The Herald Was Punked: Here Are Your Fake Russians, FAU Student Bradley Springer and His Buddy Jonathan Taylor

Riptide has solved the Soviet mystery of "Pavel and Yuri Kopeche!" Meet Florida Atlantic University freshman Bradley Springer and high schooler Jonathan Taylor, the world's foremost Russian basketball fan impersonators.

The pair painted their faces and put on their best Borat-esque accents for Tuesday's Heat vs. Moscow game, intending to "just mess with people." But then the Miami Herald interviewed them and ran with their wild tale of Russkie basketball love all the way to the front page of the sports section. "This thing really escalated quickly," Springer tells Riptide.

Springer emailed Riptide last night after we wrote about Deadspin's report that the passionate Russian brothers featured in Linda Robertson's column might not, in fact, be all that Russian.

​The Palm Beach Gardens native says Pavel, the fun loving Russkie, was born on a trip to Italy last year. Springer and his friends made a couple YouTube videos of the faux Russian running around town and wearing ridiculous tiny shorts. 

"That's how I got the accent down," Springer says. "My friend Jonathan became Yuri, and when we saw the Heat's schedule we were like, 'We have got to go to that game.'"

So Springer and Taylor, who is a junior at the Benjamin School, ended up in a tiny cheering section for fans of Moscow's pro basketball team. A Russian television crew quickly descended.

"They asked, 'Do you speak Russian?'" Springer says. "I was like, 'No, no, I move here long ago.'"

They interviewed him anyway. That's when Robertson moved in. Springer and Taylor decided to keep the charade going. 

The Herald reporter interviewed them for 15 minutes while Springer described Russia's love of Britney Spears, the NBA culture in Moscow, and even invented a Russian rapper named Don Zagru allegedly fond of wearing LeBron jerseys.

"We saw the story online on our way home, and I could not stop laughing. I haven't laughed that much ever," Springer says.

Still, the would-be Pavel says he wasn't trying to destroy Robertson's reputation. "If she gets in trouble, that wasn't our intention at all," he says. "I would feel bad about that."

This may not be the end of the embarrassment for the Herald, though: Springer's friend filmed the whole interview from the stands. "We're working on putting a video together now to post," he says.

As for Pavel and Yuri, they already have a Facebook fan page. The pair will rise again: "We're going to keep this going, for sure," Springer says.

The Herald, for its part, took Robertson's story off its website this morning. Riptide emailed sports editor Jorge Rojas for a comment, but we haven't heard back.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink