Q: What the heck is Last Man?
The full name is “Last Man in America to Know Who Won the Super Bowl.” It’s an annual game played by contestants, called “Knowledge Runners,” who seek to avoid learning “The Knowledge” — the outcome of the Super Bowl — for as long as possible. Everybody eventually loses, but we each hold out as long as we can (and we cheer each other on). More details are on the About page, the Rules page, and the How to Play page.
Q: If someone only knows the winner of the Super Bowl, not the score (or vice versa), are they still alive in Last Man?
A: No. Once you possess either part of The Knowledge — the winner or the final score — you are eliminated from Last Man.
Q: How can you be sure that people are telling the truth about whether they have The Knowledge?
A: We can’t. We have to trust that people are obeying Rule 3 (“always play honestly”). That said, there is very little incentive to cheat. Last Man does not have a “winner,” and there is no prize. Last Man isn’t a competition between people; it’s a game you play against yourself. So if someone cheats, they are only cheating themselves.
Q: It’s Monday morning, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl yesterday, I don’t know who won, and I just heard about this “Last Man” game. Can I play?
A: Yes, if you genuinely have not heard who won or what the score was (as opposed to having that information go “in one ear and out the other” such that you now don’t remember). Per Rule D, participants may join the Twitter #Lastman League if they belatedly learn about Last Man, genuinely lack The Knowledge, and announce their participation on Twitter within 24 hours after the conclusion of the Super Bowl.
Q: I have a suspicion about who won the Super Bowl, but I’m not 100% sure. Am I still alive in Last Man?
A: Maybe. It depends. Do you have a strong suspicion, or just a hunch? If you effectively Know, you Know. But if you’re just speculating, then you don’t Know. There is lots of grey area here. Take a look at Rule 4 and Rule C, and then make an honest, good-faith judgment about whether you truly Know. In general, if you merely have a vague suspicion about who won, based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence, that probably is not The Knowledge. If you’re pretty darn sure, but not 100% certain, that probably is The Knowledge. In the latter case, you have the option of continuing to play, but (per Rule 4) if the information upon which you based your strong suspicion turns out to have been accurate, you must retroactively back-date your elimination to the point when you acquired “The Strongly Suspected Knowledge.”
Q: Can I watch the first half of the Super Bowl and still play Last Man?
A: Not really. First of all, that would violate the spirit of the game, which is to avoid the Super Bowl. Secondly, you’re playing with fire if you try this, because The Knowledge (or “The Effective Knowledge” or “The Strongly Suspected Knowledge”) can arrive fairly early in the game, particularly if it’s a blowout. For instance, someone watching the 2014 Super Bowl would arguably have had The Knowledge well before halftime, based on how the game was going. While a huge Broncos comeback was theoretically possible, there was a sufficient basis to strongly suspect that the Seahawks would be the winners very early in the game, making it pretty much impossible to stay alive under Rule 4 and Rule C.
Q: It’s been two weeks since the Super Bowl, and I don’t even remember who played in it, let alone who won it. Am I still alive in Last Man?
A: Probably not. First off, if you didn’t decide to play Last Man until now, you’re ineligible for the Twitter #Lastman League under Rule D. Secondly, it sounds like you may also ineligible under Rule A, as someone who both (a) isn’t a sports fan and (b) exists in such sports-averse social circles that you wouldn’t be likely to obtain The Knowledge anyway, regardless of whether you were trying to avoid it. Thirdly, even if you are eligible, staying alive in Last Man means avoiding ever learning The Knowledge in the first place. Thus, unless you are confident that you truly never learned the result of the Super Bowl in the first place, you aren’t alive in Last Man simply because you can’t remember it now.
This is a key point. If you’re not a sports fan, 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.
Q: So, if I’m not a sports fan, I can’t play Last Man?
A: No, that’s not necessarily true. The goal of Rule A is to limit participation to those for whom avoiding The Knowledge will be genuine challenge. Many non-sports-fans still fit that bill. So take a close look at the rule, and make your own honest, good-faith judgment about whether you’re eligible to join the Twitter #Lastman League. If you feel honestly that you’re eligible under Rule A, then you can play, sports fan or not.
Q: Can I play Last Man without tweeting that I’m playing?
A: Yes, you can play Last Man, but you can’t join the Twitter #Lastman League without tweeting your participation.
If you want to join the league, but don’t have a Twitter account, you create a Twitter account for this limited purpose — or you can have someone else, who does have a Twitter account, “announce by proxy” that you’re participating, identifying you and using the hashtag #lastman.
Also please remember to tweet (or have your “proxy” tweet) periodic status updates while you’re still alive, and an update announcing when and how you “died” — i.e., obtained The Knowledge — once you’re out of the game. Again, tag it #lastman.
Q: Do I have to stay active on Twitter while I’m playing Last Man? Seems like I’d learn The Knowledge right away from reading tweets and mentions.
Yes and no. We are asking Knowledge Runners to tweet updates at least every 72 hours while they’re playing, so we’ll know you’re still alive. Otherwise, it’s impossible to keep track of the game. If you go radio-silent for a long time, we will eventually have to assume that you’ve been eliminated.
That said, you’re 100% right about the dangers of reading others’ tweets while playing Last Man, particularly in those early days/weeks after the game. So while writing tweets is encouraged and requested, reading tweets is dangerous. Staying fully active on social media is a path to near-certain doom, whether by accident or sabotage. For this reason, many Knowledge Runners will use a blind Twitter window (for publishing tweets without reading them), a trusted Twitter List, or some other strategy to remain only partially engaged in social media while running from The Knowledge. (To that end, you can feel free to use our “blind tweet box” to post updates.)
Q: OMG, everybody else is eliminated, and I still don’t have The Knowledge! I won the game! I’m the Last Man!
A: Congratulations on your accomplishment! You’ve done an awesome job, and you deserve all sorts of kudos and bragging rights. But you didn’t “win,” and you aren’t “the Last Man.” You may want to re-read Rules E and F, which will remind you that Last Man is a game you play against yourself — not against other people — and nobody ever “wins.” You’ll lose too, eventually, once you come across The Knowledge at some point in the future. But don’t give up now! You’ve done great, but you’ve got to keep running! Run from The Knowledge!
Q: Why do you nerds play this silly/stupid/weird game?
A: The answer varies from person to person. Some participants — including the game’s inventor, Kyle Whelliston — do dislike American football. For them, Last Man is an act of conscientious objection to the cultural primacy of football and the Super Bowl. But many Last Man participants actually like football (or are, at worst, indifferent to it). They play Last Man simply because it’s a fun and interesting mental challenge to try to avoid such a pervasive piece of information. Regardless, we don’t think we’re “better than you” if you watch the Super Bowl. We’re not some sort of hipsters. No judgment of anyone else is expressed or implied. We are simply engaging in an activity that we enjoy, playing a mental game that we find amusing and entertaining. Particularly for those of us in modern life who spend our time ceaselessly “plugged in” to an endless stream of constantly updated information — about matters great and small — it is both refreshing and genuinely difficult to “unplug” for a while, in hopes of avoiding one particular data point that permeates the entire culture every February.
Q: So, you’re promoting ignorance, then?
A: No. This is a limited-time, narrowly-defined mental exercise. It’s a game, and a very specific game at that. Nobody here is advocating a lifestyle of general ignorance. Last Man contestants are no more “pro-ignorance” than high-altitude mountain climbers are “anti-oxygen” or competitive eaters are “pro-gluttony” or marathon runners are opposed to ever relaxing and taking it easy. The activity is specific to the competition. We don’t advocate ignorance outside the confines of Last Man, just as NASCAR doesn’t promote driving at unsafe speeds off the race track, and just as the NFL doesn’t advocate physical violence off the field of play.
Moreover, we specifically and deliberately don’t play Last Man with respect to information that’s intrinsically important. For instance, the game’s inventor ruled out using a U.S. presidential election as the basis for a Last Man-style game, because elections matter. The Super Bowl, by contrast, is just entertainment. It’s okay to choose to ignore information related to something that’s pure entertainment.
Q: This is stupid. There are plenty of people who don’t know the winner of the Super Bowl. Some dude in Siberia who has never even heard of the Super Bowl has got you all beat. Not to mention my wife, who probably thinks the Boston Celtics won the Super Bowl by hitting a lot of home runs.
A: Well, you’re entitled to your opinion about Last Man being “stupid,” but you’ve got several facts wrong. First of all, the dude in Siberia is ineligible under Rule 2 because he’s not in America. (The game’s full name is “Last Man in America to Know Who Won the Super Bowl.”) As for your wife, it sounds like she’s probably ineligible under Rule A, which excludes those non-fans who have absolutely no connection, either socially or media-wise, to sports news. And they’re both definitely ineligible under Rule D, which requires contestants to announce in advance (or within 24 hours after the Super Bowl) that they’re playing.
Moreover, lots of people in America (possibly including your wife) who “don’t know the winner of the Super Bowl” probably actually did hear about it at some point, but it went in one ear and out the other. So even if they’re eligible to play Last Man, they actually aren’t still alive, because they did obtain The Knowledge; they just promptly forgot it. (This is why Rule D exists. If you decide in advance that you’re playing Last Man, then retroactive ambiguity about whether you have The Knowledge is highly unlikely.)
Having said all that, in a country of 300 million people, there probably are plenty of eligible, consciously-participating Knowledge Runners who are still Knowledge-free. That doesn’t diminish or detract from the Knowledge Runners in our league, though. Remember, Last Man is a game you play against yourself, not against others. So, to anyone outside our league who is eligible for Last Man and who lacks The Knowledge, we heartily congratulate you, and we urge you to Keep Running!
Q: I’m going to leave a comment at the bottom of this page telling you who won the Super Bowl, losers!!!!1!!!
A: Welcome, trollish would-be saboteur! There are many of you out there, all believing that they are extremely clever. And you may succeed in using obvious tactics to knock a few inadequately vigilant contestants out of the game. But veterans of Last Man know they can’t trust social media, blogs, e-mail, texts, etc., to remain “safe” from The Knowledge, both in terms of inadvertent disclosures and in terms of deliberate sabotage. So commenting or at-mentioning “SEAHAWKS HA HA HA” may or may not have the desired effect.
Nor can you assume that someone who appears fully engaged in social media or on the web will necessarily be tripped up by a stray comment or at-mention. Knowledge Runners have various strategies, some of which allow them to remain in limited communication with the outside world while staying cocooned (at least for a while) from The Knowledge.
In any case, the Twitter #Lastman League disapproves of sabotage, and discourages you from trying to spoil anyone’s run from The Knowledge. But, as Rule F says, if you feel you must engage in sabotage, we implore you to at least be sporting and clever about it. Dumb, boring sabotage is the worst.
Regardless, we know that saboteurs are out there, both in real life and online, which is why Knowledge Runners are urged to remain vigilant and “trust no one.”
Q: But you dorks are annoying me with all your tweets about this nonsense! Won’t you stop it?
A: No, but if your Twitter app has the ability to “mute” certain hashtags, muting #lastman and #TheKnowledge should take care of it.
Q: Why is it called Last “Man”? That’s sexist!
A: Last Man’s inventor, Kyle Whelliston, took the position that women should be ineligible to play Last Man because, in his words, “most females in the United States can’t name more than a few NFL teams, much less bother to keep track of the pro playoffs,” and therefore “this is one game where women have unfair and unmistakable advantages over men.” We respectfully disagree with Kyle on this point, however. That’s why we adopted Rule A in an effort to achieve Kyle’s legitimate goal of limiting participation to those for whom avoiding The Knowledge will be genuine challenge, but to do so without unfairly excluding female sports fans.
Q: Isn’t this based on a How I Met Your Mother episode?
A: No. The episode you’re thinking of aired on February 5, 2007. The game of Last Man, as invented by Kyle Whelliston, predates it, reportedly by about 25 years. Also, in the HIMYM episode, the characters weren’t trying to avoid The Knowledge indefinitely, but just for ~24 hours, which is fundamentally different from Last Man. Speaking of which…
Q: Oh hey, I did this once! I couldn’t watch a big game (or TV episode) live, so I DVR’d it, and then I tried to avoid finding out the ending until I could watch it. That’s just like Last Man, right?
A: Not really. The goal of Last Man is to avoid The Knowledge for as long as possible, not merely to delay acquisition of The Knowledge until one has time to watch the game later. In theory, the perfect Last Man game would result in a participant never learning who won that year’s Super Bowl. Thus, the spirit and intent of the game are completely different from the more common practice of merely delaying the point at which one learns the outcome of a game (or the ending of a show).
That said, obviously there are similarities, and many of the same information-avoidance strategies will apply to both scenarios. But the outcome of the Super Bowl is far more ubiquitous in our culture, and thus The Knowledge is far harder to avoid, than virtually any conceivable piece of DVR’d information. To wit…
Q: Is it possible to play Last Man about other sports results, or other types of information altogether?
A: The game of Last Man is, by its terms, specific to the Super Bowl. That said, sure, a superficially similar game can be played with other bits of Knowledge. However, it is nearly impossible to conceive of a truly equivalent game. The outcome of the Super Bowl is virtually unique in American culture as a discrete piece of information that is both culturally ubiquitous and intrinsically unimportant. (That is to say, it “matters” for entertainment purposes only, but has no genuine importance.)
Most similarly “unimportant” pieces of information are not even remotely close to being as culturally ubiquitous as the result of the Super Bowl. For instance, playing “Last Man” with the outcome of the NBA Finals, the World Series, or the College Football Playoff would be far less challenging, because “The Knowledge” of those outcomes is nowhere near as widely discussed and disseminated in the days and weeks afterward — not just by sports fans and sports media sources, but broadly throughout the entire culture — as the outcome of the Super Bowl is. (The same goes for “Last Man LeBron,” which a handful of folks played in 2014, seeking to avoid “The Knowledge” of LeBron James’s second Cleveland-or-Miami decision. It was a fun game, but not on the level of Last Man, because the Super Bowl is so much bigger as a cultural event.)
This logic would also apply to playing “Last Man” with, say, the finale of American Idol or another reality show — or any TV show, for that matter. Even very highly-rated TV shows simply are usually not as culturally ubiquitous as the Super Bowl. The finale of “M*A*S*H” would have been an exception, but there was arguably no single discrete piece of information to avoid. The third-season finale of “Dallas” might have worked — playing “Last Man” with the question of who shot J.R. — but such unifying cultural moments are difficult to find in the modern fragmented media landscape.
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. Often, the winner of the Best Picture Oscar is a foregone conclusion and/or an afterthought for most viewers. The outcome of the Super Bowl is neither. It is the central defining fact around which the biggest TV event of the year revolves.
Similar to the Oscars, the Olympics, although huge TV and cultural events, do not generally revolve around a single discrete piece of information, and thus would not be a good candidate for a “Last Man”-type game. (The 1994 figure skating final, with the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding drama, might have constituted an exception.)
The World Cup Final would certainly work just as well as — or even better than — the Super Bowl as the basis for a global “Last Man”-type game, but not in America. Also, it only happens every four years, whereas the Super Bowl is an annual event, making Last Man more frequent and fun.
Occasional huge one-off news events, like the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995, would also theoretically work, but typically there is not enough advance notice to plan a game of Last Man around major breaking news. The most obvious exception would be a U.S. presidential election, but Kyle Whelliston has addressed that issue repeatedly and explained that, unlike the outcome of the Super Bowl, the outcome of an election is actually important, and therefore avoiding such information is not in the spirit of Last Man.