My wife wants me to get off Twitter. I think she may be right.
I was very late to the Twitter party and, at times, it can be fun. I enjoy exchanges with many who follow me; I try to answer questions when asked and it’s a nice way to let people know what I’m working on or about things like book signings. That part is all good.
But then there’s the ugly side of Twitter and I have to admit I’m somewhat to blame for what’s happened and why my wife wants me to give it up.
I can handle the brickbats from right-wingers and Trumpists. I just block them and move on and I feel no guilt about blocking people. If you’re profane or say things that are flat out dumb or offensive, I’ll block you. You do what you want with your Twitter feed, I’ll do what I want with mine.
I do this based on advice I received from my friend Michael Wilbon, who has more than a million followers: “Do NOT engage with the trolls,” he told me early on. “You can’t win and it wastes your time.”
He should have added: “And don’t engage with zealots — of any kind.”
Sunday morning, I checked Twitter as I usually do before I start to write — in this case, my weekly column on Army football which is as much fun as anything I do — and there was a tweet from my friend, Sally Jenkins.
Sally and I are more than friends; more like brother and sister. When I had open-heart surgery eight-and-a-half years ago while I was between marriages, the person who came and stayed with me the first two nights I was home from the hospital was Sally. We’re that close.
Sally’s tweet was about Mike Krzyzewski winning his 1,000th game at Duke the night before. Rather than just congratulate Krzyzewski on the achievement, she felt compelled to mention that Pat Summitt had done the same thing a while back and who knows how many games she might have won if she hadn’t been struck down by Alzheimer’s.
I didn’t — and don’t — question the notion of how many games Summitt might have won, but I thought the timing of Sally’s tweet was, well, wrong. If she was going to congratulate Krzyzewski, just do it. If you don’t want to, then don’t — just move on.
So, I tweeted back: “Yeah Sal, Krzyzewski’s a piker.”
Now, let this be said, I may not be as defensive of Krzyzewski as Sally is of Summitt, but I’m probably close. Of course there’s one difference: No one ever says anything bad about Summitt — except, I guess, Geno Auriemma years ago and Sally will NEVER forgive him for that. On the other hand, people go after Krzyzewski constantly.
He uses profanity. (Gasp!). He gets all the calls. (no doubt). He’s a bully (which is why he gets all the calls). People who have never met him just KNOW he’s a terrible person because, because . . . well because he wins so damn much.
In fact, when I mentioned in one of my CBS Sports Minutes on Monday that Krzyzewski was revered but also reviled — largely because he wins so much — I knew there would be an inevitable barrage of tweets from people who KNEW that Krzyzewski was really a bad guy. Let the name-calling begin.
That’s why I’m defensive of Krzyzewski. I’ve known him since he was at Army and I know — firsthand, unlike the name-calling critics— that he’s a good man, regardless of how many games he’s won. I can cite chapter and verse and so can those who actually know him, including a lot of coaches who HATED losing to him.
No one despises Krzyzewski more than Maryland fans, who I am surrounded by here in Washington. They still rail about many of his wins over the Terrapins — games stolen from them by officials; by the government and by aliens from outer space. He is a TERRIBLE guy.
Maryland’s coach for many of those losses was Gary Williams, about as intense a competitor as I’ve ever known. How much does Gary hate losing to Duke? When he was asked to address the graduating class of 2011, the last thing he told them was this: “And remember, as you go through life, always beat Duke.”
Three years later, when Gary was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, his first choice to give his induction speech was . . . Mike Krzyzewski.
All that said, I probably shouldn’t have reacted to Sally’s tweet — no, I absolutely should NOT have reacted to Sally’s tweet, I mean really who cares? She thinks Summitt hung the moon and the stars and that’s fine. They were best friends. Sally wrote two books with her — I blurbed the first one. Let it go.
I didn’t. Where was Wilbon when I needed him?
Let the barrage begin. Sally immediately ripped into me about why Summitt was so superior to Krzyzewski in every way. Then she started in on me for not going to women’s basketball games. Then came the charges of mysogyny. At the very least, I think that might make me unique: a liberal mysogynist?
What then am I because I don’t go to NBA games unless someone’s paying me to be there? When I was younger and had more time, I DID go to high school games to see guys I’d been told were going to matter in college. I haven’t done that for years — specifically since I started having children.
Sally and I went back-and-forth and she would not let it go. When I tried to say the games were different — they are — and that we should just agree to disagree, someone tweeted that I was backing down and running.
Now that made me mad. Still, I should have run. I should have backed down. I should have done anything but engage.
Even when Sally and I both pointed out how close we were she had to throw in a line about, “But I’m not taking that BS.” I sighed and just said, “Back at you Sal. Love you.”
Which, for the record, I do.
Then, it got worse. Some guy tweeted at me that I was thin-skinned about Krzyzewski, which I had already admitted to being. I’d have just let it go but he called me, “Junior,” which for years has been Tony Kornheiser’s nickname for me.
At 21, when I was the youngest guy on The Washington Post’s sports staff I didn’t like it, but understood it. My SON is now 23. I’ve been asking Tony for more than 20 years to not use it on the radio because I get tired of complete strangers coming up to me and using the name. You don’t know me, where do you come off calling me that or anything other than John? It would have been like me or anyone else walking up to Dean Smith years ago and calling him “El Deano,” the nickname Doug Moe put on him — as a term of endearment, just as Junior started out as a term of endearment. From Doug Moe, it was fine. From Tony, it was fine — barely.
So when I noticed in the guy’s profile that he was a “TK Little,” I noted in my response to him that it was ironic for a fan of Tony’s to call me thin-skinned since Tony basically invented the genre.
Then the littles started in, defending their hero. As with Sally, I love Tony, but he is a complete and utter pain-in-the-butt who gets angry with me if I say ANYTHING that isn’t worshipful of him publicly.
It was a very long day. I think from now I will just stick to tweeting about the books and how much I love the “Peppas,” VCU’s great band. Of course that’ll probably get me in trouble with the folks at George Mason — which also has a fabulous band.
Or Sally will say the band for the Tennessee women’s games is better than both.
John Feinstein’s new book is, “The First Major—The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup,” which is currently on the New York Times bestseller list. His most recent young adult mystery, “Backfield Boys—A Football Mystery in Black and White,” is now also available for Christmas.