Thursday, October 14, 2010

Miami Herald sportswriter punked by two hoops fans with bad Russian accents

UPDATED @ 7:15pm: As a Miami Herald sportswriter was trying frantically to reach Pavel and Yuri to confirm that they are not Russian, Random Pixels was conducting a phone interview with Pavel's alter-ego, Bradley Springer. (Springer says he borrowed the name Pavel from Chicago Blackhawks star Pavel Vorobiev.)

Springer says that he and his friend, Jonathan Taylor, (Yuri), had no intention of fooling anyone when they went to American Airlines Arena Tuesday night.

But after being interviewed by Russian TV - after telling the crew that they were Russian but had forgotten how to speak it - the Miami Herald's Linda Robertson then approached the duo and asked them if they were Russian. When they said yes, "her eyes lit up," Springer told me.

Robertson interviewed the pair for over 15 minutes and never sensed she was being punked, Springer told me.

As Springer and Taylor left the arena, one of them checked the Herald's website on an iPhone and learned to their astonishment that they were included in Robertson's column.

Asked if he felt bad that Robertson had fallen for their prank, 18 year-old Springer said, "I really do, I don't want her to get in trouble."

But Springer is not ruling out future appearances by Pavel and Yuri.


Back in the Cold War-era Soviet Union, if a member of the politburo ran afoul of the leadership, punishment was swift and permanent.

First he was shipped off to Siberia and then all traces of his existence was "edited out of books and airbrushed out of photographs." Forever.

Yesterday, editors at the Miami Herald practiced a little Cold War Soviet-style censorship after a couple of "Russian brothers" got the better of Herald sportswriter Linda Robertson.

Deadspin reports that Robertson "fell for a fun little prank [Tuesday] night, as the Heat took on CSKA Moscow. Two Floridians decked themselves out as CSKA fans, played the part of Russians, and wouldn't you know: the Herald made them the lede." (Click here to see a pic of Robertson interviewing the "Russians.")

Robertson not only made the pranksters the lede of her column, she devoted a good part of her story to the two "Russians."

Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times picks up the story:
The pair painted their faces and put on their best Borat-esque accents for Tuesday's Heat vs. Moscow game, intending to "just mess with people." But then the Miami Herald interviewed them and ran with their wild tale of Russkie basketball love all the way to the front page of the sports section. "This thing really escalated quickly," Springer tells Riptide.
[Using the names Pavel and Yuri,] Springer and Taylor, who is a junior at the Benjamin School, ended up in a tiny cheering section for fans of Moscow's pro basketball team. A Russian television crew quickly descended.

"They asked, 'Do you speak Russian?'" Springer says. "I was like, 'No, no, I move here long ago.'"

They interviewed him anyway. That's when Robertson moved in.Springer and Taylor decided to keep the charade going [in character as Pavel and Yuri.]

Herald reporter interviewed them for 15 minutes while Springer described Russia's love of Britney Spears, the NBA culture in Moscow, and even invented a Russian rapper named Don Zagru allegedly fond of wearing LeBron jerseys.
But after 15 minutes and lots of clues, no alarm bells sounded for Robertson. Not even when the "brothers" hit her with these lines - "The NBA is the new vodka in Russia. Of course, Russia is usually about five years behind the United States. Britney Spears is very popular right now." - Robertson just kept scribbling.

Yesterday, when it became evident that the brothers weren't really "Russian," the Herald, in some Cold War, Soviet-style sleight of hand, removed the column from its website.

But does anything really disappear from the Internet? Thanks to the magic of Google, no.

Today, the Herald issued, what New Times calls, the "world's lamest correction."
A column that ran on page 1D of Wednesday's sports section might have included incorrect information from two men claiming to be Russian. There's just no sure way of knowing.

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