With an unprecedented number of people having watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, and an equally unprecedented foray into social media interaction by advertisers, Twitter was inundated with retweets, pictures, and links. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers are among the most popular and historic teams in the NFL, and people from all around the world gathered to take in the sight that is sport’s greatest championship.
The Fail Whale has become an iconic image associated with Twitter overload. The cute, esoteric picture is as successful attempt as possible to calm the frustrations of users who cannot connect. At memorable moments in our very recent cultural history the Fail Whale has made in appearance. The death of Michael Jackson sent Twitter into a frenzy and it promptly shut down. Courtney Love was rumoured to cause a more recent overload when she tweeted a scandalous photo. Justin Bieber has been blamed for an outage as well, and during the World Cup in the summer of 2010, users were warned of a potential overload while fans were watching the finale.
Which brings us back to the Super Bowl. The NFL encouraged fans to use the hashtag #NFL and followed the game online between plays. Advertisers promoted their own twitter accounts and trends, as discussed earlier this week. Before being prompted by companies, football fans flocked to twitter, following their favourite athletes and commentators during the game.
Football is the perfect sport to simultaneously watch and tweet about. The game is intense and exciting, but there is a half minute between most plays, and commercials break up change of possessions and scores. This gives people amply opportunity to open their Twitter and see what’s going on while adding their only commentary. At no point should anyone miss a play in the game while they are online, which is not the case in hockey or basketball. It also helps that the Super Bowl is more than just a sporting event. The game captures the attention of the most casual of fans, while others wach for the commercials, the music, and the overall spectacle.
The question then becomes, can Twitter handle the Super Bowl? It is hard to imagine that the folks over at Twitter haven’t take as many precautions as possible in ensuring they do not get overloaded with tweets. However, you cannot predict what will happen in the game, and with endless possibilities, the watching world may erupt in unparalleled chaos. The game could have erupted into overtime, which has never happened in Super Bowl history; there are also new overtime rules in the NFL this postseason that would have surely elicited questions and advice from around the world. Halftime performances are the show within the show, and history has shown that the unexpected (Bruce Springsteen sliding into a camera), and the salacious (Janet Jackson), are possible. There are also commercials, which pull out all the stops and are a whole separate story the following day.
The unpredictability of the four-plus hour event offers a myriad of opportunities to shut down Twitter. Putting it another way, it should be a prop bet made on the game, joining such inane picks like how long the National Anthem will take to be sung, will the coin flip be heads or tails, and what colour Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach?
Which way did you et?