The genius of invention: The hoax that will go down in Rose Bowl history

The genius of invention: The hoax that will go down in Rose Bowl history

The 1961 Rose Bowl on January 2nd was between the Washington Huskies and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Over 100,000 fans were in attendance and, with the live television coverage from NBC, millions were glued to their sets for this momentous game. Sports bars and restaurants were filled to the brim with spectators. This was before the era of electronic scoreboards, so a common way to cheer a team on was to arrange various specially seated people to hold up flip cards at specific times. What happened on this January not only went down in sports history but proved the ingenuity of a plan gone well.

In this game, the marching band from the Washington team was involved with a coordinated effort along with students that were seated in the flip card seats. Once they heard a signal, they were to hold up their cards. Each student had an instruction sheet to indicate which card and which side should be displayed. When all of the cards were seen together, they would convey a message. This was quite an elaborate plan, as they coordinated fifteen different images to be flipped and displayed.

Everything went well as students used their flip cards and were prompted by the cheerleaders as a signal. Fans were astounded as each message appeared. By the time the twelfth image signal was given, something went a bit wrong. The visual was supposed to be the mascot of the Washington team, which was a husky. What appeared seemed to be an odd character with rounded ears and buck teeth, resembling a beaver. Confusion hit the stadium and everyone thought it was an error. That is, until the thirteenth image was displayed. This time it was supposed to say “Huskies” but, instead it read the word backwards as “seiksuH”.

Everyone involved in this flip card display began to look at each other. It had the worst effect on the cheerleaders of the Washington team. They all persevered and continued with the presentation. The final flip card signal was given, and, to the chagrin of all of those involved in this visual extravaganza, the word “CALTECH” appeared in brilliant white and black lettering. Around the country, millions of viewers were stunned and the students, players, cheerleaders, teams and marching band were just confused. Absolute silence filled the stadium. Caltech was a small technology school not too far from the Rose Bowl Stadium, but no one could figure out why the flip cards were displaying the name. There were only a few people that understood what was going on. These were the Caltech students that had spent months in secret, changing the flip cards.

This might have been originally thought of as a practical joke, but it has gone down in Rose Bowl history as one of the most ingenious situations. While flip cards cannot be considered high tech, it just goes to show you that a plan can be brilliant when executed to perfection. It was a two fold message that no one ever forgot.

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