Throwing his team a curve
On his fake-news website, Bill Mahoney has a little fun at the Red Sox' expense
It's hard to believe just how silly Red Sox spring training has been this year. Players getting hit by line drives while staring at Johnny Damon's beautiful new wife? Sox savior Curt Schilling telling bad boy David Wells he needs to ''find God"? George Steinbrenner hiring a team of psychiatrists to prepare the Yankees for opening day at Fenway Park?
Actually, none of those things have happened in Fort Myers, Fla., this year. They are merely the creative musings of Sox fan Bill Mahoney, an Arlington resident who publishes a one-of-a-kind ''news" website parodying the hometown team. CalloftheGreenMonster .com, which has gained a modest but growing readership since debuting in November, is reminiscent of the online ''newspaper" The Onion. But instead of parodying major news events, as The Onion does, Call of the Green Monster is all Red Sox, all the time.
And the Sox, at least these days, are providing Mahoney with plenty of fodder for laughs. Peruse the website's headlines and you'll find such hard-hitting stories as ''IQ Test Confirms Millar and Damon Are, in fact, Idiots," ''Major Changes Expected After Sox Devastating Loss to Yankees in Spring Training," and ''With Strict Steroid Testing in Place, Many Players Now Turning to Wheaties for an Edge."
''He's taking a truthful element and embellishing the hell out of it. That's great. That's a fun device," said Norm Laviolette, director of Boston's Improv Asylum and a lifelong Sox fan. ''The guy isn't a professional comedy writer. But that being said, the stuff is pretty funny."
Mahoney, a 43-year-old associate marketing director, dreamed up his first faux story -- the spoof on IQ test results -- as the Sox stormed toward the World Series. The ideas kept coming and by early November, Mahoney retired to his baseball-memorabilia-laden basement for nightly writing sessions, testing out his material on his wife, Elvie, and 3-year-old daughter, Gillian, both big fans.
''To me, part of being a Red Sox fan is having fun with it," said Mahoney, who has also dabbled in short-story writing. ''There are just so many characters on the Red Sox, you have this new ownership, this young general manager. And by the way, I think they're all terrific. But I also think they're kind of ripe for some humor."
Mahoney's news stories look official but feature fictitious quotes from players and unnamed sources. Though his jokes are clean and good natured, they still pack plenty of satirical punch.
Sox ownership, always desperate for more revenue, ''have quietly forged ahead with plans to add 2,000 new seats on top of the John Hancock building," one story deadpans. Hyperactive Sox manager Terry Francona, according to another story, called his players so often this winter that they had to shut off their cellphones.
Sox fans know that Schilling pitched valiantly in the playoffs despite a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle that had to be surgically sutured into place. But according to Call of the Green Monster sources, the injury was far worse than what was reported.
''The story told to the public sounded reasonable enough. Curt Schilling had pitched with ankle soreness for much of the year," reads Mahoney's story. ''The real story, according to neighbors of Curt Schilling and sources within the Red Sox, is that while doing some yard work with a power saw in the days prior to his ALCS starts against the Yankees, Schilling actually completely severed his foot."
A photo of a cheap Halloween-store plastic foot accompanies the shocking tale.
Charles Steinberg, executive vice president of public affairs for the Red Sox, said it is nearly impossible for team officials to keep track of the hundreds of amateur websites that have popped up. Perusing Call of the Green Monster at a reporter's request, Steinberg gave it positive marks.
''It reminds me of the 'Saturday Night Live' Weekend Update" skit, Steinberg said. ''I think if humor can be provided tastefully, it's a good thing."
Todd Muchmore, founder of SportsBlogs.org, which provides links to about 1,000 fan-written sports blogs nationwide, said Call of the Green Monster appears to be the only website in the country that parodies a single professional sports team. The site has recorded more than 100,000 hits since November, according to Mahoney, who says he's amazed by his growing readership.
Indeed, in baseball parlance, Call of the Green Monster appears to be a hit.
''I just enjoy the topicalness of it. It's right on," said Pamela Ahola, a Quincy pharmacist who is a regular reader of the site. ''I liked the story about Tim Wakefield practicing in his backyard and his knuckleballs going everywhere and breaking other people's windows. I can really imagine that happening."