Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fool's gold...

The local newspaper playing an April Fool's Day prank has kind of fallen by the wayside.

Ours is not to question why. Cutbacks have sucked the life out many a newsroom. There is not enough time to plan a good prank. There is also a free-floating fear that some knob with a litigious bent will fall for it, and then turn around and sue for mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.

Reading this story from the Windsor Star, the dust should get blown off the practice tout suite. It's worth pointing this out now, just to give everyone plenty of lead time to engage their warped side.

Nineteen eighty-nine it was, and The Star put out the call to readers to come up with the best fake headline. A local teacher named Ron Jeffrey had a brainstorm:
"At the time, Windsor native Bob Probert was having troubles with the law, which threatened to end his pro-hockey career. Jeffrey suggested running a fake story reporting that the NHL had decided to let the Red Wings enforcer play in the National Hockey League — but only for the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Windsor Star columnist and contest judge Karen Hall selected Jeffrey’s entry as most nutty. And in the spirit of the day — the story ran on April 1, 1989 — offered tickets to the most mythical of promises, the pending new arena which had till then been nothing but smoke and mirrors for decades.

"As reporter Ted Whipp wrote at the time about Jeffrey’s wacky win: 'One practical joke deserves another and his prize is two tickets to the first hockey game in Windsor’s new arena, whenever and wherever it’s built.' "
You know where this is headed. Windsor is opening its new arena on Dec. 11, replacing the venerable Barn which opened in 1924.

The Star has proven as good as its word, presenting Mr. Jeffrey with two tickets -- and as the story notes, he's never been to a Spitfires game.

For lack of anything original to add, it's nice to see, in this age of media bloodletting, a story where the local outlet lives up to the great Kingston sportscaster Max Jackson's adage, "If you can't play a sport, be one."

(And no, that was not on my voice-mail at any of my previous newspaper jobs. Speaking of which, back in the day at a small daily down in the 519 area code, in fact, yours truly and my counterpart our sister paper in Woodstock joked for several weeks about an April Fool's Day prank.

At the time, one of the junior hockey teams in his town had a dodgy ownership/management situation and played in a brand-new arena that was always half-empty. In the other town, a popular junior hockey coach had just been fired. Thus, the story would be that the gong show team was moving up from Junior C to Tier 2 Junior A, and that said coach would be taking over.

Well, due to a job change, it never came to pass, but a few months later, the same coach ended up taking over one of the teams near Woodstock. This really happened.)

Anyway, the gauntlet has been thrown down to newsroom across the nation. Bring back the April Fool's Day gag. Tough times are ahead, and the world needs the kind of laughter it can only get from reading about the Swiss spaghetti harvest.

This has potential, for sure. In Ottawa, first prize could be two tickets to the first MLS game in the city.

(Fist bump to Greg Layson for sending this along.)

April Fool's joke finally comes true (Craig Pearson, Windsor Star)

1 comment:

Duane Rollins said...

I got to write one once...for a magazine called World Football Pages (RIP). I wrote of a hot shot soccer player in Albania that had Canadian parents. He was ripping up the Albanian league and the CSA was in top secret negotiations with him to get him on the Canadian national team.

They are fun and you're right...newspapers should be writing more of them.