Any person who gets wasted in the nosebleed section can make their way to the field or court, hop out of the stands and cross that line that separates fan from "idiot." Sure, those who are willing to stumble around—until they're tased into submission by a handful of winded security officials—can be highly entertaining, but there's nothing special about the effort.
Streakers, field-crashers and other random fans-cum-disruptions may find their way onto YouTube, but they'll soon be lost in a sea of search results.
If a fan wants to have a lasting impact, then they have to do something that is unique or well planned, or both. This is what separates an incident from a prank. A truly awesome prank is near art—a scheme that knows its victim better than they know themselves.
And this doesn't mean every awesome prank is a hilarious, thoroughly planned scheme; something crazy can assume legendary status even if it didn't demand blueprints, counter intelligence and a goat. What's most important is the spirit behind it.
These are the craziest fan pranks in sports.
Jake and Amir of College Humor have been staging awesomely elaborate pranks on each other, which have been documented in their online series, Prank Wars. What Jake did to Amir in Episode Seven may be the most insane and hilarious of them all.
Amir attends a Maryland Terrapins basketball game with a mutual friend and believes that he's been randomly selected to take part in a blindfolded, half-court shot contest to win $500,000. What he doesn't know, is that it's all a ruse—with the team and spectators taking part.
Watch what happens when the illusion of sudden riches evaporates before Amir's disbelieving eyes...it's epic. If this had happened to me, Jake would have had 24 hours to come up with half a mill' or face some very real consequences.
There are few punishments more painful for a sports fan than being forced to be surrounded by the colors, words and images that embody the team that just beat yours—it's why the bet of choice for friendly rivals seems to always involve wearing the other team's jersey for a day.
Consider such a fate a blessing, after you see what Kelly Park did to his boss (a Habs fan) after his Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadians in the first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs. I don't know what's more impressive, the prank itself, or the fact that Park is employed by someone cool enough to do it without getting fired.
Leave it up to those delightfully enterprising Ivy Leaguers to orchestrate a prank so elaborate that it required the creation of a fictional "pep squad," along with a specially designed seating diagram, just to pull off.
The Harvard-Yale rivalry is one of the oldest and most intense in college football and has produced a long history of amazing pranks. So, what this group Yale students did to 1800 Harvard alumni in 2004 had a high standard to live up to—and it did.
Is there any sweeter victory than one where your enemy is an unwitting participant in its own defeat?
In 2009, New York Knicks fans in the stands at MSG usually didn't have much to cheer for; the team was terrible and the franchise was dysfunctional. So, when the comedy troupe Improv Everywhere staged a prank where one of the comedians, "Rob," gets inexplicably lost when attempting to return to his seat, it was probably a welcome distraction.
As the scene unfolds, the oblivious "Rob" and his exasperated friends back at his seat begin to draw more and more strangers into the manic effort to direct him back to his seat.
Improv Everywhere's antics would be welcome therapy at most Pittsburgh Pirates games.
Football fans around the world are so emotionally invested in their favorite clubs that to say they "live and die" by what happens on the pitch, sometimes is more than an idiom.
Preferable to rioting and other fits hooliganism, is what this Galatasaray fan pulled on the Manchester United's Ashley Young in the early morning hours before a match between the rivals. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for the mischievous to get a hold of a minor celebrity staying in a local hotel.
Army and Navy may not be very competitive against most other FBS teams, but the annual Army-Navy game remains one of the most heated, compelling rivalries in college football. Cadets from the Naval Academy and West Point continue to find new ways to needle each other (as well as Bill the Goat).
Last year was no exception, when unidentified pranksters from West Point hacked into the Naval Academy's email system and transmitted this beaut to all Midshipmen (h/t Paul Myerberg, USA Today):
Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller
to goarmysinknavy, AllUSNA, USCC, BTD
In preparation for the humiliating defeat Army will be dealing to us in the near future, I have some guidance to pass down.
First: when we stage for march-on, we need to clean up our act. The internet has us pegged as dirty slobs– this year, we need to bring trash bags and clean up after ourselves. From what I understand, Army is embarrassed to even be associated with us.
Second: clean up the actual march-on. Please at least pretend to be in the military. Dress right dress, don’t talk at attention, etc. Seriously, this one is too easy.
Third: we need to have better accountability of our goats. This is also very embarrassing.
Fourth: when Army sings second, we will be respectful and professional.
Fifth: we need to be better at cyber.
Finally, I award you all with PMI (sleep ins) until Christmas. Maybe even a little longer, depending on how morale is going after Army defeats us on Saturday.
Go Army, Sink Navy!
**Warning: Video Contains Strong Language**
Fans of Philadelphia's professional sports teams are known to be quite...passionate. And by passionate, I mean, easily enraged. Perhaps no Philadelphia franchise's fanbase is more virulently invested than the Flyers'.
So, when one particular Flyers fan's girlfriend decided to have a little fun with her boo by turning the TV on and off during a game, she was surely playing with fire. Crazy? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely.
There's no word on if their relationship survived the ordeal.
Alabama student Jack Blankenship—and his deranged stare—made headlines in 2012 when he and a friend started waving giant images of his haunting mug in stands of the Crimson Tide basketball team's home games in February.
Sure, lots of fans wave their arms, foam sticks and other orthodox accoutrements behind the goal in an effort to thwart the free-throw attempts of opposing players, but Blankenship's strategy was as unusual as it was disconcerting.
Announcer Pam Ward said it best during a victory over Ole Miss, "This guy ... who does that? I mean, who makes a picture of themselves?"
The best pranks require a solid set of cojones, so Cuban-American Rosie Ruiz must have a pair of big ones. In 1980, Ruiz committed one of the greatest, most head-scratchingly unnecessary deceptions in sports history when she sneaked into the Boston Marathon ahead of the actual pro runners and crossed the finish line.
An administrative assistant, who was in no way a competitive runner, Ruiz was declared the winner and basked in the spotlight before her story unraveled. The strangest part about the whole incident is that she seems to believe in her own fabricated narrative—as in, then and now.
It's no revelation that mankind has an adept ability to suspend any sense of right and wrong when it comes to sports—and fans are often the most egregious violators of society's rules...both written and unwritten. I'll have to admit, though, the scheme hatched by students of the Cal Rally Committee in 2006 is impressive, even if it makes it feel kind of icky.
In the week before the Cal Golden Bears basket team faced off against the Southern Cal Trojans, the Cal Rally Committee started IMing then-Trojans star Gabe Pruitt under the guise of a UCLA hottie named "Victoria." After flirting with Pruitt for several days, they convinced him to give up his cell number in anticipation of a post-game tryst.
At the game, Pruitt soon realized there would be no hook-up and that the entire thing was psychological game designed to freak him out. When Pruitt stepped up to the free-throw line facing the student section for the first time, the perpetrators flashed posterboards that displayed the digits he'd given out and chanted, "Victoriaaaaa."
It worked—Pruitt missed the shots and went 3-of-13. Evil prevails?
All good pranks require an element of deception, but few go so far as to break the law, because then it often evolves from a prank to something much more sinister—like assault or destruction of property. However, the people behind this harmless bit of sabotage managed to break a few (namely trespassing) without losing the spirit of whimsy.
This group of Dortmund football fans managed to get into rival Bayern Munich's arena and deface it with their club's logo while somehow changing the lighting from Bayern's red to Dortmund's yellow.
The rivalry between the Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels is one of the most intense in college basketball...if not all of sports. Before last week's matchup between the ACC foes, some unknown Tar Heels fans managed to steal the head of the Blue Devil mascot and impale it on a pole above the UNC campus store.
I've never watched Game of Thrones, so the reference doesn't resonate with me, but I am quite familiar with the gruesome legend of Vlad the Impaler. Either way, it's a chilling prelude to a rivalry that has no love to lose—though UNC ultimately fell to Duke, 73-68.
It may not get the same attention as the "Iron Bowl" or "The Game," but the rivalry between the University of South Carolina and Clemson is so intense that it divides families and precludes friendships. So when the South Carolina chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity ran onto the field dressed as Clemson players before their annual battle in 1961, they're fortunate they left the field unscathed.
The insane plan, which required the permission of then-coach Marvin Bass, involved riding on the Gamecocks' team bus to the stadium and then running out onto the field for pregame warm-ups. The pranksters initially fooled Tigers fans and personnel before their bumbling antics belied the joke—with the situation quickly escalating before security got them off the field.
Though I could imagine current head coach Steve Spurrier entertaining such a plan, in this day and age adult men can't sneak into sporting event—in disguise—without leaving shortly thereafter in a post-tase stupor.
The "Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961" is not only one of the greatest sports pranks of all time, but the blueprint for similar stunts ever since. It was not only a brilliantly executed idea, but the perfect example of why the most biting and effective joke is one you get someone to unwittingly play on themselves.
What makes the prank absolutely amazing is that a school with no skin in the game was behind it.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers and Washington Huskies were competing on before a national audience on NBC, but when Huskies marching band started their flipcard routine, the word "SEIKSUH" appeared instead of "HUSKIES." Then, when students who were participating in the routine raised their flipcards, "CALTECH" appeared before baffled onlookers.
Yep, those sneaky ne'er-do-wells from the nearby technical college had worked for a month to make the elaborate prank come to fruition.
In 1982, Stanford lost to Cal on the football field, but it can be argued that the school won the war of historical relevance.
The game's outcome was decided on a final, miraculous sequence of events that gave the Bears and improbable 25-20 victory. After going down 20-19 on a Stanford field goal with four seconds left, Cal returned the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown using a series of lateral passes—a feat that fans almost always watch spiral into a chaotic mess that ends on a fumble recovered by the opposing team.
To get a quick, mind-bending revenge, a group of Stanford student journalists devised and published the fake story under the banner of the Daily Californian, which claimed the game's outcome had been overturned. The ruse was hilariously effective, causing a mild panic among Cal students.
College Humor's online series Prank Wars has featured pranks that can only be described as bananas. The ongoing battle between Streeter and Amir—including the half-court shot contest ruse featured earlier—will probably never match the evil simplicity of the "Yankee Prankee."
Amir worked with two friends to film what unfolded when a scoreboard marriage proposal was broadcast during a New York Yankees game attended by Streeter and his girlfriend. The proposal came from Amir, not Streeter, so not only was his girlfriend shocked...the involuntary proposer was as well.
As you can imagine, the dynamic created in that situation isn't likely to lead to a mutually agreed to engagement. Streeter's pain is our gain.
A prank that targeted the Harvard-Yale football game makes a second appearance, but this time both Harvard and Yale are the bewildered targets.
During the 1982 battle of the Ivy League heavyweights, the game was interrupted when a strange balloon began to inflate in the middle of the field. As the baffled officials, teams and spectators looked on, the balloon revealed that "MIT" was scrawled all over its surface.
The moment came to a glorious end when the balloon exploded in a cloud of white powder. Shortly thereafter, a group of (slightly inebriated) MIT students in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity called a press conference where they claimed responsibility and revealed the methods to their madness.
Since his career took a body blow in 2009, Tiger Woods has been slowly clawing his way back into PGA relevance—eager to make headlines for his tour performance rather than his personal life. However, 2011 proved to be year when the fallen golf great couldn't seem to avoid becoming news for reasons other than winning tournaments.
In October of that year, a self-described "fan" ran onto the green toward Tiger at the Frys.com Open, yelled his name and threw a hot dog in his direction. The flinger of cured meat later said he was inspired to do it by Ryan Gosling's performance in the movie Drive, revealing (h/t the Associated Press, ESPN.com):
As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, "I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger."
There's nothing wrong with mashed potatoes. In fact, I can think of few scenarios where mashed potatoes wouldn't be an improvement. Of those few scenarios, one is yelling the phrase during Tiger Woods' tee shot at the Australian Open in 2011.
Why? It's fairly straightforward:
- Golfers—especially those who make a living playing the game—get really mad when onlookers purposely try to distract them during a shot. (See: air horn prank.)
- Saying, "mashed potatoes" does not actually produce the delicious dish.
ESPN's College GameDay has evolved into a media spectacle like no other; fans clamor for Craig James, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard to bring the production to their school and show en masse when they do.
One of the most recognizable elements of the GameDay experience are the dozens of signs held up by the crowd cheering behind the crew. And with a captive national audience, more than a few clever individuals will use the camera shot as a platform to broadcast their nugget of comedy.
Spanning the range of cute to near-pornographic, the renegade signs have grown into a beloved part of GameDay—captured and shared by those who appreciate the cynicism.