I have some bad news.
It appears that we, as a community — hockey fans — have made ourselves considerably more vulnerable to impostors than other sporting fanbases. As somebody who is a willing interloper between these circles, I can certainly attest to this as an undeniable truth.
What is an impostor, strictly speaking? Somebody who plays the role of something which they are not in reality, most likely for some sort of gain.
What is an impostor, under my definition, and in this context? Somebody who invents rubbish about the game of hockey or its constituents for some sort of personal gain. The gain in question could be monetary, social — if we can call Twitter followers that — or just kicks at-large. Ever been duped on a fake trade rumor? This post, my friend, is for you.
The exact cause of this epidemic is unbeknownst to me. Frankly, I suspect a lot of it has to do with the mainstream of the hockey world putting such a premium on “inside information.” The race to Twitter has trivialized much of the news industry and sport has been a prime victim.
Regarding hockey itself, watching beat writers race to tweet which fringe NHLer is out with tightness in their hamstring can be a fatiguing exercise.
Alas, I’d like to welcome to the year 2012. Stay as long as you like, just keep it under 140 characters.
(I should note, however, while I largely find this process to be a little… much… this sport is blessed with many talented and capable beat writers who should be credited as such. The James Mirtles of the world ought to take a deep, thoughtful, lingering bow for the work they do and the insight they give.)
The last lockout brought a glut of rumor mongering and con artists to the front lines of reporting. Blogs were a relatively new thing, and all of a sudden anyone with a brain — or the ability to type in a straight line — could tell you exactly where 2004′s cavalcade of free agents would land, and who would be traded where. Legitimacy was difficult to establish, and without Twitter to verify who was ‘real’ we were lost in a sea of drivel.
We both know who these folk(s) are. Wink Wink. Nudge Nudge. Say no more.
A disturbing line of thought hit me recently. With even more outlets for blogging, micro-blogging and, presumably, sub-atomic blogging, coupled with an ever-decreasing attention span across the human population, who’s to stop a new generation — dare I say the golden generation? — of fraudsters from telling us literally whatever comes out of their fingers.
We’ve already seen folks with far too many double consonants in their twitter handles hoodwink good, hard-working, honest people with bogus heaps of manure. What’s to stop double voweled bandits from doing the same when the league returns?
As a man of the people and great benevolence in equal measure, I have taken it upon myself to provide you with a hearty guide which will prevent us all from being tricked by miscreants armed to the teeth with high school computer labs, and ultimately prevent them from making a living off of hockey’s pyramid scheme.
Come along. We’re officially in this together.
When you get down to the nitty gritty, everyone who has legitimate knowledge of a situation will use their own name. Anonymous sources are a thing. Anonymous insiders are not.
I know we roll our eyes and cry idiocy occasionally when dealing with NHL executives. They mess up. It happens. But these are ultimately very smart men and women. If they’re willing to share privileged information with an individual they trust, I’ll bet you your house the individual in question isn’t someone to use their privileged information as an excuse for hosting a social media masquerade ball.
Professionals and people in the know come with real, human names. Sure, there are smart, legitimate, even famous people who write under pseudonyms — Voltaire, believe it or not is a pseudonym, and his adopted name just happened to sound more appropriate for a soccer player; while we’re here, Richard Bachman writes his horror stories an awful lot like Stephen King — but in the realm of sports journalism, you are your name and it is the longitude and latitude for where your reputation lies.
If a hockey ‘insider’ goes by a handle that sounds more like one of James Bond’s MI6 cronies than a human being, their content is probably of equal fiction.
Mind your twitter follows
A common tactic for the faux insider is the promise of ‘soon’.
“Breaking News coming up in an hour”
“Big Leafs rumor coming up in 20 mins” (You could build a web empire by linking every NHLer under the sun to Toronto.)
“Stay tuned tomorrow for some big news”
If any of you have been to a Q&A session with a politician you’ll notice that they take questions in bunches. The reason? It gives them time to formulate their responses. As I’m sure many of you are familiar with the famous “The only difference between a politician and a used diaper is the diaper fits into a garbage can” line of reasoning, you’ll note formulating a response prevents any sort of disagreeable Freudian slip or, as we regular folk call it, honesty.
By building the politician’s arc in expectation and narrative, the faux insider inevitably creates a flood of questions to them, “Any news on Luongo?”; “Nash to NYR???”; “Parise’s going to LA, right?”; thus the cycle perpetuates itself. Promises of timelines leaves you to do the job for them as they jot down their response.
They tell you what you want to hear. “Kovalchuk getting traded to the Leafs because OMGWEBHITZ!!!!”; “You’re totally not going bald, sexy”; “Marty Brodeur will in fact retire this year.”
You’ll note that legitimate insiders like Bob McKenzie or Darren Dreger don’t keep you waiting. They’ll tweet their thoughts right away or they’ll actually write something of substance and say “Wrote this, click this link lol xoxo our readers are awesome” [sic] before getting back to their non-troll, human lives. They don’t leave you in suspense, because they don’t need you to do the job or fan the flames. They’re pros.
If an “insider” is promising great things in just a matter of time, perhaps it’s time to hover over the unfollow button before the clock hits 0:00.
By “perhaps” I mean click unfollow right away and get on with your life.
Thou shalt keep thy credit card number from the beast
I can’t really stress this enough.
There are things worth spending money on in this sect of the sporting world — a subscription to The Hockey News is something worth considering, for example — and things you should not — oh, I don’t know, a rumor blog.
I’ll grant you that ESPN Insider is a kickass thing — they have a ton of great content that is worth paying for. You should grant me that anything short of that for the purposes of “super secret trade info” is… well…
Fun fact: the most miserable summer of my student life was spent working as a telemarketer. While I was told every day that I was a charming voice with a personality (direct quote from my
slave driver boss), a majority of people didn’t buy from me. Why? Because they thought it was a scam. Because people get scammed over the phone. They’d prefer going to a website, because apparently that’s more tangible than talking to someone with a charming voice and a delightful personality.
(Check and Check, thank you very much. And for the record, I got relatively good at selling things over the phone because of those attributes. Those of you who would like to donate to the ‘Buy Chris a pint’ fund should e-mail or tweet me for my PayPal account. I appreciate your forthcoming and eventual continued patronage.)
I hate to break it to you folks. Those scam artists on the phone — and make no mistake, they are scam artists as there’s a retrospectively delightful divergence to my miserable summer story — exist by the thousand on the internet. Literally anyone can make a site and make money. And you know what? They seem to have a knack for inventing things about hockey.
To quash this society of con artists once and for all, save your money. Take your savings and go see a symphony, or buy a book, or just throw it in the street. It’s a better investment.
Or send it to me and I’ll make sure a delightful pint is purchased in your name. I’m not a stranger, I’m just a friend you haven’t met yet who won’t feed you lies about hockey.
I have presented three cogent, concise and coherent points above. These should have you entirely equipped to avoid those who insult our collective intelligence with their mockery.
You shall avoid fake names, mind your twitter timeline, and for the love of God keep your money away from them. Ideally we will all come out of this unscathed and intact despite the best efforts of the internet’s lowest common denominator.
Hockey rumor mongers have existed long enough. It’s about time they found out their 140 characters have expired.