Friday, April 1, 2016

Why the Golden State Warriors Are So Good: Prank Mode 101

I think pranks are underrated. If I had my way, I would pull one, or at least encourage my students to at least once a week. Why? Because pranks keep up loose and laughing. They only succeed with creativity and careful planning. Quite often, they cost little, if anything. They mix up the norm and can be a source of joy. And today—April Fool's Day—is a day to celebrate them. I hope we never forget that! 
I was reminded of the other meaning to April 1 thanks to a collaborative effort between the Golden State Warriors and Lyft. From "11:00 a.m. and 5:00 pm today, you can pick a target an tap into Prank Mode to request shenanigans for whoever's on your list." Lyft fondly refers to this as #PrankMode. Warriors Guard/Forward Andre Iguodala tried it out on teammate Festus Ezeli. Check it out

On Kairos, the senior retreat I attended this past February, one of the young men in my small group shared how much he and his friends delight in pulling pranks. When he revealed that, I knew I found a kindred spirit. We discussed what makes for a good prank. Here are a few thoughts:
  1. The element of surprise: this is a no-brainer. It's important to catch your audience and the intended victim off guard.
  2. A good spirit: the prank you pull shouldn't cross a line. For example, Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha once tried to pull a prank on Dell and Sylvia Curry. Ayesha called to tell them she was leaving Steph because he had been unfaithful to her. His parents didn't find it funny; it's not. Granted they are devoted to one another, but the reality is even good people fail. A prank shouldn't be about serious topics—getting cancer, infidelity, or killing someone. Maybe you disagree.
  3. The delivery—it's essential. Maybe you need to be dead pan in your delivery. Don't crack. Don't give up the ghost. Hold your stance. 
I'm sure what makes for a good prank has been written about before—I hope it has! So I'll keep that list short, but share a favorite one I pull every year that follows those three steps. Here's the recipe for it.

Prank: Rose Grams 101 
Context: What was Valentine's Day like when you were in high school? Did some girls get all the flowers? Did friends send candy-grams to other friends? At St. Ignatius College Prep where I teach, the Asian Student Coalition (ASC) is in charge of selling rose-grams. These flowers cost $1.00 each and are delivered in the beginning of class with a note attached to the lucky recipient. Some students get one, others get thirty. Like the rest of high school, it is rife with drama. Who got what? How many? This ritual is ripe for a prank....so I pull it.
Cost: nothing
Prep time: even less except for the fact that this prank requires the right male student (meaning the kid you know can take it...do not pick a very shy boy or someone who is overly full of himself....go with a young man who is fun, has a great spirit but is unsuspecting)

Time: Because these flowers are delivered in the morning on V-day, I usually wait until the end of the day or the day after to do this.

Here's the announcement.
  • "Joey, thanks so much for the rose-gram."
Joey always looks up in surprise, not entirely sure what he just heard.
  • "That was very sweet of you. Thanks. It's beautiful.
At this point the entire class is looking at me AND looking at Joey. I never get this type of engagement when I'm lecturing.

Joey's face usually turns bright red. Joey typically doesn't know what to do or say. 
Depending on the class, and how embarrassed I have made him feel, I will draw this out. I pick up the rose, smell it. Show the class, etc. If he's too embarrassed, it end it quickly.
This prank works because of the element of surprise, because it has a good spirit (high school kids need to not take things so seriously!...and see that their teachers don't either) and I have the delivery down.

Even though it was a form of advertising for Lyft, I enjoyed seeing another example of the Golden State Warriors in on a good prank. It may cross a line—losing one's job is a scary subject—but given the success of the Dubs, cutting Festus is highly unlikely. Furthermore, I enjoyed this prank because of just how many people were in on it and the extent of planning involved to make it happen (way to go Murph and Mac, KNBR announcers). And to be honest, I wasn't surprised this is part of their culture. Fans everywhere recognize there is something different about this team. Perhaps their love of pranks plays a part in that.

The March 7, 2016 cover story on Sports Illustrated, entitled "The Dubs: Ode to Joy" reveals other prank-like activity the Warriors employ. Rick Reilly writes:

Silly Fines kitty
"The goal of any Dub is to catch another Dub committing a Silly Fine and make him contribute between $250 and $500 to the kitty. To wit:

  • To Draymond Green for chewing gum in the White House ($500). "I didn't know it was allowed," he pleaded.
  • Center Festus Ezeli tweeting after the Super Bowl: "Happy for Eli Manning," he meant Peyton Manning ($250).
  • Kerr breaking only a small corner off his clipboard during a halftime rant in January. "Kind of weak-ass break," Green says. "At least break it in half." Kerr: "It was defective!" (Fine: TBD)
When the kitty gets big enough, there's a half court shooting contest. Winner takes all. Everybody gets a chance—equipment guys, trainers, even reporters. Except for Curry, who rescues himself. Unless everyone else misses."

I told my student that I'd like to write an article entitled "The God of Pranks." He said, "what do you mean by that?"

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure...but I think there's something there.


It's the Easter season. We are called to live in the light of the Lord. Joy is triumphant! Life and faith can get serious—too serious—and pranks take us out of that. They succeed because someone pays attention to our humanity and play on it. It can be tough to laugh at ourselves, and pranks ask us to do that. The best part is everyone else gets to as well. 

Teachers: I'm on Spring Break, so I can't do this today, but if you need one fast, I found this 

Enjoy!

Photo Credits.

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