Luke Barosky never imagined that a simple joke he posted to Tom Brady’s Facebook account would be taken so seriously, by so many people.
In December, the 32-year-old South Boston resident said he sustained an injury while hunting for one of three pairs of used and autographed Ugg slippers that Brady had hidden in the Boston area as part of a scavenger hunt.
After trying to find a pair of the slippers in Dorchester Heights, but coming up short, Barosky shared a picture of himself with what appeared to be a missing tooth and blood on his head — Halloween makeup from CVS — claiming he slipped and fell during his epic quest to get his hands on the valuable bounty.
It was all a gag. But the picture quickly rose to the top of the comment section on Brady’s Facebook wall, and in time, the person behind the star quarterback’s page responded directly to Barosky, offering him a free pair of the signed slippers for his valiant efforts and personal sacrifice.
Now, with the slippers in hand, Barosky wants the public to know that he’s not keeping them for himself. He plans, as he had from the beginning if Brady kept his word, to donate one of the slippers to a non-profit in Dorchester that benefits children, and give back to the community that has given him so much.
“In all honesty,” Barosky said in a telephone interview with the Globe, “I never meant any ill will, and I thought it was pretty obvious it was all a joke.”
For many, it wasn’t so obvious, however.
In the age of the Internet, when more often than not people react first and check facts later, Barosky’s silly prank on Brady’s page quickly went viral — and then became unhinged.
It was picked up by media outlets across the country. Reporters came knocking on his door, and the celebrity gossip site TMZ tried calling his brother and parents to track him down, he claims.
Headlines, based solely on the conversation between Barosky and the person behind Brady’s Facebook page, began popping up all over the Web, along with the now-infamous photo of Barosky’s feigned injuries. Many posts, including one on BostonGlobe.com, appeared with amused skepticism.
“Tom Brady gifted Uggs to a Patriots fan who claimed he lost a tooth searching for them,” wrote USAToday.
“Tom Brady holds a scavenger hunt that ends with a fan losing a tooth,” CBS Sports reported.
Even the NFL’s official website joined in on the absurdity of it all, writing, “Tom Brady launches scavenger hunt, fan loses tooth.”
Commenters on Facebook came out of the woodwork, calling Barosky a fraud and a liar. Others pointed out the photo was clearly shared in jest, and congratulated Barosky for grabbing Brady’s attention and a free pair of signed slippers.
“I didn’t think it would gain traction,” said Barosky, a freelance graphic designer and artist. “I came back later, and my notifications were off the charts. This whole thing came spiraling out of nowhere. When you see yourself going viral, it’s a very surreal feeling.”
Some time passed, and Barosky continued to deflect a host of accusations about the whole ordeal. More time passed, and the slippers still never arrived.
“I thought maybe [Brady] even duped me or got the better of me, because he knew it was a fake photo,” said Barosky.
Then, on Jan. 13, they showed up at his doorstep. Barosky posted a picture to Facebook of the slippers resting on a football, as he watched a game. He tagged Brady in the image, and wrote that he would be donating one of the slippers to charity.
“Having worked the parking lots of Gillette and known the generosity of the Krafts and the New England Patriots players, I only thought it necessary,” he wrote.
He’s not donating the second slipper — at least for now — because it has his name written on it, and he figures it won’t be of interest to someone who is not named “Luke.”
Barosky told the Globe that he’s been in touch with Candice Gartley, executive director of All Dorchester Sports League, the organization he’s decided to give the slipper to.
“[She] has helped me through a lot of times,” he said. “I just wanted to pay it forward.”
Gartley said in a telephone interview that the group will put the slipper up for auction at their annual fundraiser in March, and use the proceeds to benefit the children who rely on the program.
“I think it would be a nice item,” she said. “Especially if they win the game on Sunday.”
As for duping Brady? No harm, no foul.
“I had a good feeling that a lot of people understood what was going on,” he said, including Brady.
He added, “Go Pats.”
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.