'Old Hoss' Radbourn and the Rise of Fake Sports Tweeters

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From left: Mark Rucker / Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images; 81A Productions / Corbis

"Old Hoss" Radbourn, left, star pitcher for the Providence Grays

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Besides Old Hoss, there's @VeryFakeAlDavis, a nod to the aging, acerbic Oakland Raiders owner. After the Oscars, Fake Al tweeted, "Don't make a big thing out of this, but does anyone know Kathryn Bigelow's 40-time?" Mike D'Antoni, @Coach_D_Antoni, is not the real coach of the New York Knicks, but the avatar does bill his tweets as "what the real Mike D'Antoni is thinking." Before the All-Star game, the faux coach of the truly horrible basketball team wrote, "All-Star Break woohoo! Please unfollow for the next few days if you don't want constant updates about the bender I'm about to go on."

The phony son of ESPN's NFL-draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who obsessively analyzes the pro prospects of college football players, tweets as @MelKiperthe3rd. Among his missives: "Chuck, the guy who made my reuben sandwich at the corner deli today has great leverage. Real hidden gem..." Even body parts are ripe for ridicule. After LeBron James injured his elbow during Cleveland's first-round playoff victory over Chicago, and the bone was subsequently scrutinized with the same ferocity as that directed toward any world leader, @LeBronsElbow soon followed. Referring to LeBron as "my human," it tweeted before Game 1 of Cleveland's second-round series against the Boston Celtics, "LeBron knows every line to Cool Runnings and as of right now, he's reenacting the movie, by himself, as we drive to the Q. #HELPME."

Not every fake tweet is funny, and to Twitter users with different sensibilities even those like @OldHossRadbourn may come across as stupid. "When Ben Roethlisberger had his trouble, there were tons of accounts about him," says Eric Stangel, the co-head writer for the Late Show with David Letterman who is also a prolific, hilarious sports tweeter in his own right (@EricStangel) and a fan of fake accounts like Old Hoss Radbourn's. "And people were just writing 'I'm an idiot.' There was no art to it."

So what makes a phony sports handle amusing? "These guys have a very specific way of speaking, and a very specific outlook," says Stangel, who along with his brother, fellow Late Show co-head writer Justin Stangel, has created a few phony sports accounts (though he won't reveal which ones). "If they are true to the sensibility of their character, then it's going to be funny. Their perspective on Tiger Woods, on whatever news of the day, is funny because it gets twisted automatically based on who the character is," he says. "You can tell there are guys who sit there channeling the voices of some of these people. I have a feeling that once Al Davis does pass, his Twitter account will stay."

So what advice do the Stangels have for aspiring fake sports tweeters? "The advice I would give is the same advice I would give someone writing comedy," says Justin. "You don't have to be vulgar to be funny. Just try to be smart and clever."

"I have a piece of advice," chimes in Eric. "I think if you're going to be a fake sports tweeter, make sure the real guy you are imitating doesn't come after you.

"I will not be a fake Pac-Man Jones."

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