CBC Radio spoof sets off firestorm


A youth soccer league in Midlake, Ontario has decided to remove the ball from games so that kids don’t experience the negative effects of competition. The story originated in a CBC Radio report, and within 24 hours was all over the Internet: among the outlets to report it as true were the Washington Times and USA Today. Angry commenters are still flocking to message boards on several sites in protest of the “no-ball league”.

Of course by now you’ve guessed that the whole thing was a hoax—including the town of Midlake. The CBC Radio show that reported it, This Is That, is a satire program, similar to The Onion. The story was presented on their web site on Wednesday with a photo of children playing soccer with no ball in sight, accompanied by a link to the audio of the report, which was broadcast today.

It was all fake, and America was bamboozled too.

“We’ve done stories like this before, but I’m really surprised at how quickly this one spread,” This Is That co-host Pat Kelly told SportsGrid. “It says a lot I suppose about people’s reaction to the Internet and how information is passed around.”

Graphs such as these below in the CBC story suckered in a lot of readers, said the story:

“This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball,” said Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association, OpposingViews.com reported. “And the kids are loving it.”

“Unfortunately, when you put an overemphasis on competition, individual skill development regresses, and that’s what’s happened in our game for so long,” said Alex Chiet, technical director of the soccer group.

“The ball-less soccer this year is a challenge from a coaching perspective,” said Keith Schultz, head coach of a ball-less Midlake team for children under the age of 11, according to the report. “I have to do a lot of imagining.”

“The last story to have this kind of effect, I think, was one we did that was more Canada-centric,” Kelly said. “It was about a new bylaw in Quebec that mandated that dogs had to understand commands in both English and French. A lot of people believed that one, and got really mad.”

A previous program reported that Texas had passed a law requiring all residents to drink more water to improve their health. But the soccer story was even more inspired.

See the SportsGrid story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Great fodder for morning shows, for sure. Satire, if done right and on a regular basis, can be hilarious and a ratings grabber. If done wrong, of course, it can backfire and be libelous.