February 17, 2015


Last Man Running (REEVES WIEDEMAN, 2/17/15, The New Yorker)

The Last Man game, an annual competition of intentional ignorance, began on Sunday, February 1st, at 10:06 P.M. A hundred and fourteen million Americans had just watched the Super Bowl, more than had ever watched before. Somewhere north of a hundred--no million needed--had decided, instead, to play Last Man, a loosely organized contest that began in the late aughts, when Kyle Whelliston, a blogger who didn't care much for football, decided to try to be the "Last Man in America to Know Who Won the Super Bowl." Soon, his readers started to play, and the group grew, until this year enough people joined to require a Web site and an unofficial commissioner tracking the events on Twitter. The game runs on the honor system--pride is the only prize--and deaths are self-reported on Twitter. Those who play refer to themselves as "runners," and the thing they are running from--the fact that New England beat Seattle--is known as "the Knowledge." The only real rule is to stay in the country.

No problem, you're thinking. I hate sports, and didn't even watch the game. Well, did you watch "Broad City"? Amanda Upson, a film producer in Denver, went eight days without discovering who won the game, but when she rewound a Tivo'd episode of the Comedy Central show a little too far, she landed on a commercial revealing the result. Her loss was declared a "death by poor remote usage." You may not remember obtaining the Knowledge--perhaps it arrived via an NPR story in which a Republican compared Obama's decision-making to Pete Carroll's ill-fated final call--and may have since forgotten it, but that doesn't mean you never had it. Last Man is a game in which, eventually, everybody dies.

This year, eight runners died in the first thirteen minutes. The list of casualties, recorded on the Web site, is long and varied. There was death by jewelry-store junk mail and by Rob Lowe meme and by Yelp review of a bowling alley. ("Came here on a Sunday night after my Seahawks lost...") Eluding the Knowledge meant avoiding not just ESPN and Deadspin but, for at least several days, pretty much the entire Internet. Google Now, Google Calculator, Google AdWords, and Google's homepage all claimed victims. There was one death credited to a local TV news segment about pizza consumption during the game, and another to a pizza commercial. ("Congratulations New England Patriots, from Papa John's!") Televisions at gyms, airport terminals, chiropractor offices, and a Walmart gas station knocked off a dozen people. One man, who suffered an accretion of enough detail about the game to fill in the blanks, including an "uncharacteristically humble" tweet from Richard Sherman, diagnosed his defeat as "death by a thousand cuts."

Posted by at February 17, 2015 3:08 PM

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