Giovanni Strassini had a pretty good deal going. He'd show up as a guest at functions for a Charlotte-based Ohio State fan group, he'd pose for pictures and sign autographs, and he'd talk about his exploits as an All-American tight end for the Buckeyes in the mid-1970s on Facebook.
The only problem? Well, Ohio State has never heard of Giovanni Strassini.
Of course, that's where the story gets weird.
Strassini (or whoever he is) saw his story start to unravel on a message board thread at BuckeyePlanet.com. The posters on that site easily figured out there was no Strassini who wore No. 89 for the Buckeyes. He wasn't the third basemen for the baseball team in that era either, as he had also claimed. He definitely didn't score an 8-yard touchdown in the 1976 Rose Bowl, one of the more easily verifiable facts to look up. The Buckeyes' only touchdown that day was a 3-yard touchdown run by Pete Johnson.
The Rose Bowl ring Strassini posted on Facebook didn't look exactly like the actual Rose Bowl ring from the season he claimed it was from. And he wasn't drafted by the Cleveland Browns either, blowing up another one of his stories.
Yet somehow, Strassini pulled this scam off for at least a couple years before anyone noticed.
His Facebook account under the name "Giova Stroh" has been deleted but here's a screen shot from the cached page:
And here's a Twitter account:
Here's what Ohio State spokesman Jerry Emig said about Strassini in an email to Dr. Saturday:
I cannot find any documentation that Giovanni Strassini was ever a member of Ohio State’s football teams. I won’t go so far as to say that he wasn’t part of the team…as a walk-on for a season or two and just didn’t appear on the rosters, but the following resources were used to determine that he wasn’t listed on any Ohio State rosters.
• Rosters from official media guides from 1971-77 do not list him.
• Rose Bowl media guides for 1973 and 1974 do not list him as a member of Ohio State’s roster.
• Ohio State’s 2005-06 edition of the Varsity O – official letterman’s club – director do not list him as a letterwinner.
• We do not list anyone by that name as an All-American in any of our All-American lists.
• The list of letterman in Ohio State media guides does not list him as a letterwinner.
Other than that, though ... it's a perfect match!
There was also a Wikipedia page and an IMDB entry which had all the facts that he passed along, and even a Sporcle.com quiz on Ohio State All-Americans that lists him. The imposter was rather thorough, at least.
And there's this humorous photo on the BuckeyePlanet.com thread from Strike City bowling alley in Charlotte, with Strassini's pin in between signed pins of, you know, famous guys who actually played at Ohio State:
CharlotteBuckeyes.com, the fan group for Ohio State backers in North Carolina, touted his appearance at a get together for a 2012 Final Four basketball game:
Based on that, and the photo at the top of the page from the 2011 football season, Strassini was able to pull off this hoax for at least a couple years before the BuckeyePlanet.com message board posters poked some pretty easy holes in his entire story.
From the looks of it all, someone went out of their way to act like an All-American tight end from the 1976 season. So the lesson is, if someone says he was an All-American at Ohio State and scored a touchdown in the Rose Bowl, check it out before you take your picture with him.
UPDATE: A Charlotte Buckeyes member passed along an email sent to all its members acknowledging Strassini’s hoax, but said the man “did not receive any funds from our club, nor did the club enter into any agreements or contracts with this man.” The email said he “unexpectedly” attended a game watching party in 2011 and asked to be involved with the group, and was invited to another watch party during the 2012 basketball season.
The Charlotte Buckeyes group said it disassociated with him last year due to his “inappropriate communications” with some members.
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