Social media spotlight burns Beasley

Michael Beasley can't catch a break online.

At the end of August, Beasley harmlessly posted a photo of his new tattoo on Twitter; "SupercoolBeas" stretched out across his broad upper back, with sunglasses hanging off the "S." But behind Beasley in that photo were two plastic baggies on a coffee table. Some inferred they contained marijuana. Yet, the contents of the bags were near impossible to see, and there was never any confirmation it was weed, just speculation. But for an athlete in an image-conscious age -- and one who was in a room where marijuana was found at the NBA's rookie symposium before last season, and was fined for it -- the die had been cast.

Beasley closed up that Twitter account shortly after, but not before rifling off a series of tweets:

"Y do I feel like the whole world is against me!!!!!!! Back on my ---!!!!! I can't win for losin!!!!!!!!!!"
"Feelin like it's not worth livin!!!!!!! I'm done"
"not feelin this at all!!!!!"

Beasley then checked into a rehabilitation facility on the Heat's recommendation, to address possible substance and psychological issues. All this came to pass after what appeared to simply be a photo of Beasley showing off his tattoo. He gave us that access we can't get anywhere else, the access that makes social media so distinct, but as we're sometimes seeing when athletes open up their private lives on Twitter, it came at a cost.

On Sept. 25, after his stay in the rehab facility, the Heat forward apologized to the team and told the media he isn't addicted to drugs, nor is he depressed.

But Beasley's online photo problems surfaced again. On Saturday, TMZ.com posted a photo of Beasley asleep on a boat with his shirt off, next to a woman who also appeared to be asleep. Beer bottles were littered on the table in front of him. But, the Heat were quick to dismiss any wrongdoing; the official word is that Beasley was on that boat for a team fishing trip, his counselor was on the boat with him and he didn't consume any alcohol. He was simply catching a snoozer after a morning practice. Beasley told The Miami Herald it was a fan who snapped the photos. Neither the team nor the NBA will discipline him, and the team said he did nothing wrong.

Yet, that won't stop those who saw the photo out of context, or don't buy what the Heat are selling, from thinking Beasley had fallen off the wagon. This photo reinforced the perception people now have of Beasley, even if it's not an accurate account of what happened on the boat.

In a span of a few months, Beasley has now seen both sides of the coin: self-media has created a controversy, as has the random fan with the camera.

And his situation is yet another indication that for all the barriers social media has broken down, all the closer connections we have to athletes who weren't prevalent even a year ago, it has harmed some -- even if that was far from their original intention.

Join 'em

Anyone remember when Tony La Russa sued Twitter over a fake account in which someone was impersonating him? It, in part, led to the service getting its act together, as the Twitter team started putting verified account seals on celebrity accounts.

Well, how bout this one? Tony La Russa is now on Twitter. So far, he's tweeted about his animal rescue initiative and seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. If he accidentally posts an embarrassing photo, I'll be sure to let you know.

Ochocinco slashes prices

In last week's column, there was some debate over the price of Chad Ochocinco's iPhone app. It seemed a bit pricey at $4.99 for what was offered -- but Rock Software, the company that made the application, said the reason for the price was that it had no advertisements associated with it, adding that the days of the free app are coming to a close and a one-time fee of $4.99 wasn't so bad.

Well, the price seems to have reached a happy medium: It's now going for $2.99, a move Ochocinco said was made "due to the hardships of today's economy."

What a guy.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.