Can you #lastman the election?

Between FiveThirtyEight coverage of Last Man (here and here) and the ascendancy of a potential President Trump (here and here), it’s become a perfect storm for people inclined to ponder this idea:

This is not a new concept — indeed, it’s addressed in the FAQ, in questions #13 and #20 — but at this point, it probably deserves a more thorough response.

For tl;dr types who just want to know the official Twitter #LastMan League party line, the short answer to the question “Can you #lastman the presidential election?” is: No.

(Or rather: Well, sure, of course you can — you can do what you want; this is America! — but it’s not something we endorse.)

Why not? In 140 characters or less, the fundamental reason is this:

People have been pondering the idea of #LastmanElection for as long as Last Man has been a “thing.” (For example: here, here, here and here from 2013.) And it’s easy to understand why. In American culture, a presidential election is really the only recurring event, aside from the Super Bowl, that meets both of the first two criteria for a truly viable Last Man game: it centrally culminates in a discrete piece of information (i.e., who won) which is culturally ubiquitous (and thus very, very difficult to avoid).

That’s why I tweeted this in 2011 (before I’d fully thought the issue through), and it’s what Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater meant when he tweeted this last year. If you’re intrigued by the Last Man concept, #LastmanElection is definitely tempting. Indeed, on the “ubiquity” point, The Knowledge of a presidential election’s outcome would unquestionably be much more difficult to avoid than a Super Bowl’s outcome, considering the winner becomes President of the United States for the next four years. Playing Last Man with the Super Bowl gets easier after a week or so, if you can make it that far, as each year’s Super Bowl result gradually fades from cultural relevance. By contrast, playing Last Man with a presidential election would never get easier. The president is in the news all the time, about everything. In order to match Drozek-Fitzwater’s four-year run, you would need to basically avoid all news for the entirety of the president’s term.

And that nicely illustrates why the answer is “No.” Because, you see, there’s a third criterion for a viable Last Man game. The culturally ubiquitous piece of discrete information at the heart of the game — i.e., “The Knowledge” that you’re trying to avoid — must also be intrinsically unimportant. That is to say, it must “matter” solely for entertainment purposes. It must have no genuine importance.

That’s true of who wins a Super Bowl. It’s not true of who wins a presidential election.

For some, it’s tempting to dispute the intrinsic importance of presidential elections, particularly in the current political climate:

And indeed, the rise of Trump has caused some cracks in the official #lastman “party line” on this question:

But, again, think it through all the way. A game of Last Man, by its nature, has no finish line. The goal of a Knowledge Runner, in theory, is to keep Running forever. So if you sign up for #LastmanElection, you’re signing up for a long-term period of profound ignorance about domestic and world affairs, potentially lasting years. We can’t endorse that as a good idea.

If you think Republicans and Democrats are all the same, and therefore presidential elections don’t matter much, you could perhaps justify trying to avoid “The Knowledge” of who won from Election Day through Inauguration Day. If you make it to Inauguration Day, you “win,” and then you can resume normal media consumption and news awareness. But that wouldn’t really be Last Man, because it would have a finish line, and it wouldn’t be a game that “always ends in a loss, eventually.” The no-finish-line, nobody-wins concept is a fundamental property of Last Man, written into the D.N.A. of the game by its inventor-in-exile, Kyle Whelliston (who, by the way, addressed this question repeatedly, always giving the same answer that I’m giving here).

Alternatively, if you just find the electoral process — the campaign, the ads, the demagoguery, the lies, etc. — intolerably gross and repulsive, you might be tempted to consider playing a game of trying to avoid all election-related news from an arbitrary start date (perhaps tied to the national party conventions) through Election Day. To some, that might sound especially appealing this year, particularly if Trump wins the GOP nomination. But that wouldn’t be a game of Last Man either. (It would be somewhat more akin to the Little Drummer Boy Challenge.) It’s not Last Man for the same reason as stated above (it has a finish line, so you can “win”), and also because you’re not trying to avoid learning a discrete piece of information. Instead, you’re trying to avoid all references to anything and everything that fits within a broad category of information (“election-related news”). There’s no specific binary or multiple-choice piece of Knowledge whose fundamental nature and parameters are known in advance, even though the details are not. Basically, for something to qualify as “The Knowledge” in a Last Man sense, it needs to be the answer to a specific question, and you need to know in advance what the question is, and what the list of possible answers are, without knowing which answer is the correct one.

Moreover, again, ignoring all election news, even just for a few months, necessarily entails choosing a high level of ignorance about things that are important. What if there’s a terrorist attack? What if there’s a major economic shock? What if there’s some major development overseas? Or some big tragedy or other major news domestically? The presidential candidates’ reactions will certainly be in the news. Basically, any major story of national or international significance that happens between now and November will end up being tied to the presidential election in some way. If you played this game in 2008, you would have been ignorant of the financial crisis. If you played in 2004, you would’ve had to tune out news about developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you started playing it last fall, trying to #lastman the primaries, you would have needed to largely ignore, among other things, the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. That’s not the “fun” kind of ignorance; that’s the “not being a responsible, informed citizen” kind.

So… that’s why we don’t condone playing Last Man with a presidential election. Yes, it would be fun, in some ways, and certainly a huge challenge. But it’s not in the spirit of the game of Last Man, and the downsides are too great.

P.S. Before anyone asks, you also can’t play Last Man with the Oscars. As the FAQ explains: “Only the Academy Awards even approaches the Super Bowl in American cultural centrality (and TV ratings) each year. But there is no equivalent single, discrete piece of information that is central to the cultural experience of the Oscars in the way that the Super Bowl’s outcome is central to Super Bowl Sunday.” Put another way: the most talked-about moments at the Oscars aren’t usually tied to the outcome of any particular award. There’s no way to know in advance what the question will be, so you can’t play Last Man regarding the answer to that unknown question. (For instance, in 1999, the question would have been “Will Roberto Benigni jump on a chair and go nuts?” But of course you can’t know that until it happens.)

Moreover, many of the big award categories, in addition to having non-culturally-ubiquitous outcomes, are often foregone conclusions. Playing Last Man with “who won Best Picture?” in a year when there’s an overwhelming Best Picture favorite — i.e., most years — would create major Rule 4 problems. (This is actually also true of many presidential elections, though it’s less serious objection to #LastManElection than the ones I explained above. But if you’d played Last Man with a recent presidential election other than 2000 or 2004, and you started the game just hours or a few days before Election Day, I would argue that you would’ve potentially already had The Knowledge under Rule 4 based on the clear polling and overwhelming odds. Football games and other sports contests have favorites too, of course, but because they are totally self-contained events where the score always starts at 0 to 0, they pretty much never have favorites as overwhelming as, say, Bill Clinton was when Election Day dawned in 1996, or Barack Obama on either of his Election Days.)

25 Runners left after saboteurs emerge due to 538, Fox articles

On Sunday night, when @findthelastman signed off for the season at the two-week mark, Last Man was down to 29 Knowledge Runners:

That number, I believe, stayed the same until midday Tuesday — when this happened:

(The FiveThirtyEight article is safe from The Knowledge. Its comments may not be. And the Twitter response definitely isn’t.)

And then, shortly thereafter, this happened. (WARNING: The Fox Sports article is NOT safe. It contains The Knowledge.)

As a result, we suddenly had a situation where, out of the blue, on a random weekday 16 days after the Super Bowl — by which point many Knowledge Runners have inevitably, necessarily started to return to social media normalcy — there was a surge of sudden, unexpected renewed interest in Last Man.

And, this being the Internet, land of trolls and jerks, renewed interest means renewed sabotage.

A new Twitter troll account, containing the outcome of the game in its name and handle, was created, and almost immediately claimed four victims. The first was @surfergrrrl, whose death tweet contains The Knowledge. Then:

Just like that, we’re down to 25 Runners (21 of whom have updated their status within the last week-and-a-half; the other 4 have been radio-silent almost all the way back to the Super Bowl).

In an effort to warn the remaining Runners of the new threat, the Horn of Buckland was sounded:

The author of the Five Thirty Eight article felt bad:

But she was reassured that she needn’t feel guilty:

Besides, for those Knowledge Runners knocked out of Last Man on Day 16, there’s an upside:

More later.

P.S. So much for the relative lack of media attention (outside of Jimmy Kimmel) this year. Heh.

Also, it’s interesting to compare & contrast the reaction to Kimmel vs. the reaction to today’s articles:

Data journalism FTW? :)

Full Last Man results (so far)

Here we go. The spreadsheet is fully up-to-date!

So, nine days into Last Man, we’re at 165 dead, 32 still alive, and 4 who technically never counted as they’re in violation of Rule 2.

Keep Running!

34 still alive; Corrigan reveals #LastManExtreme details

According to @findthelastman’s tentative count as of 8:55 PM MST last night, there were 34 Knowledge Runners still alive at the 8-day mark. I don’t see any indication of any deaths since then — most of this morning’s #lastman traffic is about the French comic book — so it looks like 34 is still the correct number as of Tuesday morning. Though of course, like unemployment rates and GDP figures, it’s subject to revision as more data is analyzed. :)

Speaking of which, @findthelastman has compiled an initial spreadsheet of the first 128 deaths — or 131 deaths, if you include asterisked Runners outside the country (see Rule 2). It goes through 48 hours. He has promised more to come today on the spreadsheet.

Yesterday, we had one #LastManSuicide (LINK CONTAINS THE KNOWLEDGE, one death by Twitter image, and one death by client:

For those still alive into Day 9, the game is getting easier in some ways, and harder in others:

Nope. Nobody wins. Everyone loses eventually. (It’s in the rules.) But Keep Running!

Speaking of Kevin Corrigan — the Boulder, Colorado resident whose 7-day Run from The Knowledge in the heart of Broncos Country is being called one of the greatest Last Man achievements ever — he e-mailed me yesterday with a bunch of additional details about how he lasted so long; what challenges he faced, risks he took, and strategies he implemented; and how he eventually lost. You can read that after the jump. WARNING: CONTAINS THE KNOWLEDGE.

Continue reading 34 still alive; Corrigan reveals #LastManExtreme details

#LastManExtreme Runner in Boulder, CO out after 7+ days

BREAKING NEWS: Kevin Corrigan of Boulder, Colorado — the last Knowledge Runner standing in either of the Super Bowl teams’ home metro areas — has been eliminated after a remarkable run that lasted more than a week.

WARNING: The remainder of the post contains The Knowledge. Still-alive Knowledge Runners should stop reading now.

Continue reading #LastManExtreme Runner in Boulder, CO out after 7+ days

38 out of 201 still running as Last Man enters second week

We’re into Week 2 of Last Man 2016, and 38 of the 201 known players are still alive, by @findthelastman’s count. That includes, remarkably, the lone remaining “Last Man Extreme” contestant, Kevin Corrigan in Boulder, Colorado:

Technically, nobody “wins” Last Man, but regardless of that, we salute you, sir! #TeamKevin

The list of still-alive contestants also includes Amanda Charney, who seems to have taken “Running from The Knowledge” more literally than most:


Over the course of Friday and the weekend, we had death by SNL, another death by SNL, death by @gruber, death by sponsored link, “death by hazy glimpse of picture at,” death by Facebook, another death by Facebook, death by customer (for details, click here; WARNING: CONTAINS THE KNOWLEDGE), and “death by loud bro talking about the game in a fish and chips shop.”

(WARNING: Any direct link to any tweet, like the ones above, may potentially contain The Knowledge — even if it doesn’t at the time of posting — because someone could reply to the tweet with The Knowledge in their reply. So, active Knowledge Runners probably should not click any links at all, just to be safe!)

Oh, and let’s not forget death by cupcake (WARNING: CONTAINS THE IMPLIED KNOWLEDGE).

Meanwhile, Last Man hall-of-famer and late night TV star Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater has revealed more information about how, shortly after his Run from the 2012 Knowledge ended after 4+ years at the hands (or rather the belly) of Jimmy Kimmel’s sidekick, his Run from the 2016 Knowledge also ended, after just shy of 4 days, during the taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live:


Heh. The segment that killed him can be seen here (CONTAINS THE KNOWLEDGE, OBVIOUSLY).

Here are some recent updates from various still-alive Runners:

Based on current information (the numbers always shift slightly as we learn more), it appears that 18.9% of known Runners made it through Week 1 unscathed. That’s impressive! By way of comparison, last year, just 12 of the 115* known Runners (10.4%) made it this far. Of those twelve last year, one was eliminated on the Monday of Week 2, two on Tuesday, and one on Thursday. The other eight made it at least to Week 3, and six made it out of February altogether.

Based on those odds and the current numbers, it appears quite likely that we will have double-digit numbers of Knowledge Runners still going into March and beyond. Time to start dreaming the impossible dream of challenging Drozek-Fitzwater’s record?!? (Granted, that requires making it through 48+ months, not just 1…)

Keep Running!

*In previous posts, I misquoted this number as 117. My bad.

47 alive, 152 dead; Fitzwater’s 2012 run ends after 4+ years

Last Man legend Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater, a.k.a. @jscottfitzwater, appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live last night to talk about the game, and what it’s like to Run from The Knowledge. Jeffrey did a great job, and the segment was pretty funny:

(WARNING: Watching the embedded video may not be safe for active Knowledge Runners, because of the possibility of “related videos” about the Super Bowl popping up afterwards.)

Kimmel didn’t divulge this year’s #TheKnowledge during the segment (though Fitzwater died a few minutes later in a Kimmel-related fashion that he has promised to elaborate on later today).

However, at the 3:52 mark of the video, you can watch in real time as Fitzwater’s record-shattering Run from The 2012 Knowledge finally comes to an end after 4 years and 6 days, in perhaps the most epic Last Man death since Kyle Whelliston was taken out in 2008 by the Valparaiso student section. Death by Jimmy Kimmel — or, more precisely, death by being flashed by Kimmel’s sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez.

1,467 days. You now have a concrete long-term goal to shoot for, successful Knowledge Runners. :)

(And no, it doesn’t count if you “have no idea who played in the Super Bowl in 2012″ because you don’t remember. As the FAQ explains, “staying alive in Last Man means avoiding ever learning The Knowledge in the first place,” not acquiring The Knowledge and then forgetting it. If you’re not consciously playing Last Man, and you don’t particularly care about a given year’s Super Bowl, “information about the Super Bowl may tend to go ‘in one ear and out the other.’ But that doesn’t mean you never acquired The Knowledge; it just means you learned it and then promptly forgot it. This is largely why Rule D exists, requiring Twitter #Lastman League participants to announce that they’re playing Last Man in advance of the Super Bowl (or within 24 hours afterward). Once you make a conscious choice to play Last Man, the ‘learning and immediately forgetting’ problem largely goes away. Once you Know, you Know.”)

By way of flashback

Yup. He pretty much did. And then he died on national TV.

Well done, sir.

Hail the victorious dead!

Anyway, back to this year’s game…

@findthelastman tweeted yesterday evening, shortly after Last Man 2016 passed the 96-hour mark, that we had 50 Runners left (out of 199 who are confirmed to have played).

Since then, ‏@ShantzJess suffered death by co-worker; @skratty007 got cocky and was promptly sabotaged (LINK CONTAINS THE KNOWLEDGE) by her best friend, @Linaalf1 (#TrustNoOne!); and prolific #lastman tweeter @AzTexTim was knocked out via death by Gmail filter #FAIL:

Thus, by my count, we’re at 47 Runners left out of 199, with 152 having already died, as of Friday morning.

(There are also still ~18 people who said they were going to play, then went radio silent, so we’re presently not sure if they played or not. Thus, it’s possible the total who played will end up over 200.)

A few of Thursday’s more notable deaths:

For those still alive, the obstacles don’t stop, even as The Knowledge starts to recede from consciousness. For instance:

Keep Running!! Only 1,463 more days until you match Fitzwater! :)

Last Man on Kimmel Thursday; 56 out of 197 Runners still alive

First off, some breaking news. Tomorrow night — for better or worse — Last Man will reportedly be featured on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Last Man “hall-of-famer” J. Fitzwater will appear on the “Wall of America” segment to discuss the game. ABC, 11:35 PM / 10:35 Central.

So… that’s happening.

Meanwhile, an update on this year’s game as of Wednesday evening, just past the 72-hour mark:

We’ve learned about two new players since that tweet, so the total number of known Knowledge Runners, alive and dead, is now 197.

Today, we had two Deaths by Facebook (1, 2), a Death by Baby’s First Parade Video (so, maybe also Facebook?), and a Death By Unspecified Sabotage. And — while I was writing this — a fifth elimination today: Death by Bowling. Details here (LINK NOT SAFE FOR ACTIVE RUNNERS!).

So, I think we’re now at 56 Knowledge Runners confirmed alive and 141 confirmed “dead.” There are also ~20 other people who had said they planned to play, but who haven’t been heard from since. For the moment, at least, we’re assuming they didn’t actually play.

Meanwhile, those still alive faced obstacles ranging from workouts to trivia nights to Lenten services:

Some started to grow increasingly (over?)confident:

While others lamented being cut off from the outside world:

I know from experience that Wednesday is when that feeling of isolation really starts to set in. Beware Bunker Madness!

Some, though, viewed the isolation as a feature, not a bug:

While others dared to make a tentative first effort at reconnecting with the outside world:

My advice: don’t get too cocky yet! Last year, more than 30 percent of the Runners who made it through Wednesday … died on Thursday. And another 17 percent died by the end of the weekend.

More than half, though, made it into the next week, and some of those lasted for weeks or even months. So, if you keep your focus, you’ve got a shot at a long run. But don’t let up just yet.

Stay strong, Runners!

P.S. If you’re wondering, last year 23 out of 117 total Runners (19.7%) made it through Wednesday. If the current numbers hold — and some adjustments are possible as more information comes in — 56 out of 197 would be 28.4%. So, a substantial improvement over last year.

That improvement could be due in part to the influx of non-sports-fan Runners, many of them Reply All/TLDR listeners, whose compliance with Rule A is, er, somewhat questionable. But it may also be due to last year’s Last Man first-timers becoming veterans, avoiding rookie mistakes, and getting better at this. Well done, folks!

135 down, 56+ still running; Boulder player still alive

After @findthelastman spent hours tonight crunching the numbers, we finally have an official Last Man 2016 count as of Tuesday night:

As per usual, Tuesday saw fewer “deaths” than Sunday night and Monday. Still, there were plenty. Here are a few of them:

There have been no reported “Deaths by New Hampshire Primary” as of yet (except perhaps the one suffered by Marco Rubio’s presidential ambitions…#sorrynotsorry), but President Obama did knock out one Knowledge Runner:

The @POTUS tweet in question is here (NOT SAFE); a redacted, #TheKnowledge-free version of the tweet is here.

Perhaps the day’s most notable “death” was that of Last Man Extreme player @Hiddanas in Charlotte, North Carolina:

But in Boulder, Colorado, fellow Last Man Extreme player @KevinCorrigan is still Running at last check:

We’re past the 48-hour mark now, so this is getting serious.

Keep Running, Knowledge Runners! Long May You Run!

95 “deaths” in 24 hours

The Knowledge knocked out more than half of declared Last Man players in the game’s first day.

A total of 95 Knowledge Runners met their #lastman “death” in the 24 hours after the Super Bowl ended, according to @findthelastman’s preliminary count.

WARNING: Although the text of this blog post is free of The Knowledge, some of the links are NOT safe for active Runners. Also, the comments at the bottom of the post may not be safe.

Approximately 175 contestants are known to have declared that they were playing #lastman. The final total may be slightly higher, but probably not 190+. So I’m fairly confident that more than 50% of Knowledge Runners “died” on Day 1. That elimination rate is in the same rough ballpark as last year, when 58 of the 117 known contestants (49.5%) were knocked out in the first 24 hours.

Following on the heels of the various notable “deaths” Sunday night and Monday morning, Monday afternoon and evening saw a wide variety of demises: death by DMV, death by co-worker (lots of those), death by professor, death by contractor, death by British gamer, death by saboteur wife(!), death by Instagram (and another), death by Snapchat, death by Imgur, death by JavaScript, and death by eBay spam… among others.

Airports were deadly, even if you avoided looking at the TVs and newspapers:

Elevators were also a major risk:

Best to avoid them altogether:

And of course you can’t trust any sort of live TV. Including pro wrestling:

One of the more tragic deaths was suffered by @FDTerritory:

The Knowledge is everywhere, folks.

For those still alive, Last Man can really get inside your head:

Anti-social behavior is a necessity:

Errands and trips to the mall become harrowing experiences:

On the other hand, for some, Last Man can yield a productivity boost:

And there are other unexpected benefits:

Anyway, now that Monday is over, confidence is growing for some of those still alive:

But beware! Overconfidence kills. Besides, Tuesday is Parade Day. The Knowledge is still everywhere. Also, this year brings a unique challenge: Tuesday is New Hampshire Primary Day as well. Granted, this would be an even bigger problem if the Patriots (with their NH-bordering location and their Trump-befriending QB) had made it to the Super Bowl. But regardless of the matchup, it will be perilous to follow election coverage, either on TV or on social media (unless it’s via the Last Man safe list, which will include some “safe” New Hampshire results). Bottom line, I assume we’ll have some “Deaths by New Hampshire Primary” tomorrow.

For now, though, sleep well, Knowledge Runners. And when you wake up… RUN!!!