Manti Te'o. (Getty Images)
10. Sidd Finch. The gold standard for all sports hoaxes since, Finch was entirely the creation of Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton for an April Fool's Day issue. (Read it here, and note what the first letters of the sub-headline spell.) Finch, a supposed New York Mets recruit with the ability to sling the ball 168 mph. As Finch never even came close to existing, nobody got hurt in this scam but Mets fans, and we're all cool with that. Alas, because of Finch we have to endure "breaking" news stories every April Fool's Day, with increasingly diminishing returns.
9. Taro Tsujimoto. A fake "player" drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1974 NHL draft, Tsujimoto was the creation of Sabres GM Punch Imlach. At the time, scouting for the NHL didn't reach much beyond the U.S. and Canada, so the idea that a previously-unknown player from the "Tokyo Katanas" (another creation) could surface wasn't wholly irrational. Imlach admitted to the goof, but not before Tsujimoto's name made it into many draft publications.
8. Kevin Hart. It's the dream of every high school athlete to have a big college signing day ... even if you have to create it yourself. The self-inflicted victim of a hoax gone wrong, Hart, an unheralded Nevada high school football player, held a "press conference" in 2008 where he announced he'd be choosing between scholarships offered by Cal and Oregon. Problem was, neither school had offered any such thing, and Hart was left with nothing but embarrassment as his hoax blew up in his face.
7. Danny Almonte. The "12-year-old" pitched an unbelievable 2001 Little League World Series: 72 batters faced, 62 strikeouts, three hits, one unearned run. Turns out it wasn't believable: Almonte was two years older than every player around him.
6. Rosie Ruiz. One of the most famous on-field scams in history, Ruiz "won" the Boston Marathon in 1980 with a course record that happened to be the third-fastest female marathon time in history. Problem was, nobody could remember seeing her at any point during the race. Turns out she cut off huge chunks of the course and jumped in with a half-mile to go. (See also: Sylvester Carmouche, a jockey who pulled the same maneuver during a horse race thanks to blinding fog.)
5. 2000 Spanish Paralympian Basketball Team. Athletes in the Intellectually Disabled division of the Paralympic Games must be shown to have an IQ of no higher than 70. The Spanish team, which won the gold medal, was not sufficiently tested. An undercover journalist later found that 10 of the 12 players were not developmentally disabled, and the team had to return the gold medals.
4. Manti Te'o's "girlfriend." This one's still developing, but whether or not Te'o himself was in on the scam, this much is obvious: the "girlfriend" whose brave life and tragic passing "inspired" Te'o turned out to be nothing more than a well-crafted fairy tale.
3. Steroids in baseball. It's impossible to sort out what's real and what's false from baseball's steroid era, extending from roughly 1995-2005. What's certain is that both acknowledged and suspected users, from Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds to Mark McGwire and Mike Piazza, will be judged harshly for their roles in a wide-ranging arms race to boost performance beyond all historical levels.
2. Tiger Woods. It all started with a text. Woods' then-wife Elin intercepted a text from one of Woods' (many, as it turned out) mistresses on Thanksgiving 2009, and soon afterward Woods' entire carefully-concealed scam of women around the world blew apart. He's finally starting to play decently again, but his reputation will never be the same.
1. Lance Armstrong. Has acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his decorated, world-famous career. Edges out Tiger by dint of the fact that Armstrong's hoax actually affected and enhanced his performance. The centerpiece of a decade-plus fraud, Armstrong now stands as the most disgraced athlete in American history.
All right, your turn. What other sports hoaxes deserve mention?
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Yes, it's really him.-
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