It started with an email in broken English. From what I could make out, someone wanted an old Twitter account I no longer use, and they wanted it because an online poll picked a name for an eagle that matched the twitter handle for it.
Oh, and this was all happening in France.
It took a few more emails to paint a fuller picture. A top-tier French soccer team from Nice has a mascot that is an eagle. The team’s website threw an online contest to name the mascot and they came up with “mefi” which is also the short nickname for my site, MetaFilter. They wanted the @mefi account to represent the bird, and the idea sounded silly enough that I was intrigued.
A couple years ago, I moved everything about MetaFilter over to a @metafilter account, which was one I setup soon after twitter came on the scene in 2007, but lost the email account it was attached to and couldn’t get it back until a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve left the old @mefi account dormant. Friends reminded me now that Twitter has over a quarter billion users, getting a good username is getting much tougher. New followers on my personal account frequently look something like “tinabobina1982sup”. Four letter Twitter names are pretty rare, and probably worth a lot of money they said. One friend said I should flat out ask for ten thousand dollars.
“You don’t understand” I told them “It’s an eagle, and it will be tweeting. That’s hilarious just on face value, right? I think I’m going to do it.” I told my friends. I did a bit more research and there’s some interesting things about the team mascot. Apparently the French sports federation banned the use of live animals in stadium demonstrations before games, and earlier this year as a form of protest, the team went ahead and brought out their falconer (eagler?) with the mascot, let it fly in a big formation above the crowd, and back down to the handler before a game. That’s pretty badass for a team from a town called Nice.
In the end, I agreed to hand over the account (they have the login and changed the password, but haven’t made a single tweet or even added their logos yet) and I didn’t ask for any payment. All I asked for was a couple team jerseys because I thought it’d make a fun story I could tell if anyone ever asked about the weird french shirt I might be wearing. Today, they arrived, signed by the players whose names/numbers are on the back.
Sometimes, the idea of a bird mascot being online tweeting about a sport I don’t follow on the other side of the world is worth more than ten thousand dollars.
Fly on, mighty Mèfi, fly on.