Weirdest news stories of 2017

If you've listened to literally anybody on television this year — whether their political affiliation is left, right, up, down, or across — you've probably gotten the impression that the world is headed for a screaming, fiery apocalypse, like in that one movie with the giant space rock that threatens to wipe out all life on Earth. But it may comfort you to know that there's solid evidence that the world isn't turning into a disaster movie — no, it's turning into a ridiculous slapstick farce, of the type that audiences can't seem to get enough of despite their paltry Rotten Tomatoes scores. For proof, look no further than these absolutely true news stories from the past year, which all highlight the fact the world is as at least as goofy as it is scary. 

Fish nearly kills fisherman

It's safe to say that if the average person were asked to list all of the potentially life-threatening things that could happen while fishing until they absolutely couldn't think of any more, they might never arrive at "fish jumping down your throat." Yet this is the wildly improbably scenario that befell an unnamed 28-year-old man who had been enjoying a relaxing day of fishing on the south coast of England, right up until the time a 6-inch Dover sole — which he was pretending to kiss for a photo — gave a mighty flop and sprang right into his mouth, then proceeded to wriggle its way down his throat and into his chest.

As reported by the Telegraph, it took all of two minutes for paramedics to arrive on the scene — by which time the unfortunate fisherman had already stopped breathing and gone into cardiac arrest. It took them six tries, but they somehow managed to yank the fish from the man's throat. Amazingly, he was revived in the ambulance and later made a full recovery. And now, for the really weird part: in 2016, it was reported that a 47-year-old man died after having nearly the exact same thing happen to him. So anglers, take note: wear a muzzle or something on your next trip because the fish have figured out how to pay you back.

Drug lord nabbed on the way to beard contest

Gal Vallerius was a Frenchman with an awesome name and a secret: he lived a double life as "OxyMonster," an administrator for a Dark Web narcotics emporium. His site was particularly popular in the States, and U.S. authorities had been meticulously building a case against him, just waiting for him to set foot on American soil. According to The Guardian, they got their chance when the drug lord just couldn't resist making a stateside appearance for the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

You see, Vallerius had a magnificent, enormous, naturally bright-red beard that was every bit as awesome as his name, and he and his beard intended to take home the title. Instead, he was met at the Atlanta airport by some bummer cops who were totally harshing his buzz about all the hardcore drugs he'd been selling to Americans. They hauled him off to Miami to face a list of narcotics charges probably even longer than his beard. Shocked competitors couldn't help but be glad Vallerius wouldn't be attending. "I don't know anything about what other stuff he did," said one, "but as far as his beard goes, it's really awesome."

Baby questioned on suspicion of terrorism

As you may be aware, the United States has become a bit paranoid about letting people into the country in recent years. Travelers to the U.S. must typically fill out what's called an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) form, and since this form originated with the U.S. government, it gets pretty hilarious. For example, one yes-or-no question just lays it all out there: "Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?" If you're wondering if anyone has ever checked "yes" and what would happen if they did, get ready for the monumentally stupid answer.

Sixty-three-year-old Englishman Paul Kenyon was traveling with his 3-month-old grandson Harvey. Perfectly innocent. If you've ever traveled with an infant, you know they can be a bit of a distraction. Filling out the ESTA on Harvey's behalf, Kenyon accidentally checked the wrong box in response to that question, resulting in his infant grandson being hauled in to the American Embassy to face questioning related to his terrorist activities by straight-faced officials. Speaking with The Guardian, Kenyon seemed amazed that they "didn't appear to have a sense of humor over it at all," and deadpanned that "if you were a terrorist, I suspect you'd not be ticking yes on the ESTA form anyway." As for Harvey, we presume he stated in an unnaturally deep voice that he had been foiled this time but that soon he would show us, oh yes, he would show us all.

Ted Cruz 'likes' porn clip on Twitter

Whatever your political leanings, we can probably all agree on the fact that Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a little awkward. The kind of awkward that earns him YouTube videos with titles like "Ted Cruz Cringe Compilation 2016" and provokes (lighthearted) speculation as to whether he's actually from planet Earth. This is probably why the internet completely lost its mind when Senator Cruz found himself in another awkward situation: in the middle of one night in September, his verified Twitter account "liked" a tweet from an account called "Sexuall (sic) Posts" featuring a hardcore porn clip.

The gaffe was reported far and wide, and Cruz promptly sprung into damage control mode, telling the Washington Post, "It was a staffing issue and it was inadvertent," and assuring CNN's Dana Bash in an interview that "It was not me" and that "the staffer … feels terrible." We're actually inclined to take the Senator's explanation at face value if only because "porn preference" is at the top of the list of things we really don't need to know about our elected officials.

Grand Theft Nutella

If, like so many of us, you've ever scored some cheap Nutella on the black market, German police have a message for you: "Nein." (That's German for "no" and code for "beware of black market chocolate/hazelnut spread.") This is because a gang of nefarious thieves somehow, without anyone noticing, managed to completely empty out a refrigerated truck in the town of Neustadt and make off with all its contents — which included almost 20 tons of the stuff.

According to CBS Chicago, authorities strongly suspect the theft of a trailer in a neighboring town may be related to the sweet, chocolatey heist, since 500 guys carrying off a truckload of Nutella in their arms probably would have been spotted at some point. Neustadt police gravely warned the public about accepting "large quantities of chocolate via unconventional channels," but they don't seem to be thinking this through. Who would sell Nutella? All the cops need to do is wait for a few months, then go ahead and arrest all the fattest guys in Neustadt.

Fisherman catches drunk woman

In the great state of Florida, things tend to get really weird, really fast. Even a simple trip to the pier can turn into a surreal adventure, as evidenced by the story of an unnamed man who came up with an unexpected haul on a late-summer fishing excursion. The man may have been hoping to land some largemouth bass or perhaps some spotted sea trout, but — according to 96.5 WDBO — he was disappointed to hook quite a different local species, a cursing drunk woman.

The woman, identified as 22-year-old Alexandria Turner, apparently materialized next to the man's lure and began shouting obscenities at him before — this is not a joke — biting his line and swimming off with it. Attempts to reel Turner in failed, and police arrived to coax her, still swearing and shouting, up onto the pier, where she was hauled off to face charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. The fisherman then presumably cast another line, hoping to land a friendlier woman this time. 

Loud sex interrupts tennis match

Sticking with Florida for a moment, Slate reported on an April incident at the Sarasota Open tennis tournament, in which a match between Frances Tiafoe and Mitchell Krueger was disrupted by some spirited grunting sounds. Not the ones the players make for some weird reason whenever they connect with the ball, but the distinctive, unmistakable sounds of — to put it delicately — people humping, coming from some indeterminate location.

The television commentator first speculated that the sound was a video being played from a phone, but it quickly became apparent that the racket was coming from an apartment somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, and was being made by real people. Play-by-play commentator Mike Cation followed his reporter's instinct. "I can still hear it. It's still going," he exclaimed, as Krueger swatted a ball in the general direction of the ruckus, and Tiafoe shouted, "It can't be that good!" On Twitter after the match, those involved had a lively discussion about the incident, with Krueger asking Tiafoe if he thought they were about to go viral. Cation jumped in on the conversation, saying, "Mitch … when you went to the chair to get the ball, I legit thought it was coming from your phone." For the record, Tiafoe was the competitor better able to keep his composure through the whole thing, winning the match in straight sets.

Some kind of bust

Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is hands-down the favorite native son of the islands of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. A gifted athlete whose exploits have shone the national spotlight on the tiny archipelago, Ronaldo is a local hero — the islands' only airport, the Aeroporto da Madeira, was even recently renamed the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport in his honor. Ronaldo is also a strikingly handsome man, which raises the question of why the bust unveiled at the renaming ceremony looks a lot like Jason Voorhees jumping out of the lake at the end of Friday the 13th

As reported by The Guardian, no less than Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was in attendance at the event, and Ronaldo bravely kept his game face on while taking pictures with the horrifying monstrosity that had been belched forth from the bowels of hell to honor him. The Telegraph noted that fans' reaction to the bust on Twitter ranged from "questionable" to "horrifying," with one almost destroying the entire internet by posting an image of the bust Photoshopped onto the body of the real Ronaldo. But the footballer seemed to take it all in stride, probably because this is just the kind of thing that happens to him. For example, an 11-foot bronze likeness erected in his hometown in 2014 either has a salami in its pocket or is really happy to see you.

Hollywood sign vandalized, radically

The iconic Hollywood sign has a long and weird history because it's located in Hollywood, which is only tenuously connected to the reality the rest of us live in. After California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in November of 2016 (which is only surprising in that it took this long), one guy was so psyched about it that he decided to celebrate with a ridiculous New Year's prank: according to the The Hollywood Reporter, he hiked up the mountain in the dead of night, and used two strategically-placed tarps to turn the O's into E's, and residents awoke to the first day of 2017 surprised to find that they now lived in "Hollyweed."

The Guardian later reported that the prank had been the work of local artist Zachary Cole Fernandez, who turned himself in to police after realizing that he had almost certainly been caught on the sign's security cameras, which he had failed to take into account on the night of the prank for some unknown but possibly green and stinky reason. Of course, this was only after giving an interview to Vice about it, which he seemed to figure might cause some trouble: "Sometimes in order to create that conversation, you have to be OK with the consequences," he said, adding, "I'm very proactive about marijuana." Yes, we gathered as much.

Lizard-infused beer sends man to ER

And in the "Making You Want To Crawl Right Out Of Your Skin" department, we have the story of George Toubbeh, whose desire for a few frosty Heinekens landed him in the ER and probably scarred him for life. According to Business Insider, Toubbeh had kicked back with a few brews he'd purchased from a local Ralph's Supermarket when he began to notice a "foul taste," presumably different from the foul taste that comes with simply drinking a typical Heineken. Toubbeh pressed on, drinking enough of the strange brew to make him start puking — and that's when his daughter took a closer look at the can he'd been drinking from and found a couple of dead lizards inside. 

In the language of the subsequent and obligatory lawsuit, the adult male geckos "had not been decomposed at all and were likely alive when the beer was poured and sealed into the cans in the bottling and/or canning facility." The suit went on to claim that Toubbeh had paid a visit to the Emergency Room, suffering from "hyperactive bowel movements" and "nearly complete loss of appetite" in addition to a hefty helping of PTSD. For its part, Heineken USA claimed to have "investigated this isolated claim" and found it to be without merit. Toubbeh's attorney, after his firm's own investigation, told the Los Angeles Times that the suit was "meritorious and viable," which is legalese for "Up yours, Heineken." The suit is still pending.

Footloose intrudes on real life

The 1984 film Footloose is mostly remembered for being the '80s-est thing ever, a movie that checks every single formulaic, cheesy '80s box like perhaps no other. It starred Kevin Bacon (check) as a cool loner type (check) who teaches the residents of an uptight backwater town to loosen up and like, dance, man, in defiance of a stuffy old authority figure who happens to be his love interest's father (check, check, chiggety-chiggety check-checkah). It's a goofy Hollywood fable, with a plot full of tropes that were well-worn 30 years ago, depicting events that could never take place in anything resembling a real-world setting — unless that setting is Henryetta, Oklahoma, which is the actual name of a real town whose residents were forced to live out its plot in real life.

According to ABC News, the town of 6,000 has an honest-to-Pete morality ordinance which forbids dancing within 500 feet of a church because … God hates dancing? It's not exactly clear. The residents who planned the town's 2017 Valentine's Day dance (holy crap, another check) were unaware of this, and unfortunately planned the festivities too gosh-darn close to a local church, causing the ordinance — which hadn't been enforced in living memory — to kick in. Even though the local sheriff had no intention of enforcing the old law, he was overruled by the city attorney and the dance was canceled. This time, Bacon had been too busy working on an awesome Tremors reboot to intervene.

Mobster injured playing ping-pong in prison, sues for millions

Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli earned that totally sweet nickname by doing things that were the exact opposite of totally sweet. He's a ruthless ex-mob boss who, according to the New York Times, was convicted in 2014 of conspiring to kill three other mob types and slapped with a prison sentence of nearly two decades. As reported by CBS Sports, Gioeli was named earlier this year as the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center of negligence in a 2013 incident in their facility. It seems that Gioeli was involved in a particularly spirited game of ping-pong with a fellow inmate when he slipped on a wet floor and broke one of his kneecaps (which, given his former lifestyle, may be seen as karmically appropriate). 

The fact that Gioeli suffered a broken kneecap requiring surgery is not in dispute, but this took place in Brooklyn, so the facility's position basically amounts to, "Yeah, he should have tried not playing ping-pong on a wet floor," which really does seem like common sense. Gioeli is seeking $10 million in damages, which seems like a lot more than a broken kneecap should be worth, but he's the authority.