While Florida State and Auburn battled for a national championship, Twitter was busy talking about something else. What could capture so much attention away from a major sporting event?
@FauxPelini ok enough is enough... I want my cat back. You've had her long enough!— Bo Pelini (@BoPelini) January 7, 2014
After years of being tweeted about, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini finally decided to get in on the joke. With only 14 words, Faux finally met Bo.
You don’t need to be a fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers to know who @FauxPelini is. The account has amassed over 73,000 followers since its creation in 2010. Followers span the United States and boast various allegiances.
Yet, despite his popularity, no one truly knows who the man behind @FauxPelini is. What is known is that he’s a Chicago-based lawyer that has agreed to be called by his middle name, Michael. An Omaha, Neb. native, Michael is married with children and two cats. He is also an avid Husker fan.
It seems like enough information to identify the man behind the account. Does that mean Michael’s friends and family know?
“Some do, but most don’t,” Michael said. “Most of the people who know have known from the beginning and watched it grow. I think all of us have been pretty surprised at how it’s grown.”
With only a handful of people aware of his identity, Michael does receive tweets from people he knows. He’s even had people suggest he follow the fake account.
“I have had some high school friends tweet at Faux, and that’s very weird,” he said. “And the other day a guy I see once in a while through work, and talk football with, said I have to follow this crazy Faux Pelini account. I just nodded and said I would check it out.”
Despite the constant demand to know who he is, Michael prefers to stay anonymous. He believes it’s more fun that way.
Staying anonymous does have its benefits, too. For Michael, it allows him to continue to develop a voice that many often mistake for the real Pelini. And it’s a voice that has greatly evolved in time.
“The first few months Fake Bo was more insane and ‘screamy’ than he is now, believe it or not,” Michael said. “I was all over the place, tweeting mean, over-the-top stuff at Blaine Gabbert, Donald Trump, even some Husker players. It was sort of lazy and not that interesting, looking back on it.”
But that has changed.
“As I’ve gained more followers, I’ve probably felt less of an urge to say nutty or outrageous stuff to get attention,” he said.
That hasn’t stopped Michael from tweeting at various key individuals. From Pelini to former Husker Ndamukong Suh to the Pope, no one is off limits. And until recently, none of those individuals really engaged with @FauxPelini.
After Pelini broke his silence, Suh did the same on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I don’t know that I ever really thought about the future of the account at any point, but I would never have expected the attention it’s received, especially from those guys,” Michael said.
He still hasn’t heard from the Pope, though. He’s fine with that.
“I don’t think it would be good to be on the Pope’s radar screen, would it?” Michael said. “Not sure anything good can come from that. I guess he could put in a good word for me if he laughs at one of my tweets.”
Regardless, Michael enjoys running the @FauxPelini account. Many fans of the account wonder how much time it takes to manage it. He says it depends.
“In terms of being Faux and thinking of tweets and stuff, I spend maybe 30-45 minutes or so a day,” Michael said. “Some days a lot more if something’s going on, like game days, when Bo or Suh have tweeted me, etc. And if the Pope ever tweets me, that will be a busy day.”
On those busy days, Michael admits the account can become too much for some. In fact, he says that while he gains a lot of followers on a game day, he also typically loses about 200 followers over the course of the day.
“I’d say the two main complaints I get on Twitter are that I tweet too much about Husker football and that I don’t tweet enough about Husker football,” Michael said. “I imagine if I was a random person in Maine or somewhere getting 50 tweets about the Nebraska-Wyoming game while I was at the grocery store, I would click the unfollow button too.”
It’s never been about the followers, though. Michael says the account was created with the intention of having a little fun. In fact, he’s never viewed it as an outlet to make fun of Pelini.
“I’ve seen people say that Faux is always ‘skewering’ Bo or that the purpose of the account is to make fun of Bo, but that’s not really what I’m trying to do,” Michael said. “In fact, I started the thing as a way to make fun of people who were making fun of Bo—to poke fun at the people who had made him out to be a sort of maniacal cartoon character. I’m not sure it comes off that way all the time, but making fun of Bo isn’t really the point of Faux Pelini.”
Instead, Michael hopes people see that he’s just a big Nebraska fan. He also laughs when he thinks about the true meaning behind @FauxPelini’s game-day thoughts.
“I hope it comes through that I’m a fan of the team,” Michael said. “I want the Huskers to win and do well, and when I tweet during games, those are pretty much my thoughts. Wow, that’s scary to admit.”
And as long as Pelini is at Nebraska, Michael will continue to share his thoughts as the head coach’s alter-ego. However, he’s clear that the day Pelini departs Nebraska, @FauxPelini won’t go with him.
“It will be the end,” Michael said. “I may start up something else, or maybe not—we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.”
Erin Sorensen is the lead Nebraska football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.