Watch out: April Fools' jokers are everywhere

"Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Tomorrow is a big day for a lot of folks. Imagine, having a whole day devoted to fools. It would be easy to say, right here, that there is hope for (insert the name of the politician of your choice) but I am in a benign mood, so I won't say anything of the sort.

And I already know that about two-thirds of you are chuckling to yourself because you think you know whose name I would insert in the blank if I weren't feeling so benevolent. And the other third of you are getting mad at me for the same reason.

Ludlowe Porch was right. Sometimes beating a dead horse is more fun than you think.

But be careful out there tomorrow. You never know when someone might be trying to pull a prank on you. I wouldn't be above pulling one myself if I were going to be around.

My favorite April Fools' joke of all time involved me. A few years back I wrote a column April 1 claiming that Herschel Walker had petitioned the NCAA to get back the year of eligibility he forfeited at UGA when he jumped to the New Jersey Generals (which were owned by Donald Trump, if you are still looking for a name to put in the previous blank).

According to my column, the NCAA had agreed that Herschel could play one more season between the hedges, and Bulldog fans from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light put down their newspapers and started making reservations to spend New Year's in New Orleans before getting to the punch line at the bottom of the page. You know - the one where I said April Fool. Gotcha!

There are still one or two folks that won't speak to me to this day because of that prank.

A more widely known hoax appeared in the April 1, 1985, edition of Sports Illustrated. They printed a story, written by the great George Plimpton, about a pitcher the New York Mets had discovered named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball more than 150 mph - an art he had learned through meditation at a Tibetan monastery.

Mets fans everywhere were as disappointed to learn the truth as the Bulldog Nation would be a few years later.

Back in 1996, Taco Bell proved that sometimes big corporations do have senses of humor by announcing that the corporation had bought the rights to the Liberty Bell and would rename it the Taco Liberty Bell, causing a firestorm of complaints from gullible citizens from coast to coast.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry played along by announcing that the rights to the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and that that edifice would henceforth be known as the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.

McCurry was very believable because he had lots of practice at lying to the public with a straight face. He, after all, worked for Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Fill in the blank above.)

These announcements may not have been the most cerebral of April Fools' jokes, but at least they beat putting cellophane wrap over the toilet bowl - and they accounted for as much irate rancor among people who felt betrayed by their government. And it was a pretty believable gag. After all, if an administration would sell timeshares in the Lincoln bedroom, why not advertising space on his memorial.

Another fast-food restaurant chain, Burger King, proved that it had a sense of humor by running an ad in USA Today on April 1, 1998, introducing "left-handed Whoppers," with all the condiments rotated 180 degrees to make the giant sandwich more palatable to southpaws. There are no actual figures as to how many lefties actually bit on the joke, but franchises all over the nation reported orders in the thousands.

Americans haven't cornered the market on April Fools' Day hoaxes, either. Way back in 1957 the BBC broadcast an elaborate hoax showing a bumper crop of spaghetti being harvested from Swedish trees, thanks to the eradication of that dastardly pest, the spaghetti weevil. Thousands of viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to ask how to grow their own spaghetti.

Another year the BBC announced that it was introducing a new technology, Smell-o-vision, which would make television more realistic by transmitting odors over the airwaves. Again, thousands of viewers called in to confirm that the nonexistent experiment really worked.

So be careful out there Sunday. I mean, after all, if you can't trust the BBC, who can you trust? And speaking of the broadcasting world, that 70 percent chance of rain David Chandley promised for Sunday - the rain that is supposed to wash all of this awful pollen out of the air - don't be surprised if it turns out to be a big joke, too.

And with the pollen count hovering around the 6,000 mark, forecasting rain that doesn't fall is a lot more cruel than making people think Herschel's coming back.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.