Fun With Twitter, Or, The Legend Of "@ESPNSteve"

Someone with way too much free time posed as an ESPN employee on Twitter, and after just two days, worn out his welcome by circulating a rumor on Twitter that Erin Andrews, whose contract is close to expiring, would be leaving the network. Shown is his final tweet before the account would be deleted.

Twitter can be a scary thing – if it’s misused.

One day, you could be finding out from an actor that a popular quarterback is planning to retire; the next day, you discover Jon Bon Jovi is dead.

Those are just a couple of examples of how mistruths run wild on Twitter.

As of today, you can add “Erin Andrews is leaving ESPN” to the list.

This afternoon, a Twitter user identifying himself as “Steve” with the handle “@ESPNSteve” dropped that very bombshell. “I’m sad to report my co-worker Erin Andrews is moving on from ESPN,” wrote “Steve” in the tweet. “We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.”

The first thing to do when you hear news of that nature: you look at the source. At the time of that tweet, “Steve” had just about as many tweets (41) as he did followers. Meanwhile, the Twitter bio of “Steve” located him in “Bristol,” with the same “legal notice” that you would find on official ESPN Twitter accounts.

This “Steve” fellow was not verified. In fact, he was only on Twitter for two whole days before announcing Erin Andrews’ “departure” from the Worldwide Leader.

Naturally, some of the dozens of followers of “@ESPNSteve” would retweet the tweet, some doing so in text form, mixing in their own comments, including expressions of shock, and of course, skepticism.

“Judging by the fact @ESPNSteve has 25 Twitter followers, [I’m] finding this “Erin Andrews leaving ESPN” rumor fishy,” tweeted Jim Weber. To which Jeff Spiegel replied, “Or that his first tweet reads ‘please help welcoming me to ESPN’, haha.”

Joe Bendiez was also “calling bullshit” on the scoop from “Steve” due to the small number of followers he has.

Yet notable sports journalists such as Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly appeared to have believed the news at first. At one point, Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky chimed in with, “So, let’s all report this Erin Andrews thing without figuring out who @ESPNSteve is and why he only joined Twitter two days ago.”

And lest you believe Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deistch fell for it: He had announced “the ACC tournament is the last scheduled assignment for Erin Andrews; her contract (and others) are coming up.”

Note that Deitsch’s tweet came roughly a half-hour before the “announcement” from “Steve”. And Deitsch also questioned the authenticity of “Steve”. “I never retweeted [him]… I report with my own sourcing.”

My guess is that “Steve” likely saw Deitsch’s initial tweet about Andrews’ “last scheduled assignment” and ran with it. In fact, he blatantly cut and pasted a large portion of that Deitsch tweet and then tweeted it as if it were his own news. “Steve” would follow that up with, “Folks, I stand by [my] previous tweet in regards to @ErinAndrews. She will be missed by everyone here at the ESPN staff.”

Then, the wheels started to fall off – correction, the rims were screeching on the asphalt at this point.

Josh Krulewitz from ESPN’s public relations department, confirmed that there is a “bogus report about Erin Andrews that people are retweeting,” while adding, “We’re hopeful to have her continue with ESPN.”

At around the same time, USA Today’s Michael Hiestand reached out to Worldwide Leader spokesman Mike Soltys who, like Krulewitz, confirmed the tweet from “Steve” was a fraud, and that they “hope to renew” their contract with Andrews when it eventually expires.

How does “Steve” answer? “Official press release in regards to former ESPN employee Erin Andrews,” followed by a link wrapped in a TinyURL web address, which links to a YouTube video titled “Zombie Kid Likes Turtles.”

Yep. He knew the “Steve” bit was dead.

So he tweeted that “after two days at ESPN, I’ve decided to retire,” then replied to Krulewitz’s tweet with, “YOU’RE NOT REAL MAN!!”, followed that up with a “breaking” news tweet, in all caps, that Krulewitz “has been terminated from ESPN effective immediately” (of course, how would he know, now that he’s ‘retired”), retweeted a tweet from someone claiming “Richard Deitsch has been had,” then signed off with three final tweets:

“I was hacked.”

“RIP @ESPNSteve 3/10/12–3/12/12”

“@ErinAndrews Wanna go on a date?”

And scene. The Twitter account of “@ESPNSteve” no longer exists. Whether a real ESPN employee had a hand in the removal of this account is not immediately known.

Clearly, this “Steve” character was the handiwork of one disturbed individual. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time Erin Andrews would be in the crosshairs of a disturbed individual during her tenure at ESPN.

Which is why whichever direction she goes – whether she takes her talent to the West Coast (FOX), one of the budding cable sports networks from CBS or NBC, or simply staying in Connecticut and re-upping with ESPN, which might have the best staff of lawyers amongst the aforementioned networks, who would prosecute harassing scumbags to the fullest extent of the law – is going to be a very crucial decision, which could greatly impact the next phase of her career.

And you didn’t need “Steve” to tell you that.


The following are the final notable tweets of “@ESPNSteve.” “Steve” is dead. Long live Twitter.





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