How tweet it is: Colts owner Irsay relishes chance to connect

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Colts linebacker Clint Session missed practice, team owner Jim Irsay let everyone know. When he was touting a Colts promotion, Irsay said he would fly in the winner from anywhere because, hey, "this is the NFL" and he takes his "dreammaking seriously!"

And when an earthquake was reported in Indiana, Irsay declared that Lucas Oil Stadium "was built 2 rock N she loves 2 roll!"

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan might be a master of the podium, but Irsay, as you can tell from the syntax, prefers Twitter. And he might very well be the only NFL owner tweeting these days.

It took some persuading to get Irsay, 51, who still prefers crinkled newspapers and hardcover books to the Internet and Kindles, to join the twitterati.

"The young folks in the office were trying to get me do it, and I said, 'Oh, I don't know.' Then my daughter Kalen said, 'You should do it,'" Irsay said. "When I got a vision of what it might be about, I said 'I'll go forward.'"

Now he can't stop.

Since opening his account Dec. 1, Irsay has posted an average of four dozen tweets per day, some of them saltier than others. He has more than 21,000 followers, some of whom hope to win free tickets from Irsay's continual contests. This week's big prize: Owner's box passes for Saturday's AFC wild-card playoff game against the Jets.

Irsay's Twitter feed is a far cry from being an extension of the Colts' public-relations office, nor does it reflect stark statements from a stodgy NFL owner trying to be careful in a year where labor disagreements threaten next season.

Irsay listens to everything from The Beatles to Pink Floyd to Pearl Jam, and he has written his own poetry, songs and short stories. Like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, guitar player Irsay touts his favorite songs and bands.

Unafraid to wonder "R u trippin?" in his tweets, Irsay has made some tongue-in-cheek, eyebrow-raising comments for a man running a multimillion-dollar franchise, including:

» "THIS JUST IN...Fake Irsay slaughtered near Overtown,Fla..Chief Deputy Capitain at Sargent of Kernal arms said'He cried like a Wussiebastard!"

» "Don't ever mix NiQuil and Ambien...it'll give U gas and u might end up on Capitol Hill."

» "I'm beginning to hear voices...and there's no one around...."

» "OK...Let's shut it down folks,need energy tomorrow..Boxers Bed Rules apply...no,ahh,well,you know the deal,real sleep,sheets stay clean!"

If there's a mission for Irsay in tweeting, it might be in revamping the image of league owners, at least a bit.

"I think NFL owners are perceived not to be regular people and that you can't have a regular conversation with them," the Colts owner said Wednesday night. "I think it's never good if leaders are out of touch. The public wants people who are down to earth."

Irsay certainly fits the description.

He held virtually every job from ball boy to general manager, working his way up during an almost 25-year apprenticeship in the family business. Along the way, Irsay figured out what it took to win, on and off the field, and developed a keen appreciation for pop music and American literature.

As for the Colts, he provides daily practice reports and announces transactions even before the team does. On Monday, Irsay started lobbying for Jim Caldwell to be named coach of the year and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to win co-defensive players of the year.

And the players are paying attention.

"I just started (tweeting) a little while ago, and he tweets a lot," running back Dominic Rhodes said. "Sometimes, I wonder if the guy ever sleeps. Should anything be off limits? Nah, it's his team. He can do whatever he wants."

Irsay insists he doesn't intend to become the football version of outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but his posts do occasionally include intentionally coded messages.

"Sometimes I've made some very pointed comments that go with the team or the league, and sometimes they are hidden very severely," he said. "I never send out a tweet without a reason. But I've communicated directly about our team and league issues when appropriate."

That part won't change, and, in fact, could expand.

Irsay's biggest offseason move will be re-signing Peyton Manning to a contract that likely will keep the quarterback in Indianapolis for the rest of his career. It's possible, Irsay acknowledged, the announcement could come via Twitter.

"Obviously, he's about winning championships," Caldwell said. "That's what this organization is all about. That's what he is all about."

Will Irsay run afoul of the league with his tweetin' ways? He hasn't discussed the subject with Commissioner Roger Goodell, but Irsay said NFL spokesmen have read his comments and laughed about them.

For an organization that discouraged players from tweeting at training camp in 2009 and forbade reporters from tweeting at all during training-camp practices, Irsay's new hobby has opened up a whole new world of communication. The owner follows his players' posts and sometimes retweets them, players are following Irsay, and he gets to have direct conversations with his fans.

"I have a couple of friends who laugh and say 'I don't follow you (on Twitter) because I follow you in person and I still don't know what the hell you're talking about,'" Irsay said.

"To me, it's about a connection to the community, it's about writing, it's many, many, many short stories, and there's a connectiveness to it all," Irsay added. "You can say whatever you want to say without having it filtered."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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