Staged Stunt Was In Fun, So Lighten Up

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Those who were offended by the teenage pranks some Lady Longhorn softball team members staged last week need to lighten up.

The stunts were meant only to be humorous, and there were no victims.

Certainly there is a thin line between practical jokes and hooliganism, but the girls were simply letting off the steam of a losing streak.

Good-natured pranks are as much a part of high school sports lore as winning and losing.

On the campus of Tucson Amphitheater High School, boys basketball team members have for the past 20 years relived tales of the "Snipe Hunts" they participated in during after-hours of the Payson Summer Tournament.

Each June, coach Pat Derksen, a longtime friend, would bring his team to the Rim Country for the tournament. While here, they stayed at our home in Pine. A yearly ritual was to take those making the trip for the first time, usually freshmen and sophomores, on a snipe hunt in the forests near our home in Pine Canyon.

For big city kids, those hunts -- which are among the most fabled of all pranks -- turned into gags to be remembered forever.

Surprisingly, the older members of the team were able to keep the secrets of the prank for a year so as not to spoil it for the younger members once they went on their first hunt.

I don't think there's a young man to have ever played football on a high school team I coached that doesn't remember "Atomic Sit ups."

Even Aristotle recognized practical jokes as an important part of the culture when he cited Trapezium of Xenophanes as a significant work.

About 20 years ago, former PHS baseball coach Teddy Pettet and I brainstormed an April 1 prank in which I wrote a story about a big-time high school player who was moving to Payson, from Florida, to escape the overwhelming media and recruiting pressure he was receiving.

The player had movie star good looks, enough talent to be playing in the major leagues at 17 years of age, was his former school's homecoming king, drove a new Corvette, was 6-foot, 6-inches and 250 pounds without an ounce of body fat, possessed genuine good manners and came from a well-heeled family.

He was also being hotly pursued by big league scouts who were eager to sign him to a highdollar professional contract.

Teddy and I went so far as to stage a photo in which he was shown slamming shut the weight room door to try and keep a horde of worshippers and scouts away from his new player.

In the story I penned, the teen's former coach in Florida was "Loof Lirpa" which is April Fool spelled backwards.

Needless to say, quite a few readers, especially PHS students, fell for the gag.

Teenage girls were seen driving around the school, during spring break, to see if they could get a glimpse of the Longhorns' new all-star player.

Like the pranks the Lady Longhorn softball team pulled last week, the joke provided plenty of side-splitting laughs.

Our world needs many more of those chuckles.

As a former coach, I have a funny feeling about the prank the softball team successfully pulled on the baseball team.

I don't think it's over. I believe the baseball players are planning a little revenge.

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