A hundred and fourteen million Americans watched the Super Bowl on the first Sunday of this month. That same day, just over a hundred people embarked on a different kind of game, an annual, loosely organized showdown called Last Man. Last Man is the battle to be the “Last Man in America to Know Who Won the Super Bowl;” its players call themselves “runners” and report their “deaths” on Twitter. The whole thing is strictly run on the honor system. Below is an excerpt from a recent New Yorker story by Reeves Wiedeman about Last Man:
Monday is the most difficult day, and within twenty-four hours, half of the runners had been eliminated. Just getting to work was a problem. (Did you glance at the Captivate screen in your office elevator? You died.) “I think the slushercane helped,” John Carney, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal and a Last Man competitor, said, of the wintry mix in New York the day after the Super Bowl. “I had to keep my eyes down, watching my step. No danger of accidentally seeing a newspaper.” Survival, he said, requires “intense eye discipline.” Getting to his desk near the Journal sports department required passing innumerable copies of the day’s paper, which had the result printed across the top of the front page. He recruited nearby coworkers to alert him to possible danger—the newsroom has enough televisions to make a Best Buy manager envious—and when an editor from another desk walked by wearing a Patriots jersey, a friend warned Carney not to look up. At one point, Carney had nineteen unread text messages and eighty-six unclicked e-mails. (A Journal colleague writes, “Are you making clear there’s no way Carney could have been doing his job effectively while avoiding all news services?”) On Tuesday, he was looking at the Pragmatic Capitalist, a Web site that typically offers “Practical Views on Money & Finance” but that day had an article titled “Game Theory Cannot Rationalize Seattle’s Super Bowl Loss.” (“It all makes me wonder if Carroll wasn’t suffering from a severe case of recency bias.”) Death by game theory.