30 years later: Imagine if the famous Harvard-Yale football game balloon prank was tried this Saturday

If that MIT fraternity pulled the same hack in 2012, well …

Even back in 1982, the astonishing emergence of a large black weather balloon from beneath the field during the annual Harvard-Yale football game was enough to have police officers drawing their guns.

Today? SWAT teams and bomb squads would be the least of it. But before we go there and speculate further, here's a short video for those unfamiliar with the prank that was perpetrated by an MIT fraternity.

Now fast-forward from that scene 30 years to this Saturday's 129th meeting on the gridiron between Harvard and Yale, set for a noon kickoff at Harvard Stadium. As the second quarter unfolds, so too does a black weather balloon from beneath the turf. It bears some kind of message.

In 1982, the general reaction to the balloon popping out, aside from those drawn police firearms, was astonishment and bemusement.

If it happened this Saturday? Mass panic kicks in as soon as that balloon gets inflated enough to be seen from the stands. The stampede for exits will leave many injured and a few dead. Those who know their history of this game and its hacks will do their best to try and calm the situation, but this is 2012 and ... the ... balloon ... is ... about ... to ... burst! The resultant plume of smoke sends even the history buffs running for dear life.


Thirty years ago the balloon's demise signaled to everyone on hand that it was time to clean up the mess, repair the small hole in the field and resume the game, which Harvard went on to win 45-7.

Try to imagine such a reasonable reaction in our reliving of the event this Saturday, I mean even if the terrified fans hadn't already beat feet out of the stadium.

No, there would be SWAT teams and bomb squads descending on Harvard Stadium with post-9/11 urgency. Not even these professionals, however, would be approaching that hole in the ground; they'd be flying a drone over it while the bomb-sniffing robot got up and running.

There would be no more football played at Harvard Stadium on this day; are you kidding me? And, since the "crime scene" would require a thorough going over by local, state and federal investigators, it would be at least a month before any kind of game at all was played there.

Back in 1982, the balloon prank garnered so much national publicity that the pranksters, members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, held themselves a self-congratulatory press conference. You can see some of it and some of the TV reports in this longer video.

The 2012 balloon pranksters will not be holding any press conferences because they'll be too busy being arrested, perp-walked, arraigned and jailed without bail on charges ranging from domestic terrorism and bomb making all the way down to violating the local noise ordinance.

Prison sentences await them. Long prison sentences.

This is 2012, after all. If they wanted to be MIT funny guys, they should have built themselves a WABAC Machine.

(Note: This post has been changed to reflect the fact that Harvard Stadium is not located in Cambridge.)

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