Perhaps you’re accustomed to seeing that scrolling line of information that is the news ticker. Revolutionized by the cable news networks, and as far as sports is concerned, by ESPN, virtually all cable news and sports networks, regional and national, are maintaining their own version of the ticker in some form. And they’re usually chock full of news briefs from stories reported by such renowned sources as The New York Times, The Associated Press, Fox Sports, The Wall Street Journal, and Sportspickle.
Yes, an item from the sports news satire website (think The Onion with a sports flair) actually passed off as serious news to NESN viewers.
Whoever was put in charge of loading the news items on NESN’s bottom-of-the-screen news ticker on Friday must be naive. During live coverage of the ACC Baseball Tournament, the first item that the ticker, which NESN dubs “The Edge,” focused on under “top stories” was Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who retired this week after spending thirteen seasons in the Windy City. That much is true.
But the item that NESN decided to report was the satirical news story originally posted Thursday on Sportspickle titled, “Brian Urlacher Retires As A Green Bay Packer.”
Fact is, Urlacher has not been aligned with any NFL team since he parted ways with the Bears in mid-March, and recently turned down a $2 million deal that the team proposed to him before finally calling it quits when no other NFL franchise could come to the table with a desirable offer.
And while there was a little buzz about one of the Bears’ divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, possibly courting the eight-time Pro Bowler, it did not seem that the team that has controlled the NFC North for most of Urlacher’s career, the Green Bay Packers, would pursue him.
So one day after he made his decision official, Sportspickle seized the opportunity to pen a fantasy piece reporting that he had “[signed] a one-day contract with the team,” one that Urlacher was quoted as satirically saying is “unquestionably the best franchise in the NFC North throughout my career and, really, all of NFC North history.”
The piece continues: “Urlacher then fought back tears (fake tears) as he spoke about how much it means to him to no longer be a part of the Bears: ‘You dream of this your whole career but never really believe it could happen,’ he said, tears rolling down his cheeks.”
The pretend Urlacher also attested that “if my old Bears teammates are truthful, they’d all rather be on the Packers… even Jay Cutler. I’m sure the Packers would be happy to sign him to a one-day contract so he could retire as their third-string quarterback.”
Oh, and that “quote” from Urlacher about wanting to “go out a winner”? Yeah, that was included in NESN’s “Edge” blurb, too.
It’s the second time in as many years that a television network – or at least their employees who are supposed to be vetting the news before it makes it on the air – fell for a spoof sports story. Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate had reported on their morning news broadcast that longtime Steelers wideout Hines Ward had signed with the rival Baltimore Ravens, after the website Bro Council presented a phony piece (which even tipped off to readers in big letters at the end that it was a “spoof”) on the player, who would eventually join NBC a couple of months later.
The station made up for the confusion by giving Ward his own seasonal series on Saturday nights.
With that said, how is Brian Urlacher, or for that matter, “Da Bears,” even remotely related to New England sports? He’s a native of Washington state, he attended school in New Mexico, and that wrestling match he participated in was in Tennessee. It seems like the only time he would spend on the entire East Coast would be exclusively on business.
As for NESN’s business, which includes delivering sports news, you could say it took a bit of a hit on Friday for, well, ‘Lach-ing journalistic credibility.