coach. Yes, Bull Durham is only a film, but this same exact situation happens in real life every season in the National Football League.

At the start of camp, the Seattle Seahawks had 90 players on their roster. By the time the regular season comes around in September, the Hawks can only carry 53 guys (a league-wide rule). That means general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have to release 37 players along the way.

John Schneider Pete Carroll Seattle Seahawks

John Schneider and Pete Carroll
Courtesy: Seahawks.com

“I don’t know how it is at other places, but it’s very meaningful when we cut guys here,” Carroll told me. “Knowing how much of their lives are wrapped around this and how much this means to them, I take something like this very seriously.”

Carroll says he is connected to every single player on the roster. He told me that he gets to know all of his guys – who they are and what they’re all about — so he can help them be their best. Something that benefits not only the player, but also the team.

“You invest in that relationship to get that done, so it means something,” Carroll said.

Carroll already had to make 15 cuts to get to the league-mandated 75 earlier this week, and the roster moves aren’t nearly done. The Seahawks only have one more preseason game remaining, and then the team needs to cut 22 more players by the NFL’s Friday deadline. Nothing about the process is easy for Carroll. He calls it “a very emotional time.”

“I take into account as many aspects of it as I can,” Carroll told me. “They love this game and they’re doing everything they can to make it. It’s a part of their life and it’s a big deal when that’s taken away.”

Deon Butler Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver

Deon Butler
Courtesy: Seahawks.com

Wide receiver Deon Butler is battling ten other wide receivers for what’s believed to be six spots on the Seahawks active roster. Butler isn’t a star, but he isn’t a slouch either. The Penn State University product has reeled in 57 passes for 611 yards and four touchdowns in his first three seasons in the NFL.

“It’s nothing new for me to be the underdog,” Butler said. “I just feel like there’s a place for me in the league. Whether it’s here — hopefully it’s here — but if not, I’m confident I put out good tape.”

Listed at just 5’10″ and 182 pounds, Butler is the smallest receiver on Seattle’s roster right now. You’d think his experience in the pros would outweigh any knock on his size at this point, but that’s not how the NFL works. If Butler makes the team, it’s someone else that has to go. The Seahawks are likely going to cut five wide receivers by the end of the week.

“We know that in the back of our minds,” Butler said. “You can’t worry about it, because the more you start thinking about that is when you’ll start to fall apart. You’ll start messing up. It does you no good.”

There are players like Butler scattered all over the Seahawks roster (and the entire NFL for that matter), sitting on the edge of their seat as the final cuts approach. But, for every player who is released, there’s someone else who makes the squad — officially living their NFL dream.

“We’re ecstatic for the guys who make the team,” Carroll told me. “The exhilaration they feel — they deserve it. They earned it.”

Pete Carroll Seahawks Head Coach

Pete Carroll
Courtesy: Seahawks.com

In a world where superstars get all the attention, it’s hard to remember that life isn’t always easy for professional athletes. Sure, most of these guys make salaries that we can only dream about, but many of them don’t. If they’re cut, that pay check disappears completely. A football player is let go from his job like any other Joe Blow around the country.

“I know guys around here like this team, and they want to be a part of it,” said Carroll. ”It’s a big deal when it works for them and a big deal when it doesn’t. It’s the same for us.”

The Seahawks open the regular season September 9th against Arizona. They will only have 53 players in uniform that day. Who those players will be is still up in the air — that’s up to Pete Carroll to decide by Friday. Let’s just say I’m happy to not be walking in his shoes this week.

I would love to hear from you about all of this! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. Don’t forget you can also find more sports coverage right now on http://allroundtim.com.