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February 14, 2007 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Hacking The Superbowl. John Hargrave spends $40,000 for an elaborate Superbowl prank -- duping the feds, cops, and stadium security in order to pass out thousands of lights to fans, who were told they would spell out "Prince" during the halftime show. Instead, they spell out, uh... well, something. Just what they spell is unclear (though some are having fun "guessing") and Hargrave hasn't said yet (his write-up is up to part 5, hopefully of 6). Can you tell? And was it worth the effort, or is this just an expensive dud?
posted by notmydesk (71 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
A former Zug prank on Metafilter. See also: Caltech and Yale's stadium pranks.
posted by notmydesk at 10:17 AM on February 14, 2007


Well... obviously a failure if no one noticed except the prankster.
posted by smackfu at 10:18 AM on February 14, 2007


Also, Cockeyed's Rob Cockerham took part in it, and is slowly posting his own writeup.
posted by Plutor at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2007


youtube is blocked at my work... anyone have an image?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:25 AM on February 14, 2007


That sure is subliminal.
posted by Mister_A at 10:27 AM on February 14, 2007


complete dud. YouTube wasn't meant for picking out details that would be represented by a few pixels, at most, on an HDTV.
posted by pmbuko at 10:30 AM on February 14, 2007


I was watching on a huge HDTV, and we didn't notice a thing. Looks like money wasted.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:31 AM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Total dud. I did have a slight Snow Crash moment, though.
posted by grobstein at 10:35 AM on February 14, 2007


It ain't no Soy Bomb, that's for sure.
posted by spilon at 10:36 AM on February 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


The "guessing" link seems to depict one of the Adult Swim LED terrorists.
posted by unmake at 10:36 AM on February 14, 2007


If you can't tell it's a mooninite from watching this one, you probably think it was a bomb hoax.
posted by mullingitover at 10:37 AM on February 14, 2007


That thingie from Hunger Force?
(More) heads are gona roll at Turner...
posted by Dizzy at 10:38 AM on February 14, 2007


Wow, really? $40,000? Is that true, because if so, that'd make him a huge shithead.
posted by basicchannel at 10:38 AM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


POintless waste of money..... but if that's how people want to spend their money, whatever..:)
posted by nanapapa at 10:40 AM on February 14, 2007


My theory is that the prank is the write-up, and that they didn't do anything at all at the superbowl. The Youtube videos are faked. Much easier than actually shelling out $40,000.

Prove me wrong!
posted by smackfu at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2007


Uther -- some stills here.
posted by notmydesk at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2007


Oh I see—it's Ursa Major, the great bear.
posted by Mister_A at 10:45 AM on February 14, 2007


His Book, just released, is a work of comedic genius. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys his writing.

Also, the mooninite video is fake. Sort of a prank of a prank, I guess
posted by bondcliff at 10:47 AM on February 14, 2007


Of all the things to spend $40K on, this is the most worthless and least effective I've ever heard of.

To the pranksters - next time you have $40K to blow, consider a charity - any charity, you jackasses.
posted by Muddler at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2007


"I'm a loser," in Braille.
posted by turducken at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2007


My theory is that the prank is the write-up, and that they didn't do anything at all at the superbowl. The Youtube videos are faked. Much easier than actually shelling out $40,000.

I would be shocked if this weren't the case.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2007


I prefer my pranks KLF.
posted by mongonikol at 10:58 AM on February 14, 2007


Er, I'm sorry. I don't know where I got $40,000 from, the article actually says $20,000. My bad. Also, one of the lights sold on e-Bay.
posted by notmydesk at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2007


To the advertisers in the Superbowl broadcast- next time you have $1-2.5M to blow, consider a charity- any charity, you jackasses.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


My theory is that the prank is the write-up, and that they didn't do anything at all at the superbowl. The Youtube videos are faked. Much easier than actually shelling out $40,000.

Check out all "parts" of the story. There are photographs of the pranksters distributing the lights in the stadium, etc.

The navigation of the Zug website sucks. To make it easier here's part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.
posted by ericb at 11:08 AM on February 14, 2007


Actually -- "I thought we'd need a lawyer, but it turned out we needed two, at an enormous price that pushed my $20,000 budget up to $30,000. But I felt that having Miami-based lawyers was an important, if expensive, safety net."
posted by ericb at 11:10 AM on February 14, 2007


I vote expensive dud.
posted by tkchrist at 11:11 AM on February 14, 2007


"Everything was ridiculously expensive, especially the tickets, which drove the prank to the $40,000 mark."

Okay, that's where I got it from. Never mind.
posted by notmydesk at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2007


"I thought it was extremely unlikely anyone would ever mistake a bunch of cheap light-up devices for a bomb."

Bwahahaha! Oh man.
posted by SilverTail at 11:16 AM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you look really closely, it says:

BABY FISH MOUTH
posted by BLDGBLOG at 11:18 AM on February 14, 2007


I think the rules say that if you have to explain why your PR stunt was so awesome then it wasn't so awesome.

I vote for a failing effort.
posted by fenriq at 11:27 AM on February 14, 2007


How is this hacking the Superbowl, exactly? I'm not sure I get it (or care enough about this lame stunt to investigate further).

/lazy.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:34 AM on February 14, 2007


I realized I would need help, so I went down to the local school for the mentally retarded, where I was able to hire cheap labor. In fact, they worked for tin foil, once I told them it was money… I looked at the mountain of lights that still needed batteries, surrounded by moaning retards, and wondered once again why I had started this hopeless mission.
Ahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, Sir John Hargrave, you are the King of Dot-Comedy!
posted by designbot at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2007


I picked out the second-youngest-looking checkout lady. I figured that the older ones might be more on top of things, and the youngest could be still trying to prove herself. Of course the men were straight out.
My groceries were carefully arranged, with two loaves of bread underneath the child seat at the rear of the cart. My vegetables were in clear plastic bags - right in plain sight. With vegetables, trying to be sneaky will probably just attract attention. A few boxes of cereal and drinks were also thrown in, just to look good, and one steak was in the seat (I had no child - I don't think anyone noticed that, either).
"How are you today?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm doing well. How are you?"
She probably has conversations like this all the time. There was no way she could think through each and every one.
Without another word, she scanned each of my items, placed them into plastic sacks, and straight back into the cart. I looked around for any managers, but fortunately there were none. So, at this point I paid for my groceries and walked right out the door.

Stay tuned for part 2!
posted by Bokononist at 11:47 AM on February 14, 2007 [11 favorites]


Pecinpah: It's hacking the Super Bowl in the MIT sense.
posted by zsazsa at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2007


In Part 7, he renews his driver's license by.... patiently waiting in line at the RMV! HAXXED
posted by bobot at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2007


For the record, my personal guess is that it says: Save Ferris.
posted by notmydesk at 11:58 AM on February 14, 2007


It's cool that he was able to pull it off, but the prank fails if there's no coverage but your own, and even then people can't read what the message says.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2007


The hack itself is a total failure, but Bokononist just about made me spray soda out my nose.
posted by sbrollins at 12:14 PM on February 14, 2007


On the other hand, the mention of Mr. Bartley's in the write up is making me think I need to stop there next week when I'm in Cambridge for work for a burger and a frappe.
posted by sbrollins at 12:16 PM on February 14, 2007


The prank would only have been awesome if it had resulted in a ridiculous over-reaction and the Superturd had been canceled.
posted by 2sheets at 12:28 PM on February 14, 2007


Yep, it spells out "Let's see how many idiot internet discussions we can get going on this non-story before someone gets wise to the fact that the key is 'idiot internet discussions'."

It's right there in Morse Code. And Prince even spelled out the same message in semaphore with his penis guitar.
posted by Mike D at 12:32 PM on February 14, 2007


For the record, my personal guess is that it says: Save Ferris.

That same shot makes me think it says, "Paris Hilton." Or maybe, "Prince Nelson."
posted by peeedro at 12:37 PM on February 14, 2007


MIT did a hack on the electronic scoreboard during a football game at (iirc) UC Berkeley, so that it showed a score of
MIT 98
Cal Tech 0

Or something like that. Or maybe Cal Tech did the prank, I forget, but it was clever and pretty harmless.
posted by Mister_A at 12:40 PM on February 14, 2007


I *want* to believe. Does that improve the quality of this prank?
posted by Fezboy! at 12:43 PM on February 14, 2007


MetaFilter is useless to me now that they've blocked YouTube at work. *sigh*
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:50 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


DakotaPaul, I hear you. I was going to write up a MetaTalk post about it, but didn't want to go through all of the YouTube-centric posts and comments from the past week to provide a meaningful statistical comparison of recent posts to those 3 months ago.

It sure FEELS like there's a ton more YouTube-based FPPs, though. Sheesh.
posted by parilous at 1:23 PM on February 14, 2007


I hate how the "post 9/11 world" frowns and tut-tuts at ANY attempt at culture jamming.

There are only two acceptable responses now: "This is stupid! What a waste of time and money" or "OMG what if it woulda been a terrorist? You're just giving them ideas!"
posted by First Post at 1:35 PM on February 14, 2007


This is stupid! What a waste of time and money.
posted by rocket88 at 1:52 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least he got a long-winded story out of it...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:52 PM on February 14, 2007


I think the attempt is admirable.

I think the self-congratulation and hyped-up, drawn-out description is kind of pathetic, considering that the dude just took out a second mortgage on his house and all he has to show for it is some blurry photos of some tiny blue smears in a sea of thousands of other tiny white smears that you can barely pick out, let alone read.

And considering that this is described by the author as an attempt to promote his own book, and his site is littered with BUY ME NOW links to Amazon, I don't think his "counter-culture" cred is really that strong.
posted by designbot at 1:59 PM on February 14, 2007


I think a much better Super Bowl hack would've been if the scoreboard had briefly displayed the Canton Bulldogs and the Houston Oilers as two team names.
posted by pax digita at 2:03 PM on February 14, 2007


I can't see anything in those photos or videos. But a Mooninite would have been pretty funny.
posted by carter at 2:37 PM on February 14, 2007


I hate this post. And this "prank".
posted by indiebass at 3:31 PM on February 14, 2007


What designbot said. Heckuva idea. Crappy results.
posted by rokusan at 3:50 PM on February 14, 2007


I think it's kinda sexy.
posted by rndm at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2007


What indiebass said.

I'm sending that zugtard an invoice to reimburse me for the past three minutes of my life. Then I'll write 5,000 words about it for my glorified blog. Won't that be a WOKKA-WOKKA-WACKY "PRANK"???
posted by MaxVonCretin at 4:19 PM on February 14, 2007


OMG. What if it would have been a terrorist? Now were just giving them ideas.
posted by subaruwrx at 4:30 PM on February 14, 2007


It was just an incredible experience. On one hand, we didn't know how it could succeed, but on the other hand, we didn't know how it could fail.

By the way, beers at the Super bowl are $10.

I really didn't think they would ever have shut down the game. The briefest explanation reveals our non-violent intentions.

This was the pinnacle of high-stakes prank ambition. If John wanted to out-do this with a more high-profile prank, I think he'd have to try a stunt at a royal wedding, or prank the astronauts on the space shuttle.
posted by cockeyed at 5:04 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I remember reading Zug waaaay back. Like I'd check it for updates after reading Suck.com back.

What I remember most is that it wasn't very funny. It's like if Principle Skinner ran a comedy website.

Examples:
"How wacky do you have to make your signature before someone will notice?"

[after testing Johnson&Johnson's baby shampoo by putting a drop in his eye]"So: I guess it's not quite as gentle as pure water, unless the water was purified with turpentine. Maybe that's what they meant."

In conclusion, I miss Suck.com
posted by Bonzai at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2007


But Rob, WHAT DID IT SAY?!???!!!?

(btw, I enjoy your work, especially the costumes, and just about any of the "how much is inside" doohickeys. Thanks for dropping by)
posted by yhbc at 5:18 PM on February 14, 2007


Rob, valiant effort on this one. I've been checking Cockeyed and Zug for updates, hoping that there's a good result. I would guess that without all of Prince's lights, the lights in the seats would have shown up better. There's always the World Cup or Olympics!
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:27 PM on February 14, 2007


I admire the art of the prank/hack, even if it doesn't get noticed. The five-part narrative was really ... gripping. Considering Boston.

Anyway, I don't see this as pranksterism-as-politics, i.e. culture jamming or "counterculture". This is pranking for the sake of pranking.

I've gone through every combination of XXXX XXXXX that I can think of and haven't gotten a good match yet. It's four letters and five letters, though, that I'm pretty sure of. It should relate directly to either Prince or football. Hmmm....
posted by dhartung at 7:58 PM on February 14, 2007


I think it's outstanding; pretty amazed at the dollar figure, though. Glad they didn't get caught (partly because it saves us all a very very stupid shitstorm). It's a shame the TV cameramen were savvy enough to avoid showing it -- I assume there were times when it was visible, not obscured by flares, and maybe they just decided to cut away from it.

dhartung, where do the SU appear in your XXXX XXXXX figuring? SU is all I can make out clearly. Maybe "Super Prank" or something along those lines? "What's Up Doc?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:09 PM on February 14, 2007


A++++ for the title.

"A crummy commercial?"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2007


Final installment, apparently. And he doesn't say what the message is. Frankly, I'm baffled.
posted by notmydesk at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2007


The prank was a success. The Bears choked, didn't they?
posted by klangklangston at 8:02 AM on February 15, 2007


I can't read it. I vote dud, but good effort, and actually inspiring.
posted by orangemiles at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2007


In the final installment I reckon that when John talks about freedom and pranking being a way for people to stick it to the establishment, that is the real message of the prank, not what a bunch of lights say.

But I think that really means: "Nobody can see what we actually tried to say, so instead here's a lame message about liberty."

In any case, the lame message is still probably better than whatever he was trying to say in lights.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:23 AM on February 15, 2007


I can't read it, but I tried. I think we ALL just got pranked.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 PM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was just following the five magic rules for getting into any event in the world:

1. Wear a suit.
2. Wear a Bluetooth headset.
3. Pretend to be talking loudly to someone on the other line.
4. Carry a clipboard.
5. Be white.


Chuckle.
posted by jckll at 6:11 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


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