We've been known to pull one over on the public before -- our spoof stories on Preserve A Life garnered fax orders for human taxidermy, and the Anna Nicole Smith secret love child story was picked up by major media outlets, including People, US Weekly, and TV's Inside Edition.
But this time, we were the ones who got punked.
In this week's cover story, In the Flesh, we reported that NBA Commissioner David Stern would seek a proposed "tattoo cap" on NBA players at the end of the 2011 season.
Turns out, the proposed tat cap is a hoax.
We picked up the story from Foxsports.com, but the spoof article, "NBA Pushes for Tattoo Cap, Players Association Resists," was originally published on the Gerbil Sports Network blog of Con Chapman. It turns out that Chapman's a serious sports journalist -- sometimes. His The Year of the Gerbil is a non-fiction book about the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees pennant race. But his blog site features spoof and humor pieces.
Though our knee-jerk reaction to the tattoo cap story was that it might be a joke, what it touted seemed possible. Commish Stern had already instituted a business-casual dress code for NBA players going to and from games -- in an attempt to thwart a trend toward hop-hop attire among some players. Also, Suns players we interviewed thought the tat cap story was true and complained about the alleged plan in our article.
Calls to NBA headquarters for comment weren't returned before "In the Flesh" went to press. In fact, they haven't been returned to date.
But, whatever the NBA's response, the story's a hoax -- and we're the one with egg on our face. We received a call this morning from Alana G., a sports blogger in California, informing us of the farce. She'd forwarded a link to our story to Con Chapman, who confirmed that his tattoo cap article was satire.
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"Initially, when I read your article, I thought maybe it was a New Times farce, because you've run spoof stories before," Alana G. said. "But I'm in the sports world, and I knew that the idea of a tattoo cap in the NBA is ludicrous. And David Stern using the word 'bejesus' in [Con Chapman's] story -- that's so ridiculous. The more you read the article, the more obvious it is that it's a spoof, I think."
Chapman says his spoofs rarely get picked up as fact.
"I did one titled 'Taiwan Leaves UN, Joins International House of Pancakes' that got 500 hits in one day, the most I've ever gotten," he wrote in an e-mail exchange with New Times. "I traced them to Far Eastern Web sites. Nothing like causing an international incident to make you feel you're making a difference in the world."
We're still hoping the NBA will get back to us -- if for no other reason than to complain about our jackass moment -- but league officials are busy planning for All-Star Weekend coming up here in Phoenix.