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"Mark Collins" and DeAndre Yedlin: how an internet rumor gets started

This isn't an article about DeAndre Yedlin. It's a story about the media echo-chamber.

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

I had a whole story written up and was 30 seconds away from posting. The news was that a Spurs youth coach (@markspurs85) had tweeted to Spurs blogger Windy about Tottenham Hotspur's American right back DeAndre Yedlin and why he hasn't yet featured for the Spurs first team. The tweet corroborated what we pretty much already knew or suspected based on earlier comments from Mauricio Pochettino: that Tottenham are taking their time bringing Yedlin along, and are giving him a good chance to acclimate to a new life in England.

@WindyCOYS I can tell u 100% we are getting him settles eg finding a house living in London so on and giving him extra training etc

— mark collins (@markspurs85) March 10, 2015

Since Windy is a prominent Spurs blogger with a strong following and a lot of knowledge about Tottenham Hotspur youth players, when something like this happens, even if it's just a public reply on his timeline, people began to take notice. The tweet propagated through Twitter and eventually it even got turned into an article at the Daily Express.

The problem? "Mark Collins" isn't a Spurs coach. He's not even, to the best of anyone's knowledge, even affiliated with Tottenham Hotspur. Apparently, he's just Some Guy™. The original tweet was deleted, and then later, the entire @markspurs85 account.

This story, from the tweet to its aftermath, is a fascinating case study, in a microcosm, of how football-related rumors can start, and propagate in the wild. In the football media world that's populated with blogs and newspapers with their own football beat writers and very fast turn-around times, even the smallest of rumors bounce around the echo-chamber and get amplified and mutated almost beyond recognition. It happened in 2013 when a single tweet about Luis Muriel to Liverpool sparked off a fury of tweets, blog posts, and articles in the English media.

We see it happen all too frequently during transfer windows, sometimes by accident, sometimes with deliberate precision. It's a game of  "telephone" using the world's biggest megaphone, the Internet. As I said, I almost posted an article about this very story, based upon the Express article and Windy's timeline. It's a ridiculously easy thing to fall victim to.

I don't say this to publicly shame or make fun of Windy – exactly the opposite. In fact, it's not really about Windy at all.  As football bloggers, we are in the business of writing and informing our readers about stories that are of interest. What I find fascinating is how the smallest of things, say, a public tweet to a Spurs blogger, can suddenly make it onto the web pages of one of England's major newspapers, even after it's been thoroughly debunked. It's one of the hazards of sports blogging: ferreting out the truth from the gobs and gobs of bulls**t that floats around the web about our chosen club.