Manti Te’o and The 5 Best Hoaxes of Sports’ Past

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Hoaxes Prevalent in Sports

Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

With the outing of LB Manti Te'o of Notre Dame yesterday by Deadspin.com as a victim of a hoax, perpetrator of a hoax, or just a liar in general, there remains many arguments and spins on this story that we can not even count. This story is bizarre, and if Te'o and Notre Dame are now telling the truth, he would be the victim of one of the most intriguing hoaxes sports has known.

As a quick recap, Te'o met a girl, Lannay Kekua, in 2009 after Notre Dame's defeat against Stanford. They talked on the phone and online for a couple years, became friends and fell in love. That is the basic gist of their story, until the twists and turns that make up the rest of the story unfolds and leaves you wondering how anyone could possibly be subjected to such a hoax.

Kekua was supposedly in a car accident in 2012, when doctors supposedly discovered she had leukemia, then she died in September 2012. The bizarre fact of the matter remains that if Kekua existed, and if Te'o was truly in love with her, why did he not visit her after her accident, or go to her funeral? Why only talk with her on the phone or online? If I loved someone tremendously, I would be there for her when she needed me.

Now, this is only a quick grasp of the situation, and I am one inclined to not pass judgement until the facts are in. Notre Dame came out in support of Te'o and stated that he was the victim of a hoax. If that is the case, then Te'o must be the most gullible person in the world. If that isn't the case, then Te'o only presented the story to receive Heisman Trophy votes.

Either way, this brings back memories of some other notable hoaxes that the sports world has encountered throughout the years. So I will take some time to refresh your memories of five hoaxes that were huge when they were discovered. It seems as if it will be some time before the Te'o story really unfolds, so sit back, enjoy, and kudos to Deadspin.com for breaking this story and giving us once more a chance to put our super sleuth senses into action!

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Everyone Loves a Hot Tennis Player

Tennis
Jerry Lai-USA today Sports

Sports Illustrated has actually been known to play some jokes on the sports world over the years. In this instance, the magazine released an article in 2002 that played on the senses of young men everywhere that were getting ready to crowd the tennis court. Everyone knows the names of Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and the Williams' sisters. SI was ready to unveil the newest find, Simonya Popova.

This sexy, hot, young superstar of tennis was only 17 years old and came from Uzbekistan. The magazine talked her up and the very idea of this blonde "superstar" flooding the tennis world sent everyone scouring the internet looking for more. Unfortunately, SI revealed that she was nothing more than a computer generated fantasy that was a hoax.

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The Dark 'Knight'

NCAA
Evan Habeeb-USA Today Sports

Coach Bob Knight is considered one of the best college basketball coaches, and he had no love lost for recruits. So what did Knight do? In 1993, he told a talk show that he found a Yugoslavian born player named Ivan Renko, who was 6-8, and had committed to his program at Indiana.

The recruiting services that he had no patience for were not very quick to catch the joke, as they placed Renko in their rankings and even evaluated his play. The joke was on them as they finally realized, after everyone else, that Knight was pranking them. Just goes to show that even smart recruits can fall victim to ranking a player they have never seen.

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A Dream Complete

NCAAF
Kelley L. Cox-USA Today Sports

It is every high school football player's dream to be recruited by top colleges around the country. In this instance, OL Kevin Hart, from Nevada, decided that if he was not going to be recruited by a Division I football team, then that team would be recruited by him.

Hart held a press conference in 2008 to announce that he had "chosen" Cal-Berkeley as his college of choice over Oregon. The only problem was the fact that he had not been recruited by Cal, Oregon, or any other Division I school. While many had thought at first that maybe he was the victim, Hart acknowledged that he was the one who put the hoax together in order to have his fifteen minutes of fame. And everyone thinks it's only the skill position players that are eccentric.

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Marathon Subway Rider?

Boston
Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

It is an amazing feat when you can run the Boston Marathon for the first time and complete it with the best time ever for a woman. That is exactly what Rosie Ruiz claims she did in 1980, when she finished the run with a time of 2:31:56. The run was only her second marathon, the first being the New York Marathon a year earlier, and nobody ever saw her coming, literally.

Both runners that were told they were in first and second place, never saw Ruiz pass, and a couple spectators saw her come out of the crowd a couple miles earlier. In the New York Marathon, a woman even witnessed Ruiz on a subway during the race, when she claimed she had hurt her ankle. Surprisingly, Ruiz finished that run in 11th place which earned her the right to run in Boston. Of course, marathon officials deemed Ruiz and her finish as a hoax, and whether it was by subway, car, bus, or any other means, it just goes to show that some people will go to great lengths to be famous.

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Mets Fans Fall Victim to Hope

MLB
Andrew B. Fielding-USA Today Sports

It is bad enough in most years to be a New York Mets fan in general. It is even worse when a magazine like Sports Illustrated wants to rub in the fact that Mets fans may not be the smartest in the world. In 1985, the Mets were flush with starting pitching like Dwight Gooden, Roger McDowell, Sid Fernandez and others. They were poised to be a powerhouse in the NL East for years to come. Then SI decided to post an article on April 1, 1985 that left Mets fans clamoring for the next best thing.

The article, deemed, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch", stated that a young man named Sidd Finch was practicing with the Mets and could throw unhittable strikes at 168MPH. This was due to the fact that he was able to master control of his mind and body in a yogic practice he learned in Tibet. But if you look at the following text that appears in the subheading of George Plimpton's article, you will see the joke was on unsuspecting Mets fans:

"He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball."

The first letter of each word spelled out a distinct message to fans:

"Happy April Fools Day"

Just the final reminder that even in print, things are not always what they seem.

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