By Mike Whittlesey
So many pranks, so few opportunities…
Though not on the scale of Halley’s Comet, which makes an appearance every 75 years or so, this year is only the second time since the turn of the century that The Progress Review’s official publication date has fallen on April 1. While it might be tempting to include an outlandish story that defies belief, or insert a photograph upside down to see if anyone notices, we’d like to be taken seriously the other 51 weeks of the year. So, as you go about your business this April Fool’s Day, know that this edition of The Progress Review has been designed with the same care and attention to detail as every other issue during the year (which, sadly, is not to say it is completely free of errors…).
The origins of April Fool’s Day actually date back hundreds of years, with no one explanation for how the day came to be an absolute certainty. In more recent times, though, there have been some rather memorable pranks carried out.
For example, on April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Company was responsible for airing one of the first April Fool’s jokes to appear on television. As part of the news program entitled “Panorama,” one segment of the show detailed the efforts to harvest Switzerland’s spaghetti crop. The report included video footage of the spaghetti harvest, where families were shown picking spaghetti strands from trees and placing them into baskets. Thankfully, it was a bumper noodle crop that year, thanks to the mild winter and the low numbers of that dreaded pasta pest, the evil spaghetti weevil. Following the show, one operator advised a caller who wanted to know where such a spaghetti tree could be purchased locally, to “…place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Cookie lovers may recall a hoax that has circulated for many years via e-mail- the story of a woman and daughter who loved the chocolate chip cookies they were served at Nieman Marcus so much, they purchased the recipe. Later, when the woman received her credit card bill and was shocked to learn she had been charged $250, not $2.50 for the world famous recipe, she began a campaign to send it to anyone and everyone she could. Interestingly enough, when this hoax first appeared, chocolate chip cookies were not on the Nieman Marcus menu. That has since changed. In fact, a box of 50 cookies can now be purchased on the Nieman Marcus website for the low price of $25, plus shipping.
In 1985, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” written by George Plimpton for Sports Illustrated, told the story of Hayden “Sidd” Finch, a former Harvard student and Buddhist monk-in-training. Finch was reportedly at the New York Mets training camp that Spring, despite never having played baseball. He had learned the “Art of the Pitch” while traveling in Tibet and could throw a ball a reported 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. In his 13 page essay, Plimpton offered up a clue the story was bogus to readers, using the following phrase under the story’s headline: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga- and his future in baseball.” Upon closer examination, the first letters of these words spelled out “Happy April Fools Day.” Two years after composing what is still considered one of the greatest deceptions in sports journalism, Plimpton developed the story into a novel, sold in the fiction section of book stores, of course.
With so many pranks out there, hopefully the first of April will come and go leaving you free of being subjected to some form of a fool’s errand. To be on the safe side, though, it’s probably best not to take ourselves, or any other strange event that may happen today, too seriously.