Sports

What It’s Like to Avoid Knowing the Super Bowl Winner as Long as You Can

superbowl
The New England Patriots celebrate their 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Every year, Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater spends the days and weeks after the Super Bowl engaged in an endurance test—against himself, the media and knowledge itself.

Drozek-Fitzwater is one of several hundred people who participated this year in an annual game known as Last Man, to which there is only one real objective: See how long you can make it without knowing who won the Super Bowl. Sound easy? It’s not.

“This year, eight runners died in the first thirteen minutes,” The New Yorker reported, noting that the Super Bowl has become “the only annual event with media coverage widespread enough to make such a game a real challenge.” Worse still, Drozek-Fitzwater lives in Houston, where he works at an elementary school (teaching recess games such as football, no less) and where NFL culture reigns supreme.

Today, Drozek-Fitzwater is no longer in the running. But as of last week, he said, some participants still didn’t know who won the February 1 game. Newsweek spoke with Drozek-Fitzwater by phone to learn what it’s like to escape the most inescapable sports talk in the country.

How did you first get involved with the Last Man game?

There was this guy, Kyle Whelliston; he would go around to mid-major basketball schools and he would write stories about major basketball programs. And he mentioned one year that he doesn't watch the Super Bowl and he has this little game that he plays with himself to try and see how long he can last without finding out who won or what the score was. Some of us were like, "What's that about?"

He would expand on it and talk about how culturally huge the Super Bowl is and how it's this little piece of knowledge that's almost impossible to avoid, no matter how hard you try. It sort of just gets you. He wanted to see how long he could go without finding out what it was.

Eventually some of us were all like, “Hey, let's give that a try.” We would post our progress on Twitter. We call it "The Knowledge," and when you get hit with "The Knowledge," you say, "I'm dead” or “I'm out." And there's a Twitter account that sort of follows all the people who say that they're playing. Every year more and more people seem to be getting into it.

When did this all begin?

Probably the first time he mentioned it was in 2007, on his website [The Mid-Majority]. The website's no longer around, unfortunately. The first time he really tracked his progress publicly was in 2008. This is my sixth year, so it was probably 2010 when other people were actually doing it.

How many people take part now?

I want to say this year it was about 120.

People you know personally?

No, these are people on Twitter. It used to be just kind of eight of us that were the Mid-Majority fans. And then it got a little bit bigger this year because it got posted on Reddit or some email blast that mentioned it. We put up a website about it with some history and how to play, why we do this weird thing. This year it really grew. Then the New Yorker article came out so we're expecting a lot of people next year to do it.

In your email you mentioned that it’s not a competition. Can you elaborate?

The idea is that you're really just playing against yourself. I like to think of it more as a social experiment than really a competition. Because when you're trying to avoid a piece of knowledge and you find out just how pervasive it is, it really shows you how much of an influence media or social media have in our life particularly. How big football is [and] the NFL in American culture.

All anybody wants to talk about on Monday, the day after the game, is the Super Bowl. Whether or not you care about it, you're gonna hear about it. And there are very few things that are on that level. So for me, it's interesting—it feels a little subversive for me personally to try and avoid this thing that everybody wants to talk about. And everybody wants you to know. I kind of like the idea of avoiding that.

How long were you able to hold out for?

This year I made it to—I think it was 10 days? I made it to Wednesday of the next week.

What was your life like during those 10 days?

I got off Facebook. I only go on Twitter to post my progress. Sometimes you'll get a close call where you almost find out what happened, and it's fun to talk about that on Twitter. But yeah, people would text me. Didn't read the texts. I don't read my emails.

You didn’t check your email for 10 days?

Only work emails. Even then, a work email almost spoiled it because I saw the words "Patriots" right in the middle of an email and I had to turn away from the screen so I didn't get it spoiled for me. But yeah, if you want to last more than a little bit, you really have to avoid almost everything. Like, I couldn't turn on the radio. Even NPR. I've gotten eliminated by NPR at least one time, so I know that I can’t really put the radio on for a few days. It's tough. It's everywhere. You really, really have to try not to hear much of anything.

Were your family and friends cooperative?

Yeah, they were very nice about it. Last year I only lasted until Tuesday because of all things, we were having a discussion about Black History Month and my friend, he goes, "Yeah, you know what else happened in Black History Month? The second ever black quarterback won the Super Bowl." Then I knew that Russell Wilson was black and he won the Super Bowl. This year they knew I was playing.… So yeah, they were supportive. There were some that threatened to ruin it for me, but they were nice enough not to.

How did you find out eventually?

I watched a clip of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I figured because he was British, I would be safe. It was about doctors taking pharmaceutical money, and he just completely out of nowhere mentioned how pills are the only things that look like footballs that Seattle could handle, or something like that. I was like, OK, it's pretty clear the Seahawks lost, and that's what got me.  That's the real danger! I think it's easy to avoid the front page of ESPN, but it's these little things that people mention in passing. That's what gets me.

Any advice for people who want to play next year?

Don't take it too seriously. There's no prize, and you're not going to win anything. Have fun with it. Brendan Loy—he runs the website—when he plays he has a lot of fun with it. He'll post a picture of a newsstand in the distance and go, "Oh no!" Talk about close calls, follow the Twitter hashtag once you're out so you can see how other people are doing, and root for people to keep going. There's still a couple of people who haven't found out yet, and I think that's really cool.

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