The Art of NekNomination

Oooh – a craze – let’s blindly follow it.  Or not.  Either way, these internet-based phases are bound to rub some people up the wrong way.  Now, however, people are dying, and the resulting carnage is being blamed on a meme which is largely innocent.

For those who don’t know, let me explain what NekNominate is. Simply put, one person receives a nomination, has a drink (a pint of beer) on camera, and nominates two people to do the same.  They then post it on YouTube of Facebook.  Can you see now, why this is such a terribly dangerous activity.  For many years I have been going to the pub and having a pint, without realising that on EVERY SINGLE OCCASION I was dicing with death.  I thought I was enjoying a few refreshing suds.

But now parents across the country, indeed the world, are blaming this stunt – I will repeat – drinking a pint of beer – for the deaths of their kids.  Tragic it may be, but one pint of beer does not kill the huge, indeed vastest majority of people.  OK, if you have an allergy to the old booze, probably best not to do it.  But even the most featherweight of drinkers are not going to fall in to an alcohol induced coma as the result of a pint of the landlord’s finest.

No.  What IS killing these poor, backwards wretches is stupidity.  Fatalities come in a number of guises, but stupidity is a deciding factor in the majority of these.  Drinking a pint is drinking a pint.  It is NOT drinking a pint and then jumping in to a river.  It’s not downing a beverage, and then ‘chasing’ it with a bottle of vodka.  The one-upmanship is fine, but killing yourself in the process is really hoisting yourself by your own petard.  Or ‘retard’ – as The Thick Of It would have it, probably justifiably in this case.

A friend – who will remain nameless – dealt with his NekNomination in style.  He poured a pint of Guinness, waited for it to settle while explaining what NekNominate was, then drank said pint (in about two seconds – he may be sensible but he’s no slouch) and nominated two friends to continue the chain.  That was a textbook NekNominate.  Well done.  He didn’t then stab himself in the chest, drown himself by taking a walking holiday on the Somerset Levels, or have a drain-cleaner chaser.  In other words, he imbibed a pint, and then inexplicably failed to kill himself.  If only everyone else could be so sensible.

Losing a friend or family member so young is a tragedy.  I would like to say I was spared such anguish in my youth, but like the vast majority of us I lost my first friend before the age of 20.  A school friend dropped dead on a sunny weekend afternoon, and for a while the world became a darker place.  So no, tragedy did not leave me behind.  On the other hand, we didn’t seek it out either.  I know how some of these people are feeling, and I sympathise.  I really do.  But please, stop blaming these torturous, painful bereavements on a craze – it’s the stupidity which has taken its toll, not a nomination.  And blaming the person who nominated them is surely causing far more grief for them than it is saving for yourself.  Consider this – if you are a parent who has brought up a child who – when challenged to do so by a member of their peers – will jump off a riverbank in to a raging torrent, who has really failed here?

The question my mother used to ask on these sorts of occasions rears its little head.  “Well, if Gareth jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”  I never knew this would be taken literally.

The only thing we can do to prevent these deaths is ban people from filming themselves having a drink.  I don’t see how that is possible within a free society.  Of course, a knee jerk parliamentary reaction may be to ban alcohol, which I am not willing to consider at the moment.  Or – and here’s a thought – stop being fucking idiots.

Here’s how I first phrased this on the demon Facebook:

“Drinking a pint can be dangerous if you inhale it. Downing a pint can kill you if it is overproof rum or everclear. Life has risks and we manage them using intelligence.

If you down a beer, that risk is tiny. Doing the same and then jumping in to a freezing cold river or running across a 6 lane highway increases the risk exponentially.

Neknominations may be a little childish, but they can be a bit of fun too. They don’t kill people. In fact, I’ve seen them done in an entertaining and mature way. Thanks for showing us the way, Chico. No, it’s not drinking 20 ounces of 4-6% abv beer (for US citizens, 2-4%) that kills people. Being a dickhead kills people.

So, when in doubt, remember this handy little guide:

Don’t be a knobber.

Simple, eh?

Enjoy your beer. Whatever speed you drink it at.”



Extended Optimism

Well, they’ve done it now.  A beautiful creature, one of the ‘Big Five’ no less, has been slaughtered in Copenhagen in the name of “Science”.  Now, before any readers jump to the wrong conclusion regarding my motivations for writing this piece, I should explain something:

I am not a hippy, vegetarian, animal rights protester or particularly squeamish.  Nonetheless, my initial response to the headlines was probably one of displeasure, even disappointment at the revelation that a creature was to be destroyed because of the accident of its birth.  Then I decided, on a whim, to try to see both sides of this story.

On the one hand, we have the Animal Rights lot.  Well meaning – well most of them – and with a loud voice too.  Their point – we don’t have the right to kill such a magnificent creature, and it is wrong to do so. There were also comments relating to the cruelty of zoos in general, and tying Copenhagen in with the infamous “Zoo of Death” in Indonesia.

On the other hand, we have the scientists, who were arguing quite cogently, if more quietly, that the zoo needed to clear space for the ongoing breeding programme, and that as a result their only option was to destroy the animal.

“Oh Yes,” cry Swampy et al, “why does he have to be killed?  Why can’t he go to another zoo, where he can be cared for?” – a question I immediately felt was both intelligent and obvious.  My ego shining through a bit there, eh?  Well, that has been answered too.  Apparently, the Giraffe in question is a very poor specimen, and in order to maintain a high quality of stock he should be destroyed in order to make room for other, better quality examples.  Therefore IF another zoo or wildlife park has the space available for this particular animal, then they should get another, BETTER giraffe in his place. To pull on emotional strings from another direction, it’s like choosing to breed a whole new generation of human beings using ONLY people who have appeared on The Only Way is Essex.

The argument boils down thus: On one side, the rights of every animal to life a decent life, and on the other, the need to best safeguard the species, including unborn generations, so that it can continue.

OK, so that’s the basics out of the way.  It sounds like I have made my mind up, and as a result, everyone can hang their own and either join in with me, or go to hell.

Not the case.

In fact, I think this particular one is so divisive, I couldn’t say for certain where anyone else would come down, including my floweriest of mates.  In fact, it’s so subjective, I am likely to be swayed by any reasonable argument right now.  One thing I think we can all agree on though, is that it would have been a lot better for everyone if this creature had never been conceived at all.  Except a few lions and other carnivores in Copenhagen zoo, that is.

Right – on to my point.

The big stumbling block here is that every side has made the mistake of thinking that the world agrees with them on some fundamental points.  The animal welfare lot think that the zoo and everyone they oppose is a mindless murdering bastard, bloodthirsty and wanting to kill for the sake of it, and that EVERYONE else is in love with the individual animal which was destroyed.

They use their own emotional response to judge whether something is right or not, and the reasoning of the zoo ‘professionals’ does not enter in to the equation.

On the other hand, the directors at the zoo rely on safe, scientific choices – they use blind reason in the same way as our tie-dye chums use their visceral responses, but without recourse to public ‘opinion’. (Please bear in mind that while I agree every individual has the right to hold an opinion, the rest of humanity has just as much right to ignore it.  When I want to build a power station, I will consult an engineer, not an arsonist with ‘a good idea’.)

Do I think one side is right and the other wrong?  No.  I think both sides could do with trying to empathise with the other.  The zoo should be considering the emotional response to this catastrophe, and the protesters should actually consider what the zoo is saying, without resorting to attacks on emotional levels.  The protesters were the ones publicizing this, and then they are the ones to complain that the zoos actions will cause offence to millions of people worldwide.  If it is the feelings of other people they wanted to protect, why publicise it in the first place?

The events, unfolding as they did in the public eye, were the outward symptoms of a tragedy which – once the animal was born – could not be avoided.  Either it would have to be destroyed to make way for other animals, or another, possibly better specimen, would never be born. One animal, or the species.  I’m not arguing that this was as simple as that, nor that this creature was the be-all-and-end-all, but where one comes down on that line is a personal choice, and how one deals with those on the other side of it is just as crucial as the arguments you use.

Perhaps science should consider the emotional needs of the world, or perhaps their opponents should at least listen to reason… There needs to be a middle ground.  I’m off to find it.  Bring a tent.

Against all expectations

So, what did everyone think of the game last night?

Many – in fact the majority – of my friends would probably not know which game I am referring to.  This is a shame.  Those that do will be split – not 50/50 I’m sure but split nonetheless – in to two camps: the enthusiastic and the condescending.  While both are entitled to their own views, they are not writing on this site, so I am the only one with anything relevant to say here I’m sure.  Comments welcome.

I am prompted to write because of the outpouring of vitriol on my chosen social media sites.  Many of my friends, especially those who have chosen to spend time either in the USA or watching the sports programming which is beamed across the Atlantic, will know that last night was the culmination of the NFL season.  Some of you I’m sure will still not know what this means.  I’ll clarify – it was the Super Bowl – the FA Cup of American Football.  Two teams of padded and be-helmetted giants of the game – alongside their more diminutive but just as skilled cohorts – took to the gridiron to battle for the prestige, notoriety and – let’s not forget – sponsorship and cash bonuses a Super Bowl winner can expect.

So where is this vitriol from?  It’s simple.  Many people, certainly in the UK, think that American Football (or football, to most North Americans) is a ‘boring’ game.  Or predictable.  Or – and I’ve heard this many, many times – that it is just a game of Rugby for pansies.  Well, you are wrong.

It’s fair to say that YOU may find it boring.  This can be for a number of factors.  Perhaps you don’t understand it.  I’m sure if you were watching any activity for the first time, you would not connect with it.  You would certainly not be able to form an opinion of your favourite team – colour of jersey excepted of course.  But the fact that YOU find it boring does not make it so.  It would be fairer to say ‘It bores me’ – truthful and more appropriate.  This may seem pedantic, but look at it another way.  There are over three hundred million people in the USA, of whom approximately 40% watch NFL matches on at least a monthly basis through the season.  That’s over 100 million – much more than the population of the UK.  Crowds at COLLEGE football games regularly exceed the spectators of premiership football matches anywhere in Europe.  13948104-mmmainThat’s equivalent to filling the Emirates stadium or Old Trafford to watch Oxford Vs Cambridge Rugby.  The NFL is holding matches in 2014 in stadiums throughout the UK, and these SOLD OUT within a few weeks (, without major advertising.  So, YOU are bored, and you are in a minority.  Nothing wrong with that.

Frankly, I don’t understand this, but it has been said.  The only thing which lends it credence is possibly the American fascination with statistics.  This does lead people to think that because even a new fan can tell you how many sacks a tackle has been credited in the last three games, or how many yards rushing a wide received has run, this is no indication on how the ext game will go.  An if you think ‘HandEgg’ as some call it has an affection for stats, you will be amazed at what baseball fans know…  Relating it to last night’s game – predictable is not the word which would come to mind.  Seattle ‘pounded them until they couldn’t receive another ball’ – very funny, very true, and the opposite of expectations at the beginning of the game.

Well, this one I have heard too many times.  Let’s skim over the basics of the game and relate this to whether or not the players have pads and helmets on.  No-one remarks that Webber, Hamilton and Vettel use CARS to get around the racetrack.  A proper sportsman would just RUN, surely.  Same goes for those fairies like Hoy and Boardman, on their fancy bikes.  Oh, and no running in shoes please, they are for softies.  The pads, helmets and the rest of the equipment these athletes wear are tools.  They are not to prevent pain, just to ward off the worst of the injuries which could occur.  Despite wearing thick protection, concussion is still the most prevalent injury throughout the NFL after ankle and wrist damage.  If you want to check whether these guys are weaklings, I suggest you challenge them to a quick face off – either with or without the pads.  I’m guessing, when you see six foot five and three hundred pounds crouched a few short yards away on the grass, waiting for the snap of a ball to decapitate you, you may well change your mind.

OK, so you don’t like it.  Don’t watch it.  That’s sorted then.  Please don’t rant about how boring you find it as a sport.  They do have boring games, but last night’s was not, in my opinion, one of them.  Lets face it, while the USA may not be the best in the world at developing new sports (that’s our trophy) they are the leaders when it comes to making them big. From the pre-match build up to the post-game show, this is truly entertainment for the whole family.  ‘Soccer’ and the rest of them could learn a lot.  And, like Rugby and other proper sports, where the combat is carried out on the pitch, there is no segregation of fans.  Red and silver sit cheek-by-jowl berating and cajoling with shared breath.

Long may it continue.  Well done, Seattle.  See you next season, but please let the 49ers win the NFC East next year.