From Tree-Napping to Fake Papers, Rivalry Inspires Creativity

Photo: The Stanford tree was relieved of its duties at Stanford by a group calling itself the
The Daily Californian/File
The Stanford tree was relieved of its duties at Stanford by a group calling itself the "Phoenix Five" in 1998, spending two weeks as a "hostage" at Cal before being returned.

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And if you haven't had enough, plug in and you will once again arrive at the same Berkeley home page.

It seems that after years of dormancy, Stanford has struck a preemptive blow in the epic prank war that has been nearly as illustrious as the Big Game itself.

Although the Big Game took some breaks over the years, the rivalry did not and neither did the pranks.

But these are not the stereotypical rivalry hoaxes that are performed year after year by the schools of the rest of the continental United States; this is Cal versus Stanford.

This war of attrition is responsible for some of the most infamous hoaxes ever pondered, let alone executed. There have been airlifts, theft, larceny, vandalism, fights, painting and repainting, faux funerals, raids, dropping banners on towers and controlled burns.

But those, although innovative, cannot hold a candle to the best pranks ever perpetrated in this endless feud.

So here they are, the top three pranks in this historic rivalry:

Prank No. 3: There is no way to even begin to estimate the amount of property that has been stolen from each campus over the last century.

But the "Phoenix Five" didn't just steal a banner, nor a street sign. They went for the pride and joy of Leland Stanford Junior University-the tree.

2008 marks the 10-year anniversary of the "Phoenix Five," when a group of Cal students not only hijacked the Stanford Tree, they treated it as if it were a hostage (Note: They did not actually steal the person who usually dances in the tree, only the costume).

During the two-week hostage crisis, the "Five" released a proof of life video and several letters, including one signed by the mascot stating that the tree was no longer happy with its working conditions at Stanford.

But due to a house arrest of sorts that was subsequently placed on Oski Bear and threats made by the chancellors of both universities citing the illegality of stealing something estimated to be worth $1,000, the Tree reluctantly returned to its home, unharmed.

However, the images of the hostage Tree live on.

Prank No. 2: At the 100th Big Game in 1997, a Cal student, working under the possible pseudonym of Theodore Barnwell Kelley (founder of Cal's Pi Kappa Phi fraternity), decided to speak for the head official.

This mysterious Cal student found a way to access the frequency which the head official would use to announce penalties over the Stanford Stadium Public Address system.

During the second half of play, as the official turned to face the television audience, he spoke, but his words did not match his lips. What was heard was something to the effect of "Personal foul unsportsmanlike arrogance Stanford sucks!"

Prank No. 1: After the Cal football team shocked Stanford in the 1982 Big Game with arguably the greatest play in football history, the Cardinal pulled a play of its own.

On the Wednesday after "The Play," The Daily Californian ran the headline "NCAA Awards Big Game to Stanford."

The accompanying articles dictated that "The Play" had actually been blown dead by the referee before Kevin Moen had made it to the end zone, ending the game in a 20-19 Cardinal victory.

In fact, the Stanford Daily had pulled overtime in order to create an exact replica of the Daily Cal to fool the Berkeley campus population with the help of a series of coincidences.

The Daily Cal was late to the racks on that Wednesday, allowing this fictitious publication to terrorize the campus all morning before the real paper got out.

Obviously, the Daily Cal was unable to publish a clarification until the following Monday due to Thanksgiving break, leaving the campus community in the dark for an interminably long five days.


Contact Joseph Cannon at [email protected]

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