Your Last Man Live entries were quite enjoyable to read. I also got a kick out of trying to figure out who the Conduit was and following the #LastMan and #FindLastMan twitter hashtags. Congrats on making it past day two anyways.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- And so after two days, 11 hours, 23 minutes, hundreds of miles and thousands of journaled words, Last Man is over for another year. A comfortably room-temperature Gatorade bath of appreciation to everybody who tried to make it difficult for me, who played the game themselves, or who are still playing out there... especially those who don't know they are.
The end of the game means the annual information blackout is over, which in turn means that we can go back to reading everything that's come in through The Form™. It was much like it is every early February: a lot of quick notes saying "GB 31 PIT 25" or somesuch, along with looping rambles on how we should focus on actual sports instead of some self-aggrandizing grandstand pose, making a big deal about conscientious objection to America's most popular spectator pursuit. And this much is true: making a big deal about a big deal about another big deal is how the Super Bowl became mega-gigantic in four quick decades. This is how we went from Lombardi and Starr to the Black Eyed Peas and bartending dogs. But success in Last Man comes from hiding, being very small, staying alone.
We did get nice letters, though, we always do.
I love Last Man Live, and really the whole concept of Last Man. But it's too late for me to play -- I know the score. So I decided to play the next best game, "Track Kyle Down." You indicated in LML that you're going to a game tonight. There are only 8 mid-major games taking place this evening. 2 are in cities that "have football" (Buffalo and Jacksonville), so those are eliminated. Evansville has a Main Street, but it's very small and, paradoxically, not near the center of the city. Ditto for Wilmington. Des Moines doesn't even have a Main Street. If you were going to Princeton, you wouldn't have flown (plus, it's the G!O!T!N!). There are no hotels on West or East Main Street in Fort Wayne.
So that leaves... Wichita. The flight times would match up, assuming you left from Logan -- Continental, US Airways, and Delta all offer flights that would roughly correspond to the timestamps in LML. Wichita has a Main Street. It, as well as the Mid-Continent Airport, is serviced by the Wichita City Transit system. There is one hotel on Main Street, the Candlewood Suites, but you're either not staying there or you checked in under an alias (don't worry, I wouldn't have told you the score if I had found you -- this might be creepy, but I'm not a dick). I didn't bother to check any of the 50 other hotels in the central Wichita area.
I know you won't see this until well after the fact, and I assume I'll know if I'm right or wrong when you either discuss the game on Twitter this evening or post a game recap tomorrow. But despite sounding like a stalker, I felt like I had to share this with you. Good luck, my friend. Avoid The Knowledge.
Thanks, Nick. I understand that it got pretty crazy. I was warned, but I honestly didn't see this part of it coming. Apparently, there was even a Wiki-style Google Doc involved. I do wonder if some of you enjoy Last Man for the same reasons I do, but I'm glad that people are having fun with it.
Now, the game is over for another year, and so is the discussion of its details. I cannot divulge any of the travel path or reveal the Conduit's identity, but I did not rename any streets or lie about my surroundings or otherwise break the sacrosanct Rule Three. If the Sports Bubble allows for a 2011-12 NFL season, it seems that we will all have to step up our games one year hence. The stakes are getting higher every time.
My Existentialism professor from undergrad used to incorporate discussions of the merits of not watching or even caring about the Super Bowl into his units on Kierkegaard and Heidegger. I won't try to reproduce the details of those lectures here (or anywhere), but in my mind, it doesn't matter whether you're eliminated in ten seconds or ten years. To participate in Last Man is no smaller an affirmation of existence than the Cogito. It isn't about being a contrarian or a noncomformist. It can't be, because there's no way to win. The Knowledge will always find you. It always ends in a loss.
To play is to decide -- not just about participating in the game, but about your very identity. To play is to take your place on one side and only one side of the Either/Or. To play is to authenticate. To avoid The Knowledge is to avoid what They want you to know and think you should know, and therefore elevates what you want to know and think you should know. It's wonderful.
I know you can't read this right now, but good luck, and never stop running. Never doubt the meaning and the importance of your endeavors to Avoid The Knowledge.
The recently deceased English thinker P.F. Strawson, one of the first metaphysical philosophers, is credited with destroying previously-held assumptions about identity and denotation. Bertrand Russell's Theory of Descriptions, which dates back to the early 1900s, stated that a sentence with a non-existent subject X is false for any predicate Y. Take, for example, Russell's example: "the current Emperor of Germany is gray." There were no crowned heads in that country anymore by then, so, the theory goes, any sentence containing "the current Emperor of Germany" collapses.
Strawson argued that any refutation of this famous puzzle with "there is no current Emperor of Germany" represented the real logic problem. Because the subject does not exist, he said, the sentence is neither true nor false. There is no real-world crucible context to contain X and Y. "The Green Bay Packers are the current champions of the National Football League" is true. "Kyle Whelliston is not the Last Man in America To Know Who Won the Super Bowl" is true. But any attempt to "win" this game of ours falls squarely in Strawson's wide-open gray area. "The Last Man is I" is neither true nor false.
On Saturday, I received an e-mail from a gentleman who wanted to challenge me to a game of Last Man. He runs a blog that chronicles his efforts to avoid the National Football League for one year; he has chosen to define himself as a person who doesn't watch football. I don't watch football either, but I only go to extreme lengths to avoid it once a year. But he saw a parallel with this small annual effort, and even used the word "gauntlet." I returned a quick paragraph, politically positive. I complimented him on his site, kindly declined the challenge, and offered him the best of luck on future projects. He reposted my message on his site. "Does this mean I won?" he wrote underneath.
No. No, it doesn't. Nobody ever wins this game.
That's why we play.
Western Athletic: Duquesne. Belmont. Oakland. Bucknell. Saint Mary's. Those are the names you'll need to know for March, but they've all gone down in the past couple weeks, and each holds one loss in conference play now. Coastal Carolina and Princeton are the only schools in the Other 25 to have perfect league records. In the dead of night on Wednesday, Utah State got theirs, an end to a 17-game win streak at the hands of the Idaho Vandals. Idaho had not beaten USU since 2004 -- the only time since the century turned -- so national television was a good place to do it. But it's the law of averages in action: a team that drops 1.1 points per possession on opponents isn't going to slide down to .86 very often, if ever again. Will that fact keep the Selection Committee from punishing the Blue Aggies by pushing them a seed line or two down for not dominating a broken league? Probably not.
Big West: Where in the World is Big West basketball? Bunkered up with Carmen Sandiego and Waldo? Oh, there it is. Long Beach State hasn't played a game since January 29, but after at least five days of rest for everybody, eight of the nine teams will be back in action tonight. It's yet another conference table that's separated by a few games and can be considered wide open. Is this yet another excuse to bring out a pretty Tempo-Free Aerial? Of course it is.
Having seen them on late-night #pixelvision a couple of times, watch out for Pacific. In their two meetings with Long Beach, the Tigers have lost by a combined two points. But this will likely come down to the Anaheim draw, most specifically a green and gold nemesis that has made their season a living slog-hell. In a pair of games against slowdown experts Cal Poly, Pacific has scored just 39 points both times, both ugly losses. And in preparing for a Davis-Irvine week at home, they'll have had an entire week to think about the last one.
Florida Atlantic at Denver (Sun Belt) Magness Arena - Denver, CO 9:00 EST The Sun Belt. Its massive 2,097-foot footprint brings together a dozen colleges in shared unity and purpose. They are all in the contiguous United States, for instance, and all offer four-year undergraduate degrees. It could be said, also, that the sun shines on all of them... some more than others, and that's not some vague sports metaphor, I promise you. Despite all the travel, it's been a fairly stable league this century, and the basketball has featured rising and falling long-distance rivalries. The 2000s began with a Western Kentucky/Louisiana-Lafayette axis, which later became a WKU-USA tandem, and North Texas has snuck in and won two of the last four championships. Right now, the league with no real center has no central struggle. And so tonight, we have a battle of division leaders from either far end, east and west.
The Sun Belt does have star power, and most casual fans know about the men who lead the teams in the league's southeast corner. Isiah Thomas is getting hurt by the game again at Florida International (9-14, 4-7), putting up the same kind of results that got Sergio Rouco, his less famous predecessor, fired. Mike Jarvis may never get the Saint John's imbroglio from the mid-2000s out of his first graf, but he's really coaching the lights out in Boca Raton right now. FAU is 18-7 overall and 10-1 as the Belt's buckle, and is coming off a tight 73-72 come-from-behind home win over Isiah's Golden Panthers. The Owls play the best defense in the league (.947 points per trip allowed), and have a sophomore class full of studs like 5-foot-6 Ray Taylor (11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) that will be producing until the next election cycle. Now all this team needs is a worthy rival.
West leader Denver might be a tough sell, not only because of their 11-12 record (7-3 SBC), but also because they are two time zones and several climate bands away -- FAU and Denver only play once a year, at alternating sites. Fortunately for the Pioneers, who have been outscored by 10 points on the way to a 2-7 road record, this game will be at home and at high altitude. With the exception of 2006-07, an irredeemable 4-25 disaster (that included a head coach who simply stopped showing up at work in December), Magness Arena has been a hyper-barbaric chamber for opponents (no more than three losses at home in the past six non-2007 seasons). The oxygen deprivation effects have been quite something: West division second placers Arkansas State lost by 38 last month in Denver but won by 25 in the rematch at Jonesboro last weekend. Joe Scott's team is first in two-point shooting (54 percent) and has the best general offense in the league (1.09 points per trip in league play), and won nine of 10 in a stretch that featured offense no worse than that sterling 1.09 mark. Slow the pace down (59 possessions, second-slowest in Division I), pick your shot, and nail it. Makes enough sense to me. Basketball State Preview/Box