Too bad football isn’t played in April, because what happened prior to the Clemson/University of SC football game in November 1961 would easily qualify as one of the greatest April Fool’s jokes of all time. The fact that it didn’t happen on April 1 does not diminish what today is simply known as “The Prank.”
The following summary is based on sports reporter Josh Kendall’s account published in the November 29, 2013 issue of The State Newspaper, entitled “The Prank: How a bold gag in 1961 mocked the Tigers.” Even though I am a Clemson alumnus, I have to admit that this is probably the best prank ever pulled in the heated rivalry between the two schools.
The carefully rehearsed practical joke occurred with the knowledge and assistance of USC’s head coach Marvin Bass. After the Clemson and Carolina teams had returned to their locker rooms following pregame warm ups, several dozen members of the Sigma Nu fraternity at USC made their way onto the field dressed in orange uniforms borrowed from a local high school. They had secretly donned the uniforms in a room suggested by the coach. As the “Clemson” team ran onto the field, Clemson fans cheered as their band played Tiger Rag. Carolina fans booed lustily. As pregame drills commenced, some of the “players” pretended to be milking cows. Others lined up in offensive formation, and once the ball was snapped to the quarterback, all the players fell down at once. The punter kicked the ball intentionally back over his head, and the punt receiver let the ball bounce off his head. At this point the Tiger fans, smelling the ruse, came pouring out of the stands looking for blood. Once order was restored, the game was able to start. “The Prank” had been born.
This year Easter Sunday is also April Fool’s Day—a rare blending of these two holidays which hasn’t happened since 1956. The co-mingling of Easter and April Fool’s Day serves as a reminder that some think of Easter as nothing more than a practical joke played two centuries ago by a bunch of disillusioned followers of a good Jewish man named Jesus. For them, the claim that Jesus died and then rose again three days later is the height of absurdity. For example, Richard Dawkins, the well-known British atheist, has stated, “Accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are about as well-documented as Jack and the Beanstalk.”1
Did the followers of Jesus’ fake His resurrection? Did they pull the ultimate prank of all times—a prank which would continue to dupe people throughout history and still today? Did the followers of Jesus remove His body from that tomb, dispose of it, and then perpetuate the resurrection lie as a group until all of them had died?
What is the probability of Jesus’ followers being able to keep such a lie alive? Maybe this example will help. There are skeptics who believe that the moon landing on July 20, 1969 was faked. Dr. Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher who created an equation to show how implausible it would be to maintain such a lie. This Oxford academician calculated that the fraud of a fake moon landing would have been exposed within about four years of Apollo 11. There were some 411,000 people involved with the project and it would have been impossible for all of them to keep the lie afloat. In his work, Grimes states, "For a conspiracy of even a few thousand actors, intrinsic failure would arise within decades." Someone has suggested that should we apply that same calculation to the followers of Jesus, if the resurrection story were a lie, someone surely would have “cracked” by the end of the first century. Many of Jesus’ closest followers died martyrs’ deaths. If they died for fabricating and perpetuating a lie, then they of all people are to be pitied as fools.
The good news that we get to share not only at Easter, but every day, is that Jesus’ death and resurrection is no April Fool’s joke. Because Jesus’ tomb really is empty, because Jesus really is alive, because sin’s debt really has been fully paid, and because death really has been defeated, life everlasting is available for anyone who chooses to believe it to be true.
And that’s no joke!
1 Beaumont Enterprise, 4/24/11, p.17A
2 Beaumont Enterprise, 1/31/16, p.3B