Who would do such a thing?

group of people wearing black face mask

Do these people all live together, or have they decided that making free-use photos for WordPress is more essential than social distancing? Also, color me skeptical that the photographer shares a name with a Breaking Bad villain. (Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com)

After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, news circulated online that fitness celebrity John Basedow — he of the once-ubiquitous Fitness Made Simple commercials — had been vacationing in Phuket, Thailand and was presumed dead.

He was not. About a month after the disaster, a note on the front page of the Fitness Made Simple website assured fitness fans that John Basedow was alive, unharmed, and had never even been to Thailand.

There’s nothing funny about the actual tsunami, obviously. But if John Basedow did not die in it — and John Basedow did not die in it — it means that upon learning of one of the deadliest disasters in human history, someone somewhere invented the story of John Basedow’s untimely demise and went through the trouble of disseminating it online. And that, I think, is kind of funny — not the hoax itself so much as the decision to enact it. Because: Why?


At the Big East tournament the next year (or maybe the year after that, but sometime before smartphones became ubiquitous), a friend and I discussed at some length the John Basedow death hoax and its ability to spread unchecked in the wake of the tsunami. So during a dull part in a game, he picked up his BlackBerry, looked at it, and said, loudly, “Wow, Clyde Drexler died. Police suspect foul play.” The people behind us overheard and expressed their disbelief, and then you could hear it sort of echoing its way back through the seats, in grim tones, “Clyde Drexler… Clyde Drexler… Clyde Drexler.”

Maybe death is not something that should ever be falsified, and maybe I should not now confess my role in the Great Clyde Drexler Death Hoax of 2006. I’m not saying it’s something I’m especially proud of, only that it’s something that happened. Me and my friend successfully convinced a handful of people that Clyde Drexler had died, just to see if we could.

Hoaxes exist in many forms. Some — those that are purely self-serving on behalf of the hoaxer — are easy to figure out. Manti Te’o and his friend made up the story of Lennay Kekua because Te’o stood to benefit from it in the form of fawning magazine profiles and SportsCenter segments. Kellyanne Conway said the “Bowling Green Massacre” happened because she didn’t have enough actual examples to forward her xenophobic agenda. I have no trouble deciphering why such things would come to be.

But this pandemic has brought with it a handful of more baffling hoaxes, and elements of at least four of them have at some point been earnestly passed along to me by friends or family members trying to be helpful. The first came more than a month ago, right after the NBA shut down, when everything seemed like it was spinning off the rails. It said, basically, that a friend of a friend who was a cop said that the city was preparing to quarantine all of Manhattan by closing every bridge and tunnel.

That one kind of felt like it might just be a game of telephone gone awry. The city, clearly, really was preparing for a shutdown like the one we’re currently enduring, and perhaps someone misunderstood that to mean shutting down all points of egress. I recognized it as ridiculous — more than 1.5 million people live in Manhattan, and we would pretty quickly run out of food without the use of bridges and tunnels — and soon found tweets from the NYPD that referenced and dismissed the rumor.

Then there’s this one: Since January, apparently, people have been circulating an image online explaining that standard surgical masks are reversible, and that sick people should wear them with the colored side out to prevent transmission of the virus and healthy people should wear them with the colored side in to prevent germs from penetrating the masks. It has made the rounds in multiple languages and on multiple continents and has persisted for months, and it’s complete hokum. Surgical masks are not reversible. They are made to be worn with the colored side out, always, by everyone.

I wish I could offer some grand conclusion to this post, but I’ve got nothing. The question posed in the headline is a genuine one: Who the hell would make something like that up, and why? Is it someone who really thinks he or she has figured out a better, more effective way to wear surgical masks? Does it mean to sow chaos by trying to publicly codify the sick and the healthy? Or is it, like the deaths of John Basedow and Clyde Drexler, just something someone made up to see if they could get other people to believe it?



Shaquille O’Neal is launching his own line of vodka — sensationally titled “Luv Shaq.”… We’re told Luv Shaq comes in coconut flavor, and the bottle features an image of O’Neal with giant wings.

New York Post.

I could care less about the coconut flavored vodka. It’s the “image of O’Neal with giant wings” I’m going to need. Preferably blown up and framed, hanging across from Vin Diesel and Usher Riding Into Battle on a Chariot Pulled by White Tigers.

Man, I love Shaq.

Via Catsmeat.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: More sports

Via email, Bill asks:

What would you name the new seven-team, basketball-focused conference rising from the ashes of the Big East?

Honestly, it’s really hard to keep track of what’s happening with all this, and whether they’ll have the ability to dissolve the conference, to keep the name Big East, to keep their automatic tournament bids, and which teams they’ll be able to bring on from outside the conference. I believe it’ll be more than seven teams when the dust settles though, so you can’t go with “the Magnificent Seven” or anything like that.

If they’re all Catholic schools in the new league, maybe there could be a tie-in there, like “The Big Priest” or something. Alternately, I kind of like “The Medium Sized East.” CATCH THE FEVER!

I do. Dirk Hayhurst’s The Bullpen Gospels was great. It sort of took me a while to get into it, but Hayhurst is a very funny dude and paints a great picture of Minor League life.

Also, Joe Posnanski’s The Soul of Baseball is outstanding. I know someone will pep up and say something about Posnanski’s soft stance on Joe Paterno because the Internet, but that obviously has nothing to do with the content of the baseball book.

I mostly read fiction at home, and I’d definitely recommend Bernard Malamud’s The Natural over Chad Harbach’s recent bestseller The Art of Fielding. 

I’ve actually sponsored a bunch of baseball-reference pages, but I always snooze and let the sponsorship expire. The pages I’ve sponsored in the past are: Tommy Hanson, Fernando Martinez, Val Pascucci, the 2009 Mets, Bris Robotham Lord — “The Human Eyeball” and Buzz McWeeny.

I changed the message for the 2009 Mets a few times, but for a while I went with “Carlos Beltran: Because baserunning blunders happen more frequently when you’re always on base.” I was pretty happy with that, given the early goings-on of that season.

The Tommy Hanson page obviously had to do with his much-rumored relationship to the band Hanson. I don’t remember what I wrote for Martinez or the Scooch. Obviously the pages for Lord and McWeeny had jokes about their names.

I thought about sponsoring Jeff Francoeur’s page, but it turns out Jeff Francoeur’s page costs $265! It’s almost as much as Frenchy’s on-base percentage. It might be cool to sponsor the pages for the other Ike Davis and David Wright as shoutouts to Mets fans who click the wrong link.

Big East going south?

For my fellow Hoya fans: On one hand, we have Jeff Green’s dunk in the Celtics’ win over the Mavericks last night.

On the other, we have word that the Big East is on the brink of breaking up:

According to reports from the Providence Journal and ESPN.com, the seven Catholic schools in the conference are on the verge of breaking away from the Big East Conference and going their own way. Both reports said the seven schools would have a conference call with Commissioner Mike Aresco Thursday and then announce their plans within the next 24 to 48 hours….

Sources told ESPN.com that it “would be an upset” if the Catholic schools remained in the Big East.

When asked if the Catholics were splitting, a separate Big East source told SNY.tv, “It sure appears that way.”

The ongoing conference realignment has been frustrating to follow, especially for fans of basketball schools without legit football teams. But I’ve been insisting to my friends that as long as Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova stuck together, they’d play in a decent conference. I suspect it’ll still be a while before all the dust settles, but I think those basketball programs are too good to be drowned in the wake of big-conference football.

A new conference of small Catholic schools would hardly be the Big East, obviously, but whatever’s slated to exist as the Big East next year wouldn’t really be the Big East either.

As with most things, I blame Syracuse for all of this.

Iman Shumpert has incredible hair

In news this site has ignored for far too long, injured Knicks guard Iman Shumpert has incredible hair. You may have spotted him on the Knicks’ bench this season wearing a suit and a high-top fade. I can’t find a great picture of him on the sideline, but this self-portrait from Shumpert’s Instagram will suffice. Apparently he was heading to an 80s party:

Here's what Iman Shumpert looks like.

He’s also responsible for this music video, which features him using sneakers as a phone and a hat, wearing a backwards Carmelo Anthony jersey, and spending paper at the Muni-Meter:

And here’s the best ad campaign ever

It’s a video game featuring Dikembe Mutumbo and a talking-bear sidekick named Science the Bear. Why is Old Spice much better at advertising than everybody else? I don’t know, but it’s probably why I’m currently wearing Old Spice. Sorry, but I’m a sucker for stuff Terry Crews does. See you in a few hours:

(I originally had the game embedded here, but it turns out it autoplays [hilarious] music every time you open the page and it got annoying. So go check it out elsewhere.)

For what it’s worth, I met Dikembe once when he came to speak at Georgetown my junior year. Seemed like an awesome dude. My roommate and I even posed for a photo with him, one of us in each of his outstretched arms. We had such big plans for the photo, too; we co-hosted a TV show on campus cable, and we hoped to blow it up to poster size and use it on our set. But I went to college before digital cameras, and the photo didn’t come out. It looks amazing in my mind though.

Did you know that Dikembe Mutumbo speaks nine languages?

Via Scott.

Important NBA research

Spin Magazine puts together a comprehensive team-by-team ranking of the NBA leaders in rap shoutouts.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for roughly 15 years, no joke. Why? “Triumph,” one of the Wu-Tang Clan’s most recognizable singles and (though not really my favorite) certainly among their most epic performances, ends with a seemingly random reference to Rod Strickland.

Strickland’s from New York, so maybe Raekwon was showing some civic pride. But it seemed funny to me that this otherwise ethereal song should end with a shoutout to a pretty good basketball player. And I’ve always wanted to figure out which athlete benefited from the highest ratio of mentions in rap songs to actual ability, but it’s not something I have the wherewithal to figure out.

Lyrics NSFW:

Via Deadspin.

The Gangnam Style video to end them all

This site has been open in its appreciation of former Georgetown Hoya hero and current Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, one of our nation’s most awesome individuals. Check out his appearance at the Pacers’ Meet the Rookies event at an Indianapolis-area shopping mall. My understanding is that no one was expecting this.

That’s impressive footwork for a 7-foot-2 man.

Via Scott.