In the age of Twitter, everyone's an NFL reporter
Seahawks fan Davis Hsu spotted quarterback Alex Smith in the San Francisco airport, about to board the same flight he was taking to South Florida. Hsu got on the plane and tweeted, breaking the news that Smith was on his way to talk with the Miami Dolphins.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It wasn't long before midnight Saturday when Davis Hsu saw Alex Smith sitting in the San Francisco airport, waiting to board an overnight flight to Miami.
Hsu's nieces thought Smith was cute (hot, actually). Hsu is a football fan, so he knew that Smith's presence on their Virgin America flight to South Florida was a piping-hot piece of NFL news.
How hot? Well, Hsu tweeted that news after midnight, and by the next morning a cameraman from a South Florida newspaper was waiting in Fort Lauderdale to snap a photo of Smith as he disembarked to go meet with the Dolphins.
It's a remarkable story, really. One that shows not only the speed with which news travels today, but demonstrates how quickly things changed in the league's quarterback market this year.
Just a week earlier, Smith was considered a virtual certainty to remain in San Francisco. He was the starter who won 13 regular-season games last year and led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke had gushed over him, but the news the 49ers worked out Peyton Manning last week muddled everything. Was Smith going to be available, and if so, who would be interested?
This is where Hsu comes in. He's a realtor who lives in the Rose Hill area of Kirkland with his wife and two kids. He's a passionate Seahawks fan. He writes for FieldGulls.com, a Seahawks blog, and Hsu could be diagnosed as clinically obsessive on subjects such as Seattle's acquisition of undrafted rookie free agents.
He was headed to Miami with his older sister and her family for a cruise to the Bahamas, and looking around the Virgin America waiting area, he noticed a 6-foot-5 former No. 1 overall draft pick sitting nearby.
"I was pretty sure it was him," Hsu said.
He and his nieces consulted Google. They were positive. When Hsu boarded the flight, there was Smith sitting in Row 1. Hsu moved on back to Row 14, and thanks to the magic of in-flight wireless he tweeted the news, directing it to a trio of people who cover the Seahawks or have connections to the team.
Hsu knew of the speculation the Seahawks could be interested in Smith should he become an unrestricted free agent. Hsu didn't know why Smith was headed to Miami, but he wanted to make sure Seattle's brain trust was aware Smith was out and about. The Seahawks already knew, but it was a revelation to people trying to follow the news in the NFL.
The Dolphins had just finished hosting Matt Flynn, and Hsu's eyewitness report demonstrated Miami hadn't settled on a quarterback. By Sunday afternoon, Flynn had agreed to join Seattle.
The ripples of Hsu's eyewitness account carried across the country, to disbelieving 49ers fans who accused him of making something up to cause an uproar in the Bay Area, to a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Thanks to Hsu's report, the paper had a photographer in position to click Smith's picture as he left the airport.
Niners fans wanted proof it was Smith. They asked for a picture.
"And I'm not above doing that," Hsu joked.
But it was too dark, and Smith was asleep. By the time Hsu was off the plane, there was no sign of Smith. All Hsu had was a heck of a story and a Twitter following that had increased from about 800 to more than 1,200 and a piece of NFL news that had everyone in the league talking.
"I had to tell people, 'I will never break any news,' " Hsu said. "I tweet about the Huskies and the Seahawks."
But on Sunday morning, he had the ears of many NFL reporters, who learned of Miami's interest in Smith from Hsu's tweet.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org