4 Real-Life George Costanzas
It's natural to lie about your accomplishments a little bit. Facebook is basically just a wasteland of profiles of perfect people who don't really exist. Since we all do it, no one will blame you when the time you saw Leonardo DiCaprio on the street turns into the time he totally hit on you, or that the time you got arrested for stalking a famous blonde actor goes unmentioned on your news feed.
But then there are the George Costanzas of the world: people who are so obsessed with appearing more awesome than they are that they will let little lies turn into big lies into huge lies, allowing everyone to believe in the facade for years. So in honor of the release of Seinfeld on Hulu, we've found the most despicable liars and how they fooled the entire world into bigger ruses than Vandelay Industries.
Marilee Jones Gave Herself Way Too Many College Degrees
It's rare that you can talk about a famous school administrator, but as dean of admissions at MIT, Marilee Jones was at least as well-known as last year's American Idol runner-up (I want to say Jenna something?). In 2007, she'd worked for the prestigious university for almost 30 years and had written a critically acclaimed book on getting into college.
She also had a whole lot of degrees that were just as meaningful as Kermit The Frog's honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters.
This is seriously a thing that happened.
In 1979, Jones applied for an assistant job at MIT. She was totally eligible, considering she had a perfectly respectable biology degree from the College Of Saint Rose, and the fact that the entry-level job she was applying for didn't require having any degree at all. But instead of writing down a qualification she actually had, she decided to make two others up. Suddenly, she had degrees from Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and none from Saint Rose. This is like staunchly denying you won an MTV Video Music Award but claiming to have swept the Teen Choice Awards.
When Chester A. Arthur is your most famous alumnus, you are not even the Grammys of education.
Jones got the job, but she decided her two fake degrees weren't impressive enough. So at some point in the next few years the lie snowballed out of control to the point that she now had a degree from Albany Medical College, a master's from Rensselaer Polytechnic, and, finally in 2007, the former Miss Jones suddenly started going by Dr. Jones. What school supposedly gave her a doctorate? At that point it didn't even matter. She could have started calling herself the Reverend Doctor Princess Jones, Esq., and no one would have cared, apparently.
But eventually someone tipped off the school and Jones had to resign. And it suddenly made a lot more sense that she had been encouraging students to create their "own reality."
John Spano Tried To Buy A Sports Team With No Money
There is a hierarchy of rich people. You've got your regular rich people who never have to worry about money but live relatively boring lives. Then you have your world travelers and your giant yacht owners. But when you are really, really loaded and want to impress everyone around you with how big your money penis is, you buy a professional sports team.
In 1996, John Spano decided it was time to give society a slap in the face, and he bought the New York Islanders hockey team. The problem was he had absolutely no money. We don't mean he was rich but not Mark Cuban rich; we mean he had NO MONEY.
Even really terrible teams cost at least a couple thousand.
We understand his predicament. You start dropping hints to your friends about how successful your business is, and eventually you have to prove it. Normal people might lease a sports car or hire some classy-looking ladies just to hang out around you, but Spano took it to the next level.
After trying to buy the Dallas Stars and the Florida Panthers, he finally got somewhere with the Islanders. They were desperate for a new owner, which apparently meant that no one was interested in looking into his background too deeply. If they had, they would have discovered that Spano was a huge liar, and not necessarily a good one. Still, a couple forged documents were good enough for the owner of the team to sell to him.
While fans were treating him like a savior and chanting his name at games, Spano was busy avoiding that pesky $165 million he owed. He sent in a $17 million check, knowing full well it would bounce, then wired $1,700 and claimed there had been a mistake at the bank. Despite this being a con not even your landlord would fall for, it worked so well he did it again, sending $5,000 instead of $5 million.
Decimal point confusion was the cause of every economic crisis ever.
After months of this, the lawyers and banks involved realized that maybe this guy didn't have as much money as he said he did, and the previous owner took the team back.
Still, if some broke jerk managed to legally own a professional sports team for three months, just think of what you can accomplish. Reach for the stars, kids!
George O'Leary Wished He Was A Football Star
George O'Leary celebrated an illustrious career coaching college football from the 1970s to 2001. In his 22 year run, he was famous for turning around teams with losing records and for inspiring his players to achieve their own personal greatness on the field. After all, he knew what it was like out there. He had played at the University of New Hampshire where he lettered three years in a row. Or, at least that was the tiny lie he told to get his first coaching job. On par with George Costanza being a make-believe marine biologist, this real-life George was a make-believe football player. Just five days after becoming the head coach at Notre Dame in 2001, someone bothered to check out his background and realized water boys had more field time than O'Leary.
It's not a complete fabrication, he had really wanted to make the team in college. His classmates at the University Of New Hampshire remember him talking about how he was going play, and they remember him getting in shape for the season, but he never actually made the team. Within a decade, though, he was telling everyone how he had not only played football but lettered three years in a row. He told this story for the next 21 years, and it was included in all official biographies about him. No one even knows how many times it showed up in heartfelt halftime inspirational speeches to his team.
When this guy has a better record than you, you know it's bad.
Now, it's not like there is a rule that coaches have to be former players. But a coach recalling his past heroic achievements on the field is standard motivational fare. At some point in his career, George had taken his dreams of making the college team and turned them into a job. Oh, he also claimed he had a master's degree from NYU to no conceivable gain. Once you start lying sometimes it's just hard to stop yourself.
Jeffrey Papows Thought He Was Every Action Hero
Back in 1999, there wasn't a lot you could do if you were competing with Microsoft. It was the height of the dot-com bubble, and they basically ruled everything. But IBM had a secret weapon: Jeffrey Papows, the head of one of their software divisions.
If IBM's Lotus wasn't that impressive, at least Jeffrey's life story was.
Orphaned at a young age, he had joined the Marines and become a fighter pilot, rising to the rank of captain. During the first Gulf War, he saved his comrades by throwing back a live grenade at the enemy. Another time, his co-pilot died while ejecting, just like in Top Gun. Fortunately, Papows was such a good guy that he cared for his friend's widow after he came home. If that wasn't enough, he managed to get a doctorate from Pepperdine University AND a black belt in taekwondo.
Smart and deadly? What a ridiculous Asian stereotype.
Of course, absolutely all of it was bullshit. No wartime heroics, no doctorate, no helping a lonely widow. Despite his obsession with Top Gun, he'd been an air traffic controller, not a fighter pilot. Perhaps most disgustingly, his supposedly dead parents were totally alive and living nearby. And since he wasn't any kind of black belt, people didn't have to worry about calling him out for his lies to his face.
Despite literally taking moments from military action movies and claiming they had happened to him, when confronted with all his lies, Papows' explanation was that his colleagues had taken his actual life story and expanded it into a "water-cooler legend," because they wanted him to seem like more of a hero.
Not content with being a badass outside his job, he also had to claim to be one in the technology world. Not only did he say that Bill Gates (the head of the competition) called him at home, he said that he once made fun of Gates so badly that the richest man in the world stormed off a stage.
Here's the proof. Papows is in the middle, wearing his invisibility suit.
Watch George Costanza fail his way upward in every episode of Seinfeld, now streaming on Hulu.
Kathy Benjamin wrote a very funny book called FUNERALS TO DIE FOR, and you can buy it here. Or follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.