Hamilton Tiger-Cats' guard and CFLPA VP Peter Dyakowski, known for his Canada's Smartest Person win, his Jeopardy appearance, his logic puzzle skills and his weekly stint as Maclean's trivia genius, put those smarts to good use to play one of the best pranks ever on the CFL media this weekend. Dyakowski first mentioned a fake study, defended it on Twitter, and then doing an in-character radio interview (under the name of Donald Trump's fake spokesman!) to support it. Dyakowski's timing was perfect, as this came around some discussions of University of Lethbridge professor Reginald Bibby's regular surveys on sports popularity, and it wouldn't have been too surprising to see someone actually do a survey about even as unscientific a subject as "the best fans in the CFL." Here's Dyakowski's tweet that started it all, the annoyed responses from Saskatchewan fans, and Dyakowski playing right along:
Oh, but this is just the start. This goes to a new level when CJME (Regina) radio broadcaster Jamie Nye gets involved and tries to interview the guy behind the "study", and Dyakowski responds. What's fantastic here is that the name he uses, John Miller, happens to be not only the name of Donald Trump's infamous self-spokesman, but also the name of McMaster's director of resident affairs. It would seem highly unlikely that the director of resident affairs would also be doing this kind of research, and the "John Miller" name should set off alarm bells; also, quick searching shows that the Perimeter Institute is a theoretical physics centre in Waterloo, not anything related to sociology studies like this. Still, there's just enough plausibility here to make it understandable why Nye would take this call. Here's that back-and-forth:
And this leads to Nye actually interviewing "Miller" on-air, with Dyakowski playing it completely straight for eight minutes, pretending to be the professor (albeit with his own very recognizable voice), somewhat downplaying the claims he made on Twitter, but saying that Hamilton fans topped the "study" thanks to their engagement in a crowded sports market. Here's the interview (with audio via Drew Edwards):
Nye bought it, though, and it's understandable why he did. For one thing, he's a Saskatchewan journalist, not a Hamilton one, so it makes sense that he wouldn't recognize Dyakowski's voice immediately. For another, Dyakowski does an excellent job of sounding like a stats professor here. Beyond that, there are all sorts of dubious CFL-related studies that come out regularly, with ones tracking fandom often showing extremely questionable results (consider this 2015 one, from the very real Dr. Bibby, that concluded that 1 in 10 Americans follows the CFL "very closely" or "fairly closely" and received blanket media coverage afterwards despite that idea being totally unsupported by CFL U.S. TV ratings and web traffic).
Something as subjective as "best fans" could produce literally any result depending on what factors are considered, too, so this isn't even a naturally-ridiculous conclusion (even if it's one perfectly calculated to troll Saskatchewan). Dyakowski also put a lot of effort into this, and Nye told 55-Yard Line Monday he was "just left shaking my head he committed that hard to a joke." That's also understandable, so this shouldn't be seen as an indictment of Nye, but rather as praise for the superb troll job Dyakowski managed to pull off. He eventually confessed:
— Peter Dyakowski (@PeterDyakowski) May 20, 2016
This led to plenty of great further comments over the weekend, from Dyakowski, other current and former CFLers, fans, and even NFL QB (and Dyakowski's former LSU teammate) Matt Flynn:
Well done, Peter, well done. You can bet media are going to be a little more careful around you in the future, as they should be when dealing with "Canada's Smartest Person." However, they should also be more careful when giving credence to these kinds of studies in general.
[Update: This post initially had the Perimeter Institute as part of the University of Waterloo. It's in Waterloo, and has programs in conjunction with the university, but is independent. Thanks, Eamon!]