Twitter, tabloids and Landon Donovan

One aspect of Twitter that we’re all slowly discovering is that a major limitation of the 140-character world is that others may infer, imply or outright guess what you’ve left out to fit in that Tweet. That’s why this post is, in part, a clarification of one of my own Tweets.

I was very surprised to learn today from The Big Lead that Grant Wahl has heard an unnamed British tabloid is set to announce that a U.K. woman claims she is pregnant with Landon Donovan’s child. I was also surprised that I hadn’t already heard about it on Twitter, which has become the fastest medium to spread such news, especially since the report has a bit more substance (Wahl’s direct quote from Donovan, who doesn’t deny the possibility) than, say, a typical TMZ or British tabloid report.

And so I marveled aloud on Twitter (see above Tweet) that this news wasn’t all over the Twitter feeds I follow.

I got a few responses right away, many suggesting a plausible soccer hangover, some saying it was none of our business, and at least one saying U.S. fans don’t engage in scandal-mongering.

Those responses are valid, and I expect the U.S. team will land on home soil without a phalanx of reporters yelling ridiculous questions in Donovan’s direction. This isn’t England, and Donovan isn’t John Terry.

Still, I was surprised because Donovan’s personal life had already been scrutinized a few days ago. That scrutiny stemmed from an emotional postgame interview a few minutes after his dramatic goal sent the USA to the round of 16, in which he said hello to ex-wife Bianca Kajlich.

After that, U.S. fans unfortunately did engage in scandal-mongering, with a few Tweets, blog posts and comments positing that he was giving a snide shoutout to show up his ex-wife. Anyone who knows Donovan in the least knows that’s not his nature. Yahoo’s Martin Rogers followed up with Donovan and found that he treasures his relationship with Kajlich, and what’s more, people close to the couple wouldn’t be surprised by an outright reconciliation.

So to go from that report to Wahl’s report is a shock akin from leaping from a sauna into an ice bath. And it’s astounding to think of the pressures on Donovan over the past month. His attitude, demeanor and performance have been fodder for U.S. fans’ clinical dissection for a decade, and all that pressure was coming to a boil as he played for a U.S. team that rarely gets anywhere without his influence. To have serious developments in his personal life on top of that heading into the World Cup is staggering. To put it mildly — anyone who ever questioned his mental/emotional fortitude and called him “Landycakes” should consider a full-fledged letter of apology.

But while the news, if validated, would be a shock, it would not be a scandal. Donovan told Wahl he would take responsibility if the claim is true. Any questions beyond that are indeed nobody’s business.

Many athletes are less willing to accept that responsibility. That was well-documented in a landmark SI story from 1998 written by young reporters L. Jon Wertheim and … Grant Wahl.

So another reason I was so surprised by this news today was that I was thinking, “What are the odds?”

And so on many levels, the news today is shocking. But not “shocking” in the sense that tabloids use. It’s “shocking” in the sense of being surprising on so many levels. Not scandalous. Not something that will warrant the rooting-out of every lurid detail.

To fully express all that on Twitter, we’ll need a few new emoticons.

1 Comment

  1. Beau,

    I totally agree with everything here. It was shocking to hear, but not scandalous. I would expect him to be mature about how he deals with it if it turns out to be true. But it was probably the last thing I would have expected to hear about him. That’s the shocking part.

    Overall I’ve been very very impressed with Donovan’s growth and maturity over the last three years.

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