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Park: Alex Rodriguez and the magnifying power of the Internet

Twas the 31st of March, and we in the sports department at the offices of The Daily were trying our hardest to come up with fake sports headlines that we could run in the annual April Fools’ Day edition of the newspaper. What could we write that would both entertain the Stanford population and poke a little fun at the sports headlines of the time?

We settled on three pieces: one about Stanford supposedly relocating to the American Athletic Conference at the end of the season that certainly drew the ire of AAC faithful around the nation; one about Stanford baseball making some absurd renovations to Klein Field at Sunken Diamond; and the bombshell, an article about Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez taking a coaching position with Stanford baseball.

Rodriguez himself had evidently been lurking around Stanford’s campus and had even been sighted at a baseball game, prompting a retweeting of a photo from Stanford baseball’s Twitter account that was too good to not to use to our advantage. I think that the article in and of itself would have been borderline believable without the embedded Tweet, but the inclusion of the Tweet without context did, admittedly, make the article seem at least somewhat believable after a rudimentary read.

But really, such out-of-the-ordinary news involving one of baseball’s most polarizing figures couldn’t have been taken seriously, right? Even the most cursory of Google searches would have revealed the supposed breaking news to be nothing more than an April Fools’ Day joke.

Leave it to the Internet to prove me wrong.

I was linked two mornings ago to a video on AOL Sports (and a rather well put-together one, at that) detailing Rodriguez’s supposed decision to coach at Stanford. It completely caught me off guard; I’d forgotten that the story had even been published and had not tagged it with any of the customary search engine optimization tools when putting it online in order to limit its exposure. I was shocked that a news outlet had picked it up and taken it seriously because there were definitely hints—apart from being a relatively unbelievable concept, the contact line attributed the article to Lennay Kekua (of Manti Te’o fame) and, of course, the article was time-stamped April 1.

While Rodriguez’s actions certainly didn’t help debunk the rumor—he was spotted at a women’s rugby practice a few days ago, he was sighted working out at Arrillaga Gym and was also found at the Stanford Invitational track meet this weekend—it was still a really funny reflection on how sports are reported today; the fact that anyone had taken it seriously at all and had followed up on it with a story of their own was icing on the cake.

In today’s sports world, with everybody connected by the all-encompassing web that is the Twitter-verse, news makes its way around fast. People have access to news almost immediately when it happens and are increasingly able to filter their reception of news to cater to their preferences, meaning that Yankees fans are able to catch on to news involving their favorite disgraced star relatively easily with a search filter—even fake news from a reasonably low-distribution paper like The Daily—and write panicked/snarky/confused updates on their fan blogs, Twitters, Facebooks and whatever other outlets they choose to interact on.

It’s really similar to how what we at the office fondly refer to as “War Damn Winston” took the nation by storm in late 2013 after the epic ending to the Iron Bowl. Looking at the analytics, it turns out that somebody had posted a link to the article on a Scout.com forum after perhaps having searched Google for more reading material on the game, which prompted it to spread to lots of other sites within just one morning. As a matter of fact, it even ended up on Reddit and got a significant number of clicks through that as well, resulting in the story being one of the top five most read stories in Daily web history before 24 hours had even elapsed.

The power of what people that care about a topic can do on the Internet is scary, man.

I guess the moral of the story is that even when we think nobody is looking, never underestimate the power (and gullibility) of the Internet, because when even a little something that can be used as tinder is made available, fire-breathing Yankees fans or Alabamans can (and will) come along and start a blaze. The emergence of the Twitter-verse over the last several years has just added a forest’s worth of kindling to the little realm surrounding The Stanford Daily and other publications like it, one that is just itching to be lit aflame at any provocation.

But I’m going to take a fire extinguisher to this and definitively say that no, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), Alex Rodriguez will not be coaching Stanford baseball this year.

In all seriousness: If anybody has any idea why A-Rod has been hanging around Stanford for so long while sporting Stanford gear, I’d love to start a fire with you sometime.

Do-Hyoung Park is allegedly fighting off a potential law suit from A-Rod for his little April Fools’ joke. If your prank had a worse repercussion email Do the details and let him know he’s not alone at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet at him @dohyoungpark.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park is the Head Copy Editor at The Stanford Daily. However, his allegiance still lies with the sports section, of which he was at the helm before yielding to a peaceful transition of power to Ashley Westhem. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.