I Follow: Bob Ley

Editor’s note: “I Follow” is all about ESPN employees on Twitter: what they tweet, whom they follow and how you can interact socially with anyone and everyone.

Jack-of-all trades Bob Ley is host of ESPN’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 coverage. The Outside The Lines host is also a huge soccer fan, and served as conductor of on-site studio coverage of FIFA World Cup from South Africa.

Ley began work at ESPN on its third day of operation (Sept. 9, 1979), so he’s seen it all.

He took some time out from his myriad duties in Germany to talk to Front Row about his Twitter experiences.

Twitter handle: @BobLeyESPN
ESPN Job: Outside the Lines anchor and World Cup host
Followers: 35,760*
Following: 1,072* (as of 7/7/11)

FR: Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and why?

BL: I follow many other journalists on Twitter, because they often post their news and latest updates/blogs on there, and nary a day goes by that (if I have time to keep an eye on my timeline) I don’t learn something that helps me for that particular day’s show.  I follow politicians, athletes, sports executives, official league sites. And, I have to admit, once I figured Twitter out, I delved into guilty pleasure.  So, yes, I follow Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton).

Last year at the World Cup in South Africa, I knew she was en route to the country to watch the cup.  As fate would have it, we were dining in the great restaurant attached to our hotel in Johannesburg that night, and as we were walking out, there was a burst of flashbulbs up ahead of us.

It was Paris Hilton and Leo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) leaving the restaurant a few strides in front of us — being greeted by the South African paparazzi.   By the time I got up to my room, she had Tweeted about her meal. (And the next day she was cited for drug possession.  She didn’t Tweet about that.)

FR: How easy was it for you to embrace Twitter?

BL: I took a little bit to figure it out. The key question you have to answer for yourself is ‘why’.  Why do you want to use Twitter?  For me, it’s to help promote whatever I’m working on — and to use it as a tool to gather opinions, facts, and news from reputable sources.

FR: Do you have colleagues you haven’t been able to convert to Tweeting?
BL: Yes, there are some Luddites who resist the onslaught of technology.   But the value in our everyday work, I think, will eventually win them over.  And you know who you are.

FR: What’s been your strangest encounter on Twitter?

BL: It’s nice to connect on Twitter with fellow soccer fans, such as NBA MVP Steve Nash (@SteveNash), and my far flung colleagues.  I can also count on that noted Twitter arriviste Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLaslas) to chime in with a witty remark.

FR: Do you have a favorite Tweet, either one of your own or from someone else?

BL: I posted a photo on my Twitpic timeline showing our ‘Big Blue’ unit in the Markplatz in Heidelberg [see below], against the backdrop of the castle that looms over Heidelberg (it dates from 1216).

FR: How many times have you visited Germany and what are your impressions of this visit?

BL: This is actually my first visit to Germany and we are enjoying it immensely:  the history and evocative landmarks (such as the Wall, Brandenberg Gate, and Checkpoint Charlie) in Berlin — the heartbreaking story of Dresden, where ancient buildings still are scarred from the firebombing of 1945,  the enduring beauty of Heidelberg that caused Mark Twain to spend months and inspired some of his best writing.  The food is superb, the people very welcoming, and their love of soccer (football) so palpable.  It’s a great three weeks.

FR: Compare your preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with getting ready for this summer’s Women’s World Cup.

BL: The greater challenge for 2011 has been the lack of global information on the players in the 2011 World Cup, as compared to the men’s World Cup.  Our research department has certainly risen to the occasion.  Paul Carr, Mark Young, and Jonathan Costa have assembled a brilliant compendium of work.

FR: What Women’s World Cup story interests you most?

BL: Brazil and Germany are fascinating in different ways.  The Brazilians play so few games, comparatively, yet in Marta have the greatest singular talent in the game.  Still, with two Olympic silvers and a World Cup runner up trophy, they’ve been frustrated on the world stage.   And the Germans have shown the same clinical sense of organization and skill in maintaining their level of play across the better part of a decade.  How they manage the ongoing story of Birgit Prinz will be fascinating.