ORLANDO, Fla. -- UFC President Dana White was disgusted by what he watched on television during the Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Lakers NBA playoff series.
As players headed back to their respective locker rooms, kids lined the railing, hanging their hands down hoping to catch a lucky high-five from their favorite stars. But the kids were left empty-handed.
"How the hell do you walk by little kids who are holding their hands out and not high-five them when they're at your games and they are your fans and they're there," White asked me in a phone interview.
There is an undeniable growing disconnect between fans and professional sports.
Instances like that are a large part of the reason White recently announced that UFC will give away $5,000 incentives to its fighters for increasing followers and crafting creative twitter campaigns.
Tweeting is the virtual high-five from an athlete to a sports fan.
Or, if you're Reggie Bush, it can be the virtual middle finger from an athlete to the world.
Yes, we've heard some not so nice or bright things on twitter from athletes. News flash, they're human.
But considering the fact that there are thousands of athletes on twitter who use the device responsibly every day, I'd say the impact of social media in sports has been more good than bad.
Generally speaking, twitter provides fans with the best opportunity to be intimately acquainted with the minds and worlds of professional athletes they wouldn't otherwise get.
That's why I think White is smart to encourage his fighters to engage more with fans through social media.
The UFC has almost exclusively built its audience through chat rooms, Facebook and more recently twitter. Unlike most mainstream sports, the UFC promotes a culture of connection.
Even White makes himself readily accessible to his 1.4 million followers. When fans tweet about problems with a cable-provider in Iowa or have problems with their tickets at an event, he's able to address and correct the problems immediately.
"All this stuff that back in the old days you wouldn't know until Monday when it's too late, we actually handle that night," White said. "Fixed."
And unlike the NFL and NBA, UFC fighters are allowed to tweet before, during and after their fights. Although, I don't know why a fighter would think about tweeting during a fight after taking a head-butt.
As for controversial tweets, White doesn't believe in censorship. These are adult men and women accountable for their own words.
Barring any obscene remarks about race or sex, his 300-plus fighters are allowed to have and share their thoughts, opinions and beliefs with their followers.
"You're gonna have people with different beliefs, different religions, different ways of looking at things, you're gonna have guys that are conspiracy theorists and think all this crazy (stuff) is going on with the government," White said. "Part of living in America is the ability to have free speech."
I'm all for respectful, free speech. More than that, I'm all for ways of improving interaction between fans and their favorite athletes and, or teams.
The NFL lockout, pending NBA lockout, sky-rocketing costs to attend a game and celebrity exclusive events like NBA All-Star games and Super Bowls are constant reminders that the gap between professional sports and fans is growing.
Twitter is the first and maybe last real, direct form of connection between fans and athletes. Why should anybody be against that?