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Debunking soccer, volume 3: "Sources Say"

let's keep this rolling.

A search for "sources say" returned a picture of Rick Pitino. Makes sense.
A search for "sources say" returned a picture of Rick Pitino. Makes sense.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Part one was about players. Part two was about teams. Part three is about everyone's favorite topic: the media. Specifically, when the media use a variation of everyone's favorite phrase:


It's heading into transfer season, which is a circle of hell that Dante never saw coming - if he did, he may have just given up entirely, because there would be no new circles to conquer. And as we head into transfer season, there'll be a gigantic number of pixels spilled on stories about players going from club to club, about 95% of which are complete and utter bullshit. How can you know what's BS and what's real? A first warning sign for a bullshit story is the phrase "Sources say". Why?

Simple. It's easy for any journalist anywhere to write the most spectacularly untrue thing in the world, prefix it with "sources say", and run with it. Why? Because sources are, by nature, confidential. No good journalist would out their source, nor should they have to.

Sources say Arsenal are going to offer £35 million for the rights to out-of-contract slugger Yoenis Cespedes at the end of the season, because Wenger believes that Arsenal are missing some right-handed slugging power late in games.

See what I did there? I made shit up! It took me about three minutes, and it only took that long because I had to go find a list of this upcoming winter's MLB free agents. The point is, anybody with a keyboard can do it, and it's super easy to do.

To be a little more realistic, let's take yesterday's example of Liverpool saying they'd "accept" an offer of Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs in return for Raheem Sterling. Of course they would! Why wouldn't they? But that's crazypants. The point is, in the article about it, ESPN used the phrase "sources close to the deal". The great thing about that sentence? There's enough wiggle room there that their "source" could be literally anyone that works for Liverpool. or anyone who lives in Liverpool. Or a guy in the ESPN breakroom who overheard someone rosterbating.

And you see this all the time, particularly in the English media, during transfer season. You'll see a lot of pieces that contain phrases like "(Player X) is set to join (team) in shock move" but then offering no actual backing for that claim - not even the tenuous "Sources Say". Do not believe any of these reports - these are bored journalists who need to file stories and garner eyeballs. If there's nothing in the story quoting a named official, chances are it's mostly crap.

So I guess in addition to being the third in a series, this is your annual reminder to take every transfer story you hear, particularly ones involving big, eyeball-catching names, with tons of grains of salt. Your brain will thank you.