Let’s recount a tale of internet adventure, one of deleted tweets and Twitter virality that seems so illustrative of the dark turns that online college football fandom can take these days.
It’s a story of fans laughing at a bewildered rival, and of memes purposefully crafted to be taken as serious news. And while it features an athlete at Michigan, it doesn’t originate in Ann Arbor.
Michigan QB Shea Patterson’s weird day on Twitter
We’ll start with a tweet, from an account with fewer than 1,500 followers as of Sunday, that contains a graphic of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and a supposed screencap of a now-deleted tweet.
In the displayed tweet, Patterson’s personal account praises his own abilities, brushes off Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and criticizes Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s play-calling.
The implication is that Patterson meant to respond with a burner account to this reply criticizing him in a 247Sports ranking of Big Ten quarterbacks, but accidentally used his own account, then hastily deleted the tweet but not before some were able to get a screencap (as far as we can tell, only this account was to capture it). Basically, the full Kevin Durant.
Did Michigan QB Shea Patterson mean to tweet this from his burner account? 😂
Patterson referred to himself in 3rd person and threw shots at both Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh in a tweet response to a fan in a now-deleted tweet. pic.twitter.com/msdIba0Wix
— College Football Quotes (@cfbquotes) July 7, 2019
The post with the reportedly deleted tweet quickly caught fire, particularly among Ohio State fans, and led to a toxic waste dump in Patterson’s mentions. The account even backed it up with subsequent “reports” about the tweet and Patterson’s response.
Fun story, right? A Michigan quarterback who was fine, but not great last year trying to put himself above a rival and accidentally dumping on his coach in the process. Some fans, as well as some online aggregation outlets and message boards, seemed to think so.
Well, it turns out the whole thing was almost definitely a fabrication by an account that has done things like this before.
That deleted Shea Patterson tweet is fake
One solid indication that the deleted tweet might not have been entirely on the level was the bio of the Twitter account in question, which reads ”’Quotes’ from the college football community. Meme page.”
Meme pages, clearly trustworthy.
More chatter that the tweet was likely a fabrication emerged when Columbus Dispatch writer Joey Kaufman noted that the account had tweeted fabricated quotes before.
Since Ohio State media/fans keep retweeting this, note that this account has previously tweeted fabricated quotes. https://t.co/ARzAn8XgyU
— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) July 8, 2019
One past tweet supposedly featured Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal saying that the Ducks played teams of Auburn’s caliber every week in the Pac-12. The reporter cited in the quote replied hours later saying he had never published the quote.
The account later lamented that Oregon fans “cannot take a joke.”
Another tweet featured a reported quote from Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault calling Nebraska’s defense a joke, and even tried to signal boost it by tagging a litany of Nebraska outlets and public figures. Shenault soon tweeted that the quote was fake.
The account would later proudly admit the whole episode was a joke.
So, you can probably imagine where this whole Patterson saga is going.
The quarterback soon tweeted that the tweet was full of “ridiculous statements,” denied he ever used a burner account and said someone was just trying to ruin his day.
In regards to the nonsense from earlier today...The calls and notifications really jammed me up on the front 9 🏌️ pic.twitter.com/dXbjqQmpol
— Shea Patterson (@SheaPatterson_1) July 8, 2019
Of course, despite probably never tweeting such a thing, the statement about Fields and Harbaugh is probably going to follow Patterson for a while, because a fun story of a rival’s incompetence is more spreadable for most fans than a simple denial. As of 9 p.m. PT, the initial tweet has nearly 2,000 retweets while Patterson’s denial has less than 500.
In Patterson’s case, the story of a fake deleted tweet makes the matter very hard to confirm, which probably helped the tweet spread. A report of someone claiming to be Patterson’s sister saying the QB was hacked even supposedly provided Patterson’s side of the story, a purposefully flimsy denial.
This is clearly an account that delights in pushing false information at fans who aren’t discerning enough to double-check the source, reaping the re-tweets and followers, then playing it all off as a joke when observers inevitably get wise to the con. Maybe the increased circulation of the Patterson tweet will help inoculate most college football fans against the misinformation when this account does this again, but who knows?
Be vigilant out there, people. Or at least take two seconds to check if the noise you’re spreading has the words “meme page” in its bio.
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