Published April 11, 2008
| London Times
As upsets go, it ranks alongside the most extraordinary results in sporting history.
When the New York Mets, one of America's most revered baseball teams, asked their fans to select a new eighth-inning sing-along song, they could never have predicted that the winner would be a has-been English pop star.
But five million people had apparently voted on the Mets' Web site for Rick Astley and his 1987 classic, "Never Gonna Give You Up."
Organizers were, to put it mildly, puzzled.
They had offered fans solid American choices, such as Jon Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." Yet that had only garnered a fraction of the Astley votes.
It seemed that New Yorkers really wanted a song by a 42-year-old Englishman to enthuse crowds of up to 55,000 at the Mets' Shea Stadium during every home game next season.
It was only when Internet blogs began buzzing with reports of the Astley success that organizers realized that they had been "rickrolled."
The Mets, it emerged, had become the latest, and most high-profile, victim of a bizarre Web phenomenon aimed at ensuring that Astley's 1980s single, made by the bubblegum pop producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman, is played as often as possible.
Minutes after the team posted the poll on their Web site last week, online communities such as those at Fark.com and Digg.com urged their readers to vote for Astley's tune, which spent five weeks at the top of the U.K. charts in 1987.
On Monday, "Never Gonna Give You Up" emerged as the clear winner.
But to the chagrin of Internet chat-rooms, whose members claimed the will of the people was being ignored, the team refused to abide by the vote.
Astley would not be blared out at every game during the final season, embarrassed officials said.
Instead, there would be a "run-off" where the top six songs, including Astley's, would be played on consecutive days.
The one drawing the loudest crowd response — judged by the club's marketing department — would win.
A source inside the club, who did not want to be named, told The Times: "That damn song was an April Fool's joke. The fans didn't choose it. We were hijacked."
He added: "This is the way we're going to do it now. And let me tell you, the Astley tune is not going to win."
The phenomenon of "rickrolling" can be traced back to last year, when thousands of Internet users began putting up links to popular Web sites which actually took audiences straight to the YouTube video of Astley's pop anthem.
So far, more than 13 million people have been tricked into watching Astley, propelling the singer to heights of celebrity he surely thought had passed him by.
Riding the wave, his record company are now releasing a greatest-hits collection amid talk of a U.K. tour.
The Mets rickroll is only the latest in a number of high-profile Astley jokes.
Anti-Scientology protesters in London and New York adopted the song in February, playing it through boomboxes in what was described as "a live rickrolling of the Church of Scientology."
Later, when Scientologists created a Web site to counter allegations, rickrollers set up a site with a similar domain name that took users directly to Astley's video.
The joke has spawned countless parodies. Hillary Clinton stars in a rickroll video, as do the Muppets.
On April Fool's Day, countless Web sites rickrolled their viewers. YouTube, the most popular video site, hyperlinked all their front-page videos to the song.
Marketing companies are beginning to realize the potential. One is organizing a gathering of hundreds of Astley fans at the Liverpool Street subway station in London on Friday to sing a group version of "Never Gonna Give You Up."
Astley said last month that he thought the fame was "a bit spooky."
"It's just one of those odd things where something gets picked up and people run with it," he said. "But that's what's brilliant about the Internet."
On Tuesday, the Mets' opening day at Shea, the sounds of "Never Gonna Give You Up" played around the Mets' stadium, to the delight of the millions in on the joke.
Even if it won't be played again, they knew that one of the world's biggest clubs had just been rickrolled.