MEDIA

Get Sacked: The Ballsack Sports Interview

The man behind the infamous Twitter account shining a satirical light on the questionable aspects of sports media speaks with Boardroom about the method behind his madness.

It’s an overcast morning. Suddenly unnerved, you roll over to silence your phone’s alarm. Finally, you convince your eyes open and come into focus as you scan through notifications. You tap into that little blue bird app.

Kyrie Irving has informed the Nets he plans to retire,” reads the No. 1 tweet dominating your feed.

A sudden pit properly develops in your stomach. Your thoughts are scrambled, and after a disorienting few moments, you realize you’ve been Sacked.

The increasingly infamous Ballsack Sports Twitter account is the brainchild of a 24-year-old man named Matt, whom you might call “just a kid from Akron, Ohio.” Matt began the satirical, NBA-focused account in September of 2021 as a way to entertain himself between getting shots up on campus and hitting collegiate lecture halls as a psychology major.

Naturally, Boardroom had to catch up with him to get a better sense of the art, science, and philosophy behind getting Sacked.

Matt was born during an intense New York Knicks-Miami Heat NBA playoff game in 1997. Naturally, his identity has an unbreakable link with basketball.

“I have baby pictures of me dunking on a little one-foot-hoop,” Matt explained to Boardroom in a phone interview. “I remember playing a lot of basketball in my driveway as a kid. I would pretend I was Dirk [Nowitzki], LeBron [James], or Kobe [Bryant]. I would emulate their moves in pretend one-on-one matchups. I just had a great imagination for the game.”

That imagination runs rampant now through Ballsack Sports, and every dupe is rooted in a pure love for the game that only grew stronger once Matt developed a keen interest in the sport not as a journalistic pursuit, but a therapeutic one — Matt said that rediscovering his love for playing the game helped him work through a bout of depression.

This reignited spirit, coupled with his constant ingestion of highlights, message board rants, NBA Twitter discourse, and legacy sports media all conspired to birth Ballsack Sports, an account that was name-checked by Philadelphia 76ers President Daryl Morey in January and presented as a source in a since-deleted Outkick article the following month that was syndicated by Fox News.

Most recently, Stephen A. Smith fell for a fake story about “brief” altercation at practice between Irving and James Harden.

It’s an honest look-in-the-mirror moment for sports fandom and sports journalism alike, and speaks to a larger sociopolitical conversation in the era of “fake news” both real and imagined.

Outrageous and ironically presented, the account is a humorous take on misinformation, false rumors, and unchecked sources at a time in which we’re only beginning to reck with the real-world effects of social media and its echo chambers.

Boardroom spoke with Matt about the emergence Ballsack Sports and the original intentions behind it, its evolution as a viral media presence, and (of course) some of the other infamous moments in which basketball’s biggest names got Sacked.

NATE LOUIS: Growing up at the dawn of the LeBron James era [in Cleveland], what kinds of sports media were you watching or reading on the daily?

BALLSACK SPORTS: I wasn’t super exposed to pre-NBA LeBron. I didn’t really get to read about the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School stuff until I grew up a bit more, but I remember I would watch games with the Cavs local announcers, Fred [McLeod] and [Austin Carr]. I would read the newspaper with my cereal, and I’d read the box score. It was like, LeBron dropped 28 again, LeBron dropped 30 again.’ It was kind of crazy.

I was a big SportsCenter guy in the mornings, and LeBron was just a superstar wherever, it seemed — even early on. The media coverage has always been there for him, and I got to see him play in person when he was younger. I’ve never seen a human that athletic. 

NL: Did you have thoughts about turning sports into a career, or was it just hoop dreams?

BS: Well, I’m 5-foot-11, and the NBA dream — although I think we all had them at some point — I definitely was past that and looking into being a sports journalist by about seventh grade. I was really into writing and I had a passion for it. I’d dream about traveling the country, covering teams.

NL: Were you injecting humor into your writing back then?

BS: Nah. It was much more straightforward. I had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, and I loved those in-depth pieces. I wanted to write stuff like that, so definitely a stark contrast between now and then.

NL: Have you had other successful public sports accounts prior to the creation of Ballsack Sports?

BS: Yeah. [Laughs] I’ve definitely had some, and I had a similar satirical tone to them. I like to have fun and be myself.

NL: Where does this specific kind of satirical humor come from, though? Is it just growing up on Twitter and having all these online forums so accessible?

BS: A lot of it stemmed from what I was going through in high school, and it was a changing point in my perspective of the media — [on] the whole political front, seeing the way news was framed from different sides. There was a big surge in fact-checking, but nonetheless, even if something was proven to be false, you’d still see a lot of misinformation cycling. It was like, ‘Okay, why is this happening?

Obviously, [misinformation has] always been around, but over the last few years, it’s been a phenomenon, and [we’re] seeing clickbait media intentionally prey on that. That really rubbed me the wrong way because it’s malicious. I wanted to create Ballsack Sports because I felt like I could expose a lot of that.

At the same time, I felt I could be successful in being a satirical account in plain sight, but also successful in spreading misinformation, with the idea being to make a point by doing so. My goal has always been for the whole misinformation part and the premise of my account to phase out and become redundant. I kind of want to kill my own account [and accounts like it]. I don’t want to just spread misinformation forever and let it get stronger and stronger. No, no, no. I want to raise awareness and bring appreciation to authentic, real sports journalism again — the stuff I grew up loving and reading.

NL: What was the first tweet that started to gain traction for you?

BS: I had maybe 200 followers when I dropped the first Kyrie tweet. Kyrie is one of my favorite athletes ever. I had put this out, and immediately, it was just blowing up. It felt like people wanted him to have said that so bad, and they wanted him to react that way.

There were so many blue-check Twitter accounts falling for it as well, and they would be in each other’s replies like, ‘Hey, hey, hey. Wait a minute. This is [coming from]*checks notes* Ballsack Sports.’ That was the moment where I was like, ‘Oh my God, if you put something out there, people will believe it.’ 

NL: A lot of people will want to believe something if it reinforces their own narrative.

BS: Yes, exactly! So, when I put that one out there, I felt like it was going to do exactly what it did. 

NL: What was the next big moment after that? 

BS: I continued to ride the Kyrie wave. This was only a couple weeks after, and this gained traction on TikTok, Instagram. I even had people in real life coming up to me at school like, “Hey, you hear Kyrie retired?” I’d say “Oh, what? Where do you see that from?” They’re like, “Ballsack Sports.” In my head, I’m just like, this is really happening.

NL: When you started seeing Fox News and similar outlets falling for it, was that when you realized the account was doing exactly what it was meant to do?

BS: Yup. Did you see the Scottie Pippen storyline I had? Scottie Pippen came out with his new book, and I made up this quote from it. It ended up making its way to Fox News, and then it all the way to Scottie Pippen. Someone ended up asking him about the fake quote.

That was a crazy chain of events and a prime example of how the misinformation spreads from Twitter to these different sites — to Fox News, to Chris Broussard — and all the way up to Scottie himself.

NL: Watching all this unfold and tracing the way misinformation travels, were there any patterns or specific algorithmic tics you noticed that helped you execute your formula better?

BS: I realized when I started getting more followers and more reach that it’s way easier to almost write nothing and still fool people. I didn’t even have to include a source or anything; I could just make a graphic in 30 seconds, slap on some text, and people would just believe it because others retweeted it.

I was actually getting flustered at how easy it was getting, so I ended up making a Damian Lillard quote: “I think we live in a world where a lot of morons can’t tell if something is real or fake. I like to consider myself as someone real. I deal with so many morons every day hating on my loyalty.”

I put out a lot of Dame quotes because it’s such a trigger for people; they can’t wait to knock Dame. I literally highlighted him not saying it, made an arrow, and highlighted the word “MORONS.” I made the whole quote centered around the people falling for it and there were still people falling for it.

I just hope that Dame doesn’t hate me, because he’s genuinely one of my favorite players. If he ever asked me like, “Hey man, please stop this,” I’d be like, “Yeah, I got you, man.” I totally get it.

NL: You balanced that out with your media literacy graphic, which featured Dame and pointed out sports media’s misinformation issues. Kevin Durant retweeted it. JJ Redick tweeted at you. What inspired its creation?

BS: I’m a player’s person, and I’m constantly reading about the fractured relationships between players and the media. I honestly tend to side with the players.

I put that out the same day that I was seeing an influx of fake quotes spawning across different Twitter and Instagram accounts. I’m getting frustrated because no matter what I’m pointing out, it’s still an issue that we’re not even taking a second to question anything we see. I don’t want this to continue.

I felt a lot of responsibility with my account to not just amass as many followers as possible. It’s not purely satirical in the sense that I’m just out here doing funny quotes to gain clout or something. There’s a sense of purpose here, and I’ve actually done a lot less now that I have much more reach. Because once KD retweeted that and once JJ Redick stamped the essence of the account, I felt like that brought a lot of awareness. That was a big, big thing. I feel like I have thousands of people now that are catching on and learning.

NL: You’ve “Sacked” ESPN a few times, too.

BS: I do this under the name “Ballsack Sports” because it’s in plain sight. If my name was “Bleacher Report,” I don’t think it’d have the same effect.

You don’t want to be traced back to Ballsack Sports, and the whole “you got Sacked” thing,” the community, I feel like that’s a pretty light-hearted, non-condescending way to hold accountability.

NL: Your Daryl Morey tweet was particularly good. When you came up with those trade rumors, did you ever think it’d get that far?

BS: Oh, no. That was just a fake trade rumor between the [Golden State] Warriors and [Philadephia] 76ers, and I believe I made that at like 3 a.m. It just started blowing up. I’m in McDonald’s the next day, eating with my mom, and I get notified: “Hey, Daryl Morey just shouted you out.” I’m like, “Wow. I’ve Sacked so many people to the point where the [76ers] President of Basketball Operations, someone I’ve followed for years, I’m frustrating him.”

NL: And what made you come up with a fake quote credited to Josh Smith? That got some traction, too.

BS: Well, there’s always been the Old Heads vs. Young Heads. You see a lot of players comment throughout the years about LeBron in their era, so I was like, I want to pick someone that people may have forgotten— even though he’s one of my favorites— Josh Smith. He was a hooper. It was purposeful that I took a player drafted after LeBron saying that “LeBron wouldn’t survive in my era.” Fox News [syndicated the] article. That was hilarious.

NL: Have you had anyone huge reach out in the DMs saying anything crazy or mad at you? 

BS: Surprisingly, it’s overwhelmingly, like 99% positive. It’s crazy because I don’t really see a lot of hate. I’m also really sensitive to the nature of the quotes and the athletes because I know, inherently, it can’t be the most fun thing if you’re Dame seeing quotes constantly from Ballsack Sports. There’s definitely lines I refuse to cross. I get requests that are crazy, asking me to talk about [a player’s] marriage and stuff, and I’m like, no.

It’s another reason why I definitely don’t want to be doing this forever. Maybe somehow, someway, what I’m doing will start to change how we quote athletes. The relationships and trust in the media may increase. I don’t want to make Dame the sacrificial lamb for that, though. 

NL: Do you see yourself translating the account to something else that reflects yourself and your values more? I saw a post of yours advocating for trans women. That was refreshing.

BS: I got a lot of support for that. Even though some people didn’t necessarily agree, they still supported me using my platform to be me. That felt great because I have things I believe in — I mean, we all do. But I want to be myself [online] as I would in person. I didn’t want to change who I was when I got some semblance of a platform.

There’s way bigger stuff in my life than Ballsack Sports. It was something I created, and yeah, I could probably make a decent amount of money off of it, but it’s just not me right now. It’s not what I want.

NL: What’s the mindset going forward?

BS: I want to maintain a presence on Twitter. Not tweeting the same content as much, but I feel like being Ballsack Sports will be like The Onion: a fake news outlet that maintains a sense of purpose and reflection of the absurdity (and sometimes stupidity) of things.

I might be tweeting more things that are kind of raising awareness and pointing things out, like my pinned tweet. Hopefully, more people will continue to take their time digesting news now and media outlets adapt as well. But for now, I’m just being a calm presence out here.

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