TigerBlog was a senior in West Philadelphia when Sidd Finch burst onto the scene 24 years ago today. Finch was the phenom of all phenoms, and he'd just been signed by the New York Mets. There was a big article in Sports Illustrated and everything.
Finch wore one hiking boot when he pitched and was a big fan of Eastern philosophy. His fastball topped out at 168 mph, and he could pitch every day. Baseball was never going to be the same.
TigerBlog believed every word in the story. Everyone did. Why not? It was in Sports Illustrated, for crying out loud.
It was only later – days later – that it became known that it was a hoax. The first letter of every word in the subhead (He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga) spelled out "Happy April Fools Day."
Now, nearly a quarter-century later, it remains one of the great April Fools Day pranks of all-time – and a great learning lesson for TigerBlog. And, with a little bit of 21st century perspective, it has become something of a symbol of modern athletics and society as a whole.
Lesson No. 1, of course, is that people believe everything they read. It doesn't matter where they read it. It doesn't matter what it says. If it's written someplace where others can read it, it must be true.
All of this brings us to today, April Fools Day 2009. TigerBlog thought it would be a good idea to put something up today either here or on goprincetontigers.com in the Sidd Finch tradition. It's not an original thought; TB has wanted to do this for years on goprincetontigers.com.
It would have to be something so over-the-top that there's no way anyone would believe it - except everyone would, because they read it on goprincetontigers.com. That's what made the Sidd Finch story so great. Seriously, who could throw 168 mph? Who would pitch with a boot on one foot? Who could throw that hard every day? Nobody. It's impossible. Yet an entire country believed it, simply because of where it was written, not what it said.
So what would be the Princeton equivalent? It would have to be good. Sure, if we put up a release that, say, Sydney Johnson was taking over at Memphis for John Calipari or Chris Sailer was leaving Princeton to start a women's lacrosse program at Rider or Princeton was going to build a 5,000-seat basketball-only arena that connects to Jadwin Gym, someone would believe it for a minute, figure out it was April 1st and then say "that wasn't very clever."
No, to do it right, we'd have to come up with something way past that. What could we put on our Website that would be so beyond the pale that it would exceed any rational level of believability, but everyone who read it would believe it anyway? Something worthy of Sidd Finch.
And then TigerBlog realizes the answer is nothing. Today, in the world we live in, nothing exceeds any rational level of believability. Look around at sports, at media, at politics, at entertaininment. What wouldn't you believe now? What would come up on your favorite information source Website today that would make you say "no way. Get out of here?" Nothing, right?
So, thanks to the 21st century for ruining April Fools Day. And we'll just have to stick to putting up information that's all true on our Website.
Like the story coming later today about how, after 125 years, Princeton is changing its school colors from orange and black to teal, silver and black, in hopes of generating new marketing and merchandising opportunities. Seriously.