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The NFL in the Post-Truth Era: Paid Actors, Deepfakes, and Trojan Horses

Updated: May 6

Two women who are possibly media creations

This article may, or may not have been under written by a shadow yacht club which does not own any actual yachts.

Descriptions of our modern era as “post-truth” argue that we inhabit a world in which facts are devalued in favor of mimicry and confirmation bias fueled by the meteoric rise in our usage of social media over the last decade.

Conspiratorial beliefs are no longer the fringe fly strips of the "X-Files"; They are the coin of the realm.

A recent paper by Sander Van De Cruys, Jo Bervoets, Stephen Gadsby, David Gijbels, and Karolien Poels suggests that this empirical curiosity might even be normal.

Headlines from the past week make it painfully clear that the polemic fundamentalism that conspiracy-minded thought arrives at is only bound to get worse. As humans we have still not found many competent, de-escalating responses to combat internet-fueled disinformation.

The authors of the study, Insight in the Conspiracist’s Mind recognize the "universal human need to autonomously make discoveries through personal knowledge-generating actions." Psychological research has proven that "doing your own research" can create something the authors call an "Aha moment." The cognitive rewards of these subjective discoveries foster confidence in and perceived ownership of a person's ideas.

This curiosity alone is not a societal ill. After all, the quest for information defines precisely what scientists do for a living.

If you’ve logged on to any given social media platform in the past five days, you know what I’m talking about: Ever since online trolls took aim at an anonymous Chargers fan who made an appearance on national TV, and the sports media's response by tracking her down, there has not only been a screed of memes, but of fake videos, out-of-context posts, deep-fake Oregon Ducks edits, phony experts—all raining down our feeds.

Disinformation researchers call the dirge an “algorithmically driven fog of war”; the flurry of bad info, the harder-than-ever effort of sorting fact from fiction online.

"Fake news." It spiked again this week in the attempt to resolve the mystery of a woman wearing a Justin Herbert jersey at Sofi Stadium Monday night against the Cowboys. The woman's fanatical enthusiasm for the home team was captured by the cameras and given so much broadcast time that attacks on her authenticity were inevitable.

Parsing the blame for the attacks on the woman, Merianne Do, a mother of four who has cheered for the Chargers for the past 20 years, were Chargers-allied groups blaming social media and vice versa, as well as a hoard of anonymous online sleuths posting away in the vain pursuit of the truth.

The Chargers replaced their own logo with a photo of Do cheering--it was briefly the team's avatar on their various social media accounts.

Pat McAfee invited her onto his ESPN show the next day to dispel rumors of her being a paid 'plant' of the Chargers or the NFL.

A woman and two knuckleheads

Did the fact of Merianne Do's sincere fandom do anything to dispel the narrative online? Who knows?

For the record: decade-old photos of Do surfacing in a Vikings jersey do not invalidate her passion. (Editor's note: If they did, am I about to be cancelled for wearing this?)

Let's be clear: this digital fog of war has existed as long as social media has been around. And even if that haze has occasionally been pierced for the greater good, social media’s incentive structure benefits the powerful AND the unscrupulous: it champions propagandists and opportunists. The 'Web is where snake oil is procured and there are few guard rails left to oppose it outside of our own critical thinking skills.

SEO: NFL Predictions LA Chargers Chiefs

Jake from State Farm is certifiably a paid actor. Hell, Jake from State Farm isn't even named Jake. In actuality his name is Kevin Mimms, but he goes by Miles now. See? Jake has reinvented his own avatar twice in the last five years!

Miles is not even the first actor to play the role. The original Jake from State Farm was Jake Stone, a real State Farm employee who starred in a series of commercials in 2011.

No one questions the new Jake's allegiance when he is spotted at games sitting next to Travis and Jason Kelce's mother, Donna, because we are tipped off to the bit; No one is trying to get one over on us.

Speaking of Kelce, there is another viral personality who frequents our screens when watching Chiefs-related content recently. Cynics could question the timing of the biggest pop stars in the world showing up in the Kansas City luxury suites just weeks ahead of the release of a concert film and rerecorded album, but they would be dismissed as trolls.

Who am I to question the authenticity of a pop star's adoration for a football player when the track record of her interpersonal relationships (and his) with other celebrities has ever been curiously strategic or weaponized for personal gain before?

True love is true love—am I right? If anything, the problematic exes of these two lovebirds has led them to this coupling; this happily ever after; this union of authenticity.

I am certain that this will be a relationship that will endure the trials of time and that as a species we will point to that affirmation of love that we all are capable of finding that for ourselves. These are no paid actors! These are the real ones!

As for that interloper Merianne Do, she was asked if her fifteen minutes of fame were enough to rival the Chiefs most famous fan. "I could never say I could be the answer to Taylor Swift," Do said, "but if you talk about passion for football, I think I have a little bit more."

Only the most online of us could doubt that, which is why we will just have to do our own research.


LA Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs NFL Game Predictions: Week 7

Bolt Bros Podcast

Kyle Sawyer (Season Record 2-3)

The "Broracle" reads the runes!

OTHALA. Although we had a tough loss against the Cowboys. It should not destroy our confidence in the team. Remember that we always have three core values: Family, Trust and Respect.

SOWILO. As we move on to the Chiefs we have to remember that sunny days are ahead but that it is a long road, and we should retain optimism.

EHWAZ. The future of this team is dependent on working together to consistently be better. Nothing can stop them if they do. However, this adjustment may take time

Chiefs 27 - Chargers 21


Rivers Lake Yacht Club

Señor Snappy (Season Record 1-1)

Doesn’t it just feel like the Chargers have all the pieces finally coming together? Or did you fail to notice it?

And yet, I’ve never seen their fan base trust them less. It is a great place to be. I think they have a chance. I think the referees decide the game—possibly by failing to act on a critical play. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Chargers 22 - Chiefs 17



K​ea Humilde (Season Record 2-3)

So the Bolts are on the road to Arrowhead Stadium. Or is it Hollywood? Hard to tell since the NFL seems to be focused on who’s at the game rather than who’s playing the game.

It’s safe to say the Chiefs might not take us seriously, especially since we’re the “supporting cast.” The press seems to think so too, calling our viral Chargers protagonist, Marianne Do, an “actress,” when the Swifties have been acting like they love football since Week 3. But that’s okay, we’re not taking Traylor Trash seriously either. After all, the Chiefs barely beat the Denver Broncos 19-8 in primetime last week.

Travis and Taylor’s relationship may get more press coverage than a game-winning touchdown in overtime, but fortunately, this matchup will not be heading there. Justin Herbert will be looking to shake off the loss and show everyone what they made him do in this Sunday thriller. Pass the popcorn, this one’s hitting the big screen.

Chargers 28 - Chiefs 24

A woman on an airplane calling reality in to question

Thunder Down Under Podcast

J​ack Reed (Season Record 1-4)

I've said it the last three times we've played the Chiefs:

Don't oversell the edge rush (Joey Bosa), because when you jeopardize the pocket Mahomes finds the gap. He squeaks out to the side. First down Kelce or big gainer.

Keep. Him. In. The. Pocket.

I still think that Mahomes is least deadly when he's throwing from the pocket. It's when the play breaks down, and, all of a sudden, Mahomes is out the side and people are rushing around, and the cornerbacks and secondary have to start turning their heads, that's when Kelce says "yep--thank you very much!" 18-yard gain.

Keep him (Mahomes) in the pocket as best you can.

You just know that there's going to be a time in this game where the Chiefs are in the red zone--I think it's going to be early in the game, and we might have scripted early as well (as we did against Dallas)--and it's going to be this big thing: Andy Reid goes for it on fourth down, or this interesting third down play when it looks like it's all going to fail, and the crowd is sort of silent and Mahomes does a stupid little shovel pass, or passes to an offensive lineman for a touchdown, and Brandon Staley's gone "Ffff out."

And there's the game. The Chiefs have this incredible momentum-sucking ability that can really only be brought on by greatness. And that's why Andy Reid and Mahomes are together.

Chiefs 38 - Chargers 13


A mother of four

Señor Salty

Mark White (Season Record 3-2)

Justin Herbert didn’t have much style in last week's loss, making some puzzling decisions and late reads against the Cowboys. Maybe he’ll shake it off against Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s team.

Probably not though, the Kansas City defense is just as good as the one Dallas has and I don’t see the Chargers getting in the getaway car with a W.

Chiefs 17 - Chargers 14


The Greek Uncles in Chicago

A​bram Sexson and Panos Mamalis (Season Record 2-3)

When Odysseus dreamt up the idea of the Trojan Horse, he could never have predicted that it would be used to such great effect by the Chiefs. Everyone has been distracted by the Minnesota-born woman who has infiltrated Chargers' fandom.

Will Mecole Hardman pop out of her tummy to score a couple touchdowns? Maybe... but any Greek cabbie worth his salt would tell you that the "fan" is an inside job by management to distract the true fans from the team's lack of performance.

This leads to the tricky question of what constitutes a real fan. Is it someone that hypothetically becomes a Niners fan if the Chargers hire Bill Belichick as the new head coach? Is it a guy dressed up as a wolf at Chief's games who also robs banks? Or is it the person that travels to away games and gets together for beers with other true fans the night before the game? Like our uncle Maki used to say, "One thing I know, that I know nothing."

Chiefs 27 - Chargers 20


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