By Tom Myers
Athletes are the biggest role models on this planet. As a comic, the chances of me getting millions of dollars in endorsements to advertise a shoe, a soft drink or aftershave are practically slim to none. I even doubt that I will be making money as I mention that I’m writing this while wearing my Rockports and drinking Canada Dry ginger ale after having splashed on some Aqua Velva. As someone who is not in the least bit athletic, I feel it is my duty to be able to keep up to date on events that anybody can enjoy, regardless of the fact that they played no sports in high school and college and share them with you, my readers.
The ESPN Zone is best known for serving food to patrons who take their families there not to spend time with them, but to watch the various televised college and professional games on enough big screens to put Best Buy to shame. They also recognize that not everyone can hit a grand slam, run a ball into an end zone for a touchdown, or escape from legal trouble with a legal Dream Team. Sensing this, for the past seven years they have been hosting the Ultimate Couch Potato Competition. Yes, there is actually a contest where the object is to not get off of your lazy ass. The competition started at the Chicago ESPN Zone in 2003. In 2008, a simultaneous event started in New York City before one started in Baltimore last year. Seeing as how many of my friends in the Baltimore area love blocking out the rest of the world whenever anything remotely connected to the Ravens comes on television, I’m surprised people in Baltimore haven’t picketed ESPN Zone to see that their fantasy of taking part in a sports-related competition where they just sit around for hours on end comes true.
The rules of the competition are simple. Contestants are asked to sit in a recliner for as long as they can tolerate this task. Once seated, the contestants must watch televised sports, watch televised sports and, oh yeah, watch televised sports until four contestants become one winner. In order to make their experience more comfortable, they are waited on hand and foot. They are given enough food and drinks on the house to surely make the male contestants want to propose to the waitresses who serve them. They must stay in their chairs without sleeping and not get up, save for a break to use the restroom every eight hours. No word on if use of adult diapers is cause for disqualification.
The winner for the Baltimore area last year was Jessica Moseley, an education coordinator who drove an hour from Arlington, Virginia to reach, or rather sit around wait for, the dream of a lifetime. How long was she able to sit in a couch with minimal pee breaks? If you guessed 70 hours, just 2 hours shy of three full days, you would be correct. What man wouldn’t want a woman in her life who was proud to be the Baltimore area’s 2009 “Reigning Ultimate Couch Potato Champion?” Moseley won last year and says she is competing again for one reason: to uphold her honor. “I’ve got a reputation to uphold. Everybody’s gunning for me,” she says in her video interview on ESPN Zone’s website, “and I have to show them that I’m still the best.” She certainly has the heart of a competitor, saying in a message to her fellow contestants, in a sweet voice of the kind known to nurture today’s young minds, “I’m out for blood, I’m out to win again and the rest of them are just going down pretty much, for sure.”
At 12:08pm on January 3, 2010, ABC2 in Baltimore reported that Jessica Moseley is a two-time champion, lasting a mere 32 hours, 59 minutes and 14 seconds. Certainly not even close to her 70-hour bedsore attempt, but long enough to outlast Chris Dachille, a sports producer for Baltimore’s WBAL-TV. Pardon the pun, but the education coordinator certainly did school the sports guy in the true meaning of competition.
This is the kind of competition anybody regardless of occupation can do. Stan Friedman, a 48-year-old research librarian who works above the ESPN Zone restaurant in New York City, won both competitions there. Friedman says that his practice for doing nothing consists of a week-long ritual of abstaining from caffeine, sleeping a lot, breathing, sitting and not going to the bathroom. There is a part of me that thinks there are several hundred people out there desperately seeking employment and this guy is not only rubbing in the fact that he has a job, but a job so great that they let him practice doing nothing in order for him to do nothing. Where does one get a benefits package like that? I wonder how I can get in touch with Henry Paulson. Now, I digress and go back to Friedman. What are his words of his wisdom to his fellow competitors? “Just bring it on.” Unfortunately, his tough words were not enough for him as Jorge Cruz, who defeated the two-time champion Friedman after being able to sit in a chair and watch televised sports for 48 hours, 15 minutes and 1 second.
Another two-time champion is Jeff Miller, a real estate business owner originally from Iowa who won the Chicago contests in 2008 and 2009. His tactics for winning are more subtle. He says in his mind, the general lengths of the contests are 41 or 42 hours. He opts for no trash talk, instead focusing on how much he’s going to enjoy sitting around and watching sports. He doesn’t even want to tell his opponents to bring it on! He is probably the nicest competitor I have ever seen in a sports-related contest. This tells me that if Jeff Miller were a professional athlete, he would constantly be getting his ass kicked on the field. Apparently, modesty won out as Miller won the title at 4:21am on Monday morning, January 4 after the only other competitor left fell asleep.
Even though my idea of strenuous mental agility was joining the chess club in middle school, the Ultimate Couch Potato competitors certainly do have me quite awestruck. I mean, I do enough comedy contests to know that standing on a stage telling jokes is enough to make me winded. With this knowledge, I know that playing in the World Series or the Super Bowl would send me into a mild psychotic break. I know this, so I don’t waste my time practicing a sport where I know I’ll never be good enough to win a championship ring.
Even if the best Hail Mary you can manage is not on a football field, but in the confession booth, you can finally take part in a competition where you don’t even have to do anything. If you think this idea is a bit far-fetched and unbelievable, you can witness the pride of being the ultimate sports fan at www.espnzone.com/ultimatecouchpotato. My only advice to anyone thinking of competing is to make sure you actually win the competition before you tell your family and friends. You don’t need Mom thinking that you’re a failure even at doing absolutely nothing.