Sports history is littered with notable hoaxes. Here are the 10 best I found:
10. Bobby Knight's recruit
In January 1993, to mock recruiting coverage, then-Indiana coach Bob Knight announced on his television show that the Hoosiers had secured a commitment from 6-foot-8 Ivan Renko from Yugoslavia. Most Indiana media figured out the ruse quickly, but some recruiting services didn't. They began including Renko in their rankings.
9. Price of government bailout
In April 2009, a few months after the Great Recession struck and the U.S. government had begun proceedings to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, Car and Driver Magazine reported that the feds had ordered GM and Chrysler out of NASCAR, if those companies wanted to continue to receive government aid. Talk about your torn priorities for certain demographics.
8. Cricket outrage
To celebrate April Fool's 2009, Australia's Herald Sun newspaper reported that a Chinese company, Mekong Industries, had submitted a multimillion dollar proposal to rename the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. The cricket fans of Melbourne were outraged. They should have detected the hoax, which was fictitiously announced by a fictitious spokeswoman for the fictitious company. Her name was April Fulton.
7. Fish story
In 1978, Dave Heberle of the Erie (Pa.) Times wrote a story about a type of fishing thread so good, it didn't give the fish a sporting chance. The thread had been banned for use in trout fishing, subject to fine. Sporting good stores were besieged by customers. The Erie Times receiver over 500 calls. Heberle was fired.
6. Moldova soccer star
Through assorted blog posts, fake Associated Press reporters and Wikipedia tinkering, a fictitious 16-year-old from Moldova, Masal Bugduv, began climbing the charts of the world's best soccer prospects. Reputable soccer media like Goal.com and the magazine When Saturday Comes both mentioned Bugduv, and in January 2009, the hoax was complete — the Times of London included Bugduv on its list of the world's top 50 soccer prospects. The originator of the hoax remains a mystery.
5. Sabre-rattling draft
By the 11th round of the 1974 National Hockey League draft, Buffalo Sabres general manager George Imlach was weary of the slow-moving process. To spice it up, he drafted Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas from the Japan Hockey League. The league was real. The player and the team were not. In those simpler days, Imlach fielded questions about Tsujimoto for weeks before finally confessing to the hoax.
4. New York Packers
In April 1985, New York City controller Harrison Golden called a news conference to announce the city was buying the Green Bay Packers, using city retirement funds to replace the Giants and Jets, who had skipped to New Jersey the previous decade. Reporters from the New York Post and New York Daily News already had phoned in the story to their papers, when a press aide for Golden announced the ruse. The Post said if its press had already started running, it would have cost the paper $100,000 to correct.
3. Iron Man marathoner
In 1981, the Daily Mail, a London tabloid, reported that Japan's Kimo Nakajimi had entered the London Marathon but because of a translation error thought he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles, and was still somewhere out on the roads of England, determined to finish the race. The story was packaged as a “MAIL EXCLUSIVE.” I should hope so.
2. Sidd Finch
George Plimpton's April 1, 1985, story in Sports Illustrated proved the mighty bounds that people will believe. Former Harvard student, Buddhist monk-in-training, raised in a British orphanage, adopted by a archaeologist who later died in a Napal plane crash, learned to throw a baseball 168 mph while traveling in Tibet, in training camp with the Mets but conflicted by a desire to have a musical career playing the French horn. Plimpton found nothing too outrageous for some people to believe. On April 8, Sports Illustrated reported that Finch had retired from baseball. On April 15, SI reported that the story was fiction.
1. Plainfield Teacher's College
What started as simple call-in of scores to the New York and Philadelphia papers grew fangs as stockbroker Morris Newburger and radio announcer Bink Dannenbaum concocted all kinds of juicy details about fictional Plainfield Teacher's College and its star quarterback, Johnny Chung, a “Herculean Hawaiian.” For six weeks, coverage grew and grew, with papers reporting that Chung ate a bowl of rice between halves for extra energy and the team's “W” formation, which required the ends to face the backfield.