Internet fraud goes beyond KOTH voting

Last month, Australian rugby league player David Williams was declared the winner of the 2009 King of the Hardwood contest after the competition's creator, friend of Outsports Layne (aka Mariner Duck Guy on the Discussion Board), threw out votes for LA Dodger Brad Ausmus due to an online ballot-stuffing campaign. It was unfortunate that the contest was tainted by this activity, but the fact is KOTH is a one-man operation. Layne does a lot of work compiling nominees, photo links, etc. and does a great job putting it all together. So he can't be blamed for what happened in the finals.

If you think it's easy, consider the case of another recent online vote, this one to name a new minor league baseball team that will start play in 2010 in the town of Normal, Illinois, the home of Illinois State University. Last month, after almost 1,500 suggestions were received, four finalists were chosen: Nutz, NightHawks, CornBelters and Coal Bears. A week-long online vote began to choose the winner.

The Coal Bears name was a shameless attempt to get the attention of Comedy Central talk-show host Stephen Colbert. I don't know if Colbert noticed, but his fans did, and in initial voting Coal Bears started strong, with 95 percent of the vote as of the morning of the second day of the contest. Two days later, however, Coal Bears' percentage had dropped to just 16 percent, as Nutz suddenly led with 78 percent, with over 800,000 votes cast. Who knew so many people cared about a minor league baseball team that hasn't even played a game?

Some online commenters, particularly fans of Coal Bears, believed the team rigged the voting. In addition, there were complaints about the NightHawks name, as "Night Hawk," it seems, is a title given to the head of security in the Ku Klux Klan. So team officials threw out the votes, dropped NightHawks in favor of two new entries (Fellers and Camelbacks) and re-staged the vote with new restrictions to prevent another round of tampering.

This week, with 1,244 out of about 3,000 total votes, the new team's name was officially announced: the CornBelters.

Two comments: first, I think we've officially run out of team nicknames. Second, this story was passed along to me by a friend who lives in the area, with the comment "How long before this turns into the Cornholers?"

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