Monday, April 1, 2019

"4/1" 1

Today's the day when Burger King sold Left-Handed Whoppers (1998) and Taco Bell got everyone all worked up by claiming that they had bought the Liberty Bell, with plans to rename that national treasure "The Taco Bell Liberty Bell" (1996).

A great many "Sports Illustrated" readers were duped on this day in 1985, when that magazine, always known for accuracy and dependable reporting, claimed that the New York Mets had signed a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch, and that young Finch was capable of throwing a baseball 168 miles per hour.  The backstory, as supplied by master storyteller (and inveterate practical joker) George Plimpton, was that Finch, raised in an English orphanage, had traveled to Tibet to learn "yogic mastery of mind-body" under "the great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa", and that's why he could toss that ball with such speed and accuracy.

Like all great pranks, it took great skill to pull that one off, and it was a few days before most people realized that Finch was a fake, perhaps the most elaborate since Piltdown Man.

The Piltdown composite skull was used as
a stand-in for Gary Busey later.
And it took 41 years for people to realize they had been fooled by Piltdown Man, although some men seem to fool people every single day. What happened was, 1912 was a very boring year, except for that Titanic thing and the opening of Fenway Park, so some paleoanthropologists (always a fun-loving bunch) decided to throw some old skulls, a jawbone, more skull fragments, a set of teeth, and primitive tools from an area called Piltdown in England into an empty ginger ale carton and tell the rubes that these were fossils, the remains of  an early human previously undiscovered.

Not until 1953 was it proven that Piltdown Man was a fakeroo, since he had the jaw and some teeth of an orangutan crammed into the cranium of a modern man.

This makes the Piltdown Man skullduggery, if you will, the longest-running hoax perpetrated on people, even longer than trickle-down economics, which is, admittedly, still fooling them since the 1980s.

That's the economic theory that states that giving the rich more money will be good for the poor, on the grounds that if you pile so much food onto the roofs of rich people's cars, a certain amount of it will fall off on their way to Richville, and the poor can forage for it happily.

Happy April Fool's Day!

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