Canada Gloriously Punk’d By Network’s Story On Youth Soccer ‘No-Ball League’

  • Rick Chandler

So Canada is pretty much losing its mind right now over this story: a youth soccer league in a small community called 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 predictably 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. The CBC radio show that reported it, This Is That, is a satire program. 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 who, I guess, didn’t have time to think about them for more than one-and-a-half seconds:

“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, 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.

Possibly my favorite:

“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.”

This isn’t the first time that This Is That has pulled a fast one. The weekly show’s stock-in-trade is satire.

“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.

“I guess it struck a nerve due to the sports theme,” Kelly said. “The response is still going strong.”

Of course a little checking reveals that there is no such place as Midlake Ontario, or the Midlake Soccer Association. And while running around in confusion without the ball is how a great majority of youth soccer is played anyway, this would be ridiculous. I myself would be the best goalie in the history of soccer: you would never before have seen such amazing stops.

Kelly and co-host Peter Oldring really sold it — give ’em credit.

Typical message board responses:

are we really trying to raise the next generation to be nothing more than soft, whiny, and fearful?? My goodness when i was a child no more than 2 decades ago, if you got hurt but could get back up, you walked off the pain… threw some dirt on it so to speak. If you lost a game, big deal! you lost, but tried harder next time, if you won, you were humble about it, everything is SO oversensitized now. — Carla Adams

Ontario Athaletic Association should be desolved. This is the Dumbest article ive ever read. “remove the idea of competition” then how does one get better… just by believing ONE IS BETTER ??? Right.. kids are going to grow up learning the sport of soccer without actually having to kick a ball. absolute HORSE SHIT. — Yatn Rttn

Yes, it should be “desolved.” Except that it ever existed in the first place. I say create it, then desolve it. Absolute HORSE SHIT.

Orson Welles, and The Onion, approve of all of this.