(Originally posted earlier today.)
Bloggers and members of the White House press corps beware: You can actually get charged, in the U.S. at least, with "impersonating a journalist."
That's the charge Long Island teenager and diehard New York Mets fan Ryan Leli, who may very well be the kid in the picture with Tom Cruise, is facing. Authorities say that he used a fake NBC employee ID card to score press passes to a pair of Mets games within the past 10 days.
Leli, 18, was accredited for a Mets-Padres game on Aug. 10 and apparently even got to talk to ex-Met Mike Piazza. He allegedly tried to do it again for the Mets-Rockies game on Friday. That set off team officials' B.S. detector, and he was arrested.
Now it gets good. There's reason to believe the sneaky little bugger has done this before. Punch "ryan leli" into Google and what comes up is a MySpace page belonging to an 18-year-old male from Smithtown, New York. Smithtown is in Suffolk County, which is -- drum roll, please -- the very county that is the home of the Ryan Leli who was arrested Friday night at Shea.
Just to make it clear, it was unclear at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning whether the kid who got arrested and the kid who owns this MySpace page are one and the same. But if it's a coincidence, it puts the Abe Lincoln-JFK list of similarities to shame.
Not only have friends and fellow MySpacers left plenty of comments for someone named Ryan Leli, but the page is loaded with a photos of a teenaged guy who bears a slight resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld posing with various Hollywood celebs. There's the owner of the page with Owen Wilson. (The owner of the page's MySpace handle is "Undisputed Best Dressed." Gee, somebody is insecure.)
My sweet lord, the kid in the photos who may or may not be Ryan Leli has seemingly met every celebrity who's been to New York in the past six months except for the actual Jerry Seinfeld. There he is with P-Diddy, who was no doubt happy to meet one of the many white kids from the suburbs whose dubious taste in music has helped him to do his part to completely ruin hip-hop. (But that's another column. You're with me, Chuck D.)
So if it's the same guy, there are only two obvious conclusions: Either this person has been charming and conniving his way into glamourous, glitzy events for some time now ... or he's got all sorts of friends in high places who can get him into the places that A-list stars such as Tim Robbins frequent, but he couldn't swing tickets to a measly New York Mets game in the middle of August.
Or maybe the thrill of trying not to get pinched made it beneath him to, you know, actually pay for his tickets like the rest of us swine who never could pull off the shiny-vest look.
Anyway, one would be inclined to salute Mr. Leli for his chutzpah, were it not for the fact that he was arrested when the Colorado Rockies were playing Shea. If you're going to risk arrest, ridicule and a possible criminal record to see a major-league baseball game, at least do it when a half-decent team is in town. (Granted, it's the National League, so there aren't many who qualify on that count.)
Also, if it's the same guy, and the allegations are true, let's hope his mother doesn't start to wonder about why her son is so eager to go to great lengths to a) have pictures taken with all these male celebrities, including Tom Cruise, you know what I'm sayin' and b) and apparently talk to Mike Piazza in a baseball locker room that may or not have been filled at the time with half-naked jocks.
Again, it could be a coincidence that a kid named Ryan Leli got arrested for allegedly trying to run a savage burn on the Mets, while at the same time there are all these photos on MySpace of a desperate wannabe who's from the same hometown.
It's no laughing matter for Leli or his parents, but to hell with 'em. For the record, he faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
For his sake, let's hope he doesn't go to jail. Judging by the kid in the photos, Ryan Leil may be shorter than Tom Cruise. In jail, guys who are shorter than Tom Cruise typically get used as currency... although an autograph from Kanye West could probably be used as contraband.
By the way, this space has been having fun at the Mets' expense lately:
Top 5: New York Baseball Sex Scandals (Aug. 14)
In A Way, We All Played First Base (June 21)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.