Plagiarism? Or Great Minds Thinking Alike? A Lunatic Rant Inspires Controversy

Tuesday we wrote about a long, long manifesto making its way around the net, by the father of a one-time UH baseball player convinced coach Rayner Noble had sabotaged his kid's career.

Our item was written by freelancer John W. Royal, who covers baseball and hockey for us.

Today, the writer of the fourthandfifty local sports blog wrote to say Royal had ripped him off. His blog had written about the over-the-top diatribe against Noble last Friday.

"The funny thing is, we had a very similar post last week," he wrote us. "It isn't really 'haha' funny. It can't be a coincidence because our post was front page on Deadspin, which every sports blogger reads religiously, and because of the similarity of the arguments and satire....This blatant rip-off is unacceptable, even for a blogger."

He went a little farther on his blog, writing about how we let Royal "plagiarize like a motherfucker."

As blog editor, I looked at the two items in question. There's one troubling passage.

Fourthandfifty wrote:

As a warning, before you read that site-post, you should make sure you get a good night's sleep, hydrate properly, get a big cup of coffee and a plastic cup to urinate in, and prepare yourself mentally.

Royal's piece began:

Before you click on this link, make sure you've had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make sure you've used the toilet, and make sure you've set your DVR to record anything that you might conceivably want to watch for the next two weeks.

That's pretty damn close. And obviously Royal should have credited fourthandfifty.

But....we asked Royal about it, and he says simply he never saw the fourthandfifty post.

I didn't get it from the guy. I don't know how to prove that. But I didn't. I saw the link at a UH Cougars fan board on Friday morning where they posted in on Thursday. But the link was to the actual website that I linked to, not to that [fourthandfifty] blog. I read the link. It took me a long time to read it. So I started writing some stuff. I got sick. I was on the computer Friday night through Monday afternoon long enough to check e-mails. The rest of the time I was either in bed or on the toilet. Monday night, I started writing the post. I don't know what else to say. I don't know what else to do. If you want to credit the guy, credit the guy, but that's not where I got it.

As for the similarity between the quoted passages, he says, "I wanted a start for the post, that's what I came up with. I can't prove it otherwise."

The manifesto in question is 16,000 words long, so it's not inconceivable that two writers could separately come up with riffs warning readers about the long slog that lies ahead. As for the rest of the two items, they both did what anyone would do writing about the thing -- they brought up various (and different) points the lunatic Dad had mentioned and discussed them.

So we can understand how fourthandfifty feels offended; if I had seen their piece, I would have certainly have added a link to it in Royal's piece. But no plagiarism was involved.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly