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Did ESPN's 'SportsCenter' Take A Spygate Shot At Patriots On Twitter?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- We live in a world with, frankly, far too many emojis. Whether you're getting a text from your mom, or a follow-up from a friend, or a response from a lady or a fella whom you're trying to impress, a reply that consists solely of a small icon with an ambiguous meaning can often lead to hours upon hours of torment while trying to discern the meaning.

There are just too many emojis.

That issue translates to Twitter, of course, where the 140-character count makes points difficult to state clearly -- and that's without the addition of upside-down smileys and the like.

And that was the case late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, when ESPN's "SportsCenter" account sent out the following tweet:

Now as someone with a deep history of seeing insults lobbed at the Patriots via Twitter (it is, by and large, my job), I saw this immediately as a Spygate dig. It came roughly eight minutes after Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor signaled to the sideline to say he could not hear the call in his helmet, and eight minutes in social media land is the perfect amount of time for a corporate account to recognize a trending topic and try to cash in with a funny tweet. Forget the fact that the Bills, just a few short weeks ago, had their headsets go out because they forgot to bring batteries, and forget the fact that it's a league controlled thing anyway. This is Twitter, and Twitter likes to pounce.

And considering most of the country would get a kick out of such a comment, it's fair to have assumed that the meaning of the tweet had to do with Spygate.

(There's also a longstanding issue with ESPN's reporting regarding the Patriots, going back to January with false PSI reports, extending through the year with SportsCenter anchors and graphics operators falsely discussing filmed practices, and culminating with an 11,000 word "report" which allowed 80-plus anonymous sources to speak freely about things they "felt" or "believed" the Patriots do as part of a "cheating program." So ... there's a history here.)

But wait! Many on the social media machine were quick to note that perhaps -- perhaps -- the tweet was a reference to all of the painstakingly long replay reviews that took place during the game. There were, unofficially, four replay reviews during the game, as well as an extended delay as Gene Steratore tried to figure out just how to dig himself out of a hole created by his side judge for randomly blowing his whistle like a god dang buffoon in the middle of a play.

By that theory, the emoji-centric tweet could be translated, roughly, to say this: Football, replay review, football, replay review, football, replay review, football, replay review, football, replay review, football.

That's like ... deep, man.

It's a fair interpretation, I suppose, but at the same time, since when does a camcorder emoji represent a replay review in the NFL? It is used much more often to mean something is being recorded or filmed or streamed. When you hover the mouse over that emoji, your web browser tells you that it's a video camera.

SportsCenter Tweet

And if we dig deep -- realllll deep -- into the world of emojis, we would find this definition on Emojipedia, which is apparently a real thing that exists:

"A consumer video camera, used to record home movies in the 1980s and 1990s."

Not to toot my own horn, but I believe I just blew this case wide open.

If the goal was to say "We're watching a lot of replays," wouldn't the television screen be more apt?

Was this some more misbehavior from someone at a network with a questionable history with the Patriots? Was this simply an old person trying to be hip and not knowing the right buttons to push? Or, worse, is it someone who did not update his or her iOS??

It is a great mystery, the true meaning of this tweet, and it's one for which we may not get an answer ... unless the new "public editor," a die-hard Jets fan who refers to his favorite team as "we" and "us" on the Internet, gets to the bottom of it and gives us all a thorough explanation.


At 4:31 p.m. on Tuesday, 16 hours after the initial tweet, the SportsCenter account said ... it was a joke about the replay reviews! Whew! Glad that one's cleared up. (It still makes little sense, because, you know, that's a video camera, but party on.)

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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