On Friday morning, Deadspin posted an article and a link to a high school scrimmage of “The Most Athletic Football Play of the Year.” Deadspin pushed it out via Facebook, where I saw it and followed the link to a video of a running back on a practice field doing a flip over a defender and running into the endzone.
Deadspin pointed out that it didn’t know anything about the video and wasn’t really going to try to find out. Here’s the entire post:
If you care about things like “context” and “names,” this highlight isn’t for you. We don’t know who’s the running back who executes this flawless 180° flip, we don’t even know what school this is. We contacted the uploader for more info, but got no response. Since the video was uploaded more than three weeks ago, and barely has 400 views, it’s safe to say it’s either legit or the worst-marketed viral video ever.
Sure enough during NCAA and NFL football games this weekend, AT&T debuted a new commercial which starts with the video, tells a story of the video going viral, and ends with the high school player getting a heartwarming introduction to University of Oklahoma’s Head Coach Bob Stoops.
Deadspin Editor Tommy Craggs seemed genuinely surprised when I emailed him to ask if he knew the video was part of a commercial. “Crap. We didn’t. God, that’s depressing,” he replied to my email.
Deadspin commenters figured it out, though. Even before the commercials ran, many were calling it fake, both on the Deadspin page and on the YouTube video.
It’s a minor hit to Deadspin. But the accumulation of deliberate fakeries makes the audience more and more jaded.
Barry Petchesky, who wrote the post, counts himself among the cynical. “I did raise the possibility in our brief write-up, but it seemed unlikely since the video had been on YouTube for three weeks before their marketing team started spreading the word,” he said by email. “I’ll be sure to take every opportunity to bash AT&T products in the future, though.”
A link to the video was emailed to him on Friday morning. He said he tried to email back, but got no response from the emailer, or the person who uploaded the video to YouTube, so he posted the video. I “did AT&T’s dirty work for them,” he said.