Players: Russell Crowe; Crowe Twitter follower @picknic11; Eli Roth; the media.

Opening Serve: Nicola, a Russell Crowe fan with the Twitter handle @picknic11 replied to the actor's comment on Twitter last week, "Village, i know it's hard to see beyond the circle of pain we build or circumstances dictate, but, on this day, make someone else smile ok?" Nicola wrote in response: "Speaking of, my son is due soon. Do you think I should get him circumstanced?" 
 
According to several sources, including The Atlantic's Jefferey Goldberg, Crowe responded with this, now deleted, tweet: "Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. How are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect." The Hollywood Reporter detailed the following back and forth, which looked like this:
 
- When one follower wrote, "There's actually a scientific reason for [circumcision], u should google it," Crowe replied: "My friend, 'human' science has caused too much damage, don't be a moron."
- When one follower called the practice hygenic, Crowe replied, "Hygenic? Why don't you sew up your ass then?"
- "many jewish friends, I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies @eliroth" he wrote to his Man With an Iron Fist director. (Snapped back Roth on Twitter: "You didn't seem to be complaining when I was recutting you this afternoon…")
- "I will always stand for the perfection of babies, i will always believe in God, not man's interpretation of what God requires."
- "last of it, if u feel it is yr right 2 cut things off yr babies please unfollow and f**k off,I'll take attentive parenting over barbarism."
- One follower asked if he was "comparing sexual mutilation w/ a jewish ceremonial act?!” Crowe wrote: "Can you actually read the words you just typed 'a ceremonial act', F--- that. The Mayans had ceremonial acts too.”
- "Abortion should always be a woman's choice, there is no benefit to 'forced' motherhood...you got it? don't like it then bye."
 
Return Volley: It didn't take long for The Telegraph, The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, The Daily Mail and The Atlantic to be all over this spat, prompting all parties involved to walk back their comments.
 
Roth issued a multi-tweet defense of his friend Crowe over the weekend, urging followers, "DO NOT BELIEVE THE BULLSHIT! @russellcrowe is a great person, respectful of all religions. It was a joke to a friend"..."The whole fun of twitter is to have a real, open exchange with fans. NOT ONE MEDIA OUTLET CONTACTED EITHER OF US to see if it was a joke"..."@THR @Huffpost @TheAtlantic - why are NONE OF YOU doing ANY FACT CHECKING? We're on twitter - you can ask EITHER OF US. You POISON his name." And, finally, "@THR HOW DARE YOU call @russellcrowe antisemitic? What is WRONG with you? We are FRIENDS. Friends joke and tease each other. This is SICK."
 
Nicola also jumped to Crowe's defense, insisting that even his initial tweet about getting his son "circumstanced" was a joke. "So, um, my lame little joke to Russell Crowe seems to have blown up a bit," she tweeted, referring to the media frenzy surrounding their conversation. "It was just a joke. You might notice I didn't spell it correctly. On purpose. Due to it being a joke," she clarified for one Tweeter's response to her opening question. 
 
Crowe, on the other hand, chose to apologize, but hardly wrote his comments off as a joke. "Wasn't intending offense, certainly wasn't intending to provide fodder for lazy journalists. I can't apologize for my heartfelt belief," he tweeted. He went on to insist that "I have a deep and abiding love for all people of all nationalities, I'm very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress" and "my personal beliefs aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry." Crowe also deleted his original anti-circumcision tweets.
 
What They Say the Fight's About: What starts off looking like a fight between Russell Crowe, a fan and friend Eli Roth, quickly turns into a fight between those three and the several media outlets that covered the spat. The news sites on the story portray Crowe's comments as anti-semitic but Roth, picknic and Crowe insist this is untrue and that the journalists perpetuating that idea are at fault for being "lazy."
 
What the Fight's Really About:  In the oh-so public 140-character world of Twitter, words are what matter, not the writer's intent. So, whether Crowe & Co. were joking is irrelevant because, even if misinformed, several news sites published articles about Russell Crowe's "anti-semitic Twitter rant." Even though Crowe removed his own tweets, these damning articles are on the Internet to stay, showing up immediately when the actor's name is Googled. Also, while Roth insisted several times that Crowe's words were not sincere, Crowe himself said nothing of the sort. He simply apologized for offending anyone with his "heartfelt belief," which makes it sound like he meant what he said. 
 
Who's Winning Now: Does anyone really ever win these fights? Of course not. Crowe certainly is not winning as, regardless of the truth, he has now been painted as something between a loudmouth and an anti-Semite which, combined with his earlier reputation for being a loose cannon, cannot be good for his image. The media, which are really the other contenders here, don't stand to lose much since, as we continue to learn, what's true on the Internet one day rarely remains so for very long.