Knockout Game: Some Scary Shit!
Hey kids, let’s play knockout! It’s all the rage!!! The rules are so easy, any idiot high schooler could do it. All you have to do is go up to an unsuspecting, defenseless stranger and punch him in the head. If you knock him out, you win!
Ah, yeah, that is fucking psychotic! After seeing the above news report that described this “game” and showed footage of people being knocked out cold, my wife came home from work practically crying. Though I suspected this story may have been overblown and sensationalized, I had to admit it was pretty scary. She made me promise that I would stop jogging in the areas where this game allegedly takes place. Of course, I agreed. Especially because a lot of the time I go running, it’s with my 19 month son, Simon, in his stroller.
There are some picturesque places to run relatively close to where I live and where my daughter goes to school, but they require a little driving. I’d rather just step out the door, or park in the school lot, and start running. So what if I’m not getting the prettiest run in? A mile is a mile, no matter how ugly. It doesn’t bother me that I rarely see fellow joggers or that I get some odd glances. Most people give me a smile as I pass, especially when I’m with Simon, who is usually either laughing his little ass off because we just hit another bump or sleeping because of the calming motion of my gait (or, more likely, he just needed a nap).
When I run at night, I follow a different route, staying inside the gates of my little condo community. Venturing into the mean streets of Jersey City after dark poses easily avoidable risks. (Not least of which would be my wife killing me for being a moron.) But during the day, in those less-than-scenic-neighborhoods, I’ve never felt like I was putting either Simon or myself in harm’s way. I would never expose my kids to unnecessary danger. Circumventing crazy people or individuals who mean you harm isn’t usually that difficult. All you have to do is keep your head down and keep moving. That’s exactly what I do when I run (you know, other than when I have to avoid hitting people or cars). Except, according to the stories, being alone and minding your own business IS what makes you a target. Knockout is fun!
Knockout: Myth vs. Reality
But is the Knockout Game real? Recent reports seem to indicate that it is does exist, but it is not new, not trending, and certainly not an epidemic. A Jersey City police spokesman told the New York Times that there had not been any reported incidents of Knockout and the game was an a “urban myth.” If you think that means my wife is now cool with me running in the neighborhoods I felt comfortable in two weeks ago, you’ve never met my wife. Her logic: there have been possible cases elsewhere and, even if it’s not as bad as it first seemed, why risk it?
Avoiding Trouble, Sort of
I have a bit of a different attitude than my better half. I’ve always tended to be somewhat cavalier with my own safety. From getting drunk in random foreign cities and wandering around with no idea where my hotel was (as a dumb college kid) to signing up for more obstacle course races after having to go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot at a Tough Mudder (last year), I’ve never felt that anything REALLY bad was going to happen to me.
Except, as a dad, it’s not just me I have to worry about. I have other people who are invested in my well-being, who rely on me. I’m still allowed to be an idiot. Obviously. But it has to be within reason. And, if there’s a chance that Knockout is real and that I can be a target – with or without my son in his jogging stroller – I have to let my wife be the Jiminy Cricket-esque voice of reason in my head. Knockout may be media hype, but, for now, she’s right. Why risk it?
I got into a weird argument with my uncle during Thanksgiving – how cliche! – about Knockout. He said that if it happened to even five people in the entire country “something had to be done” about it. I’m still not quite sure what he meant by that or what his point was. If it’s happening that infrequently, it’s not really happening. Because then it isn’t a loosely organized game played by hordes of sociopathic teenagers, keeping score and trying to outdo one another. If it only happens a handful of times, it’s just a few teenagers acting like crazy, violent teenagers. While still resulting in tragedy, a handful of arbitrarily violent teens is hardly news.
In any case, I don’t plan on hiding from everything in the news that’s a little scary. I still drive, fly, and take the train, even after reading about horrendous accidents caused by drunks and crazy people. I still do the things that I enjoy, like obstacle course races, even though (maybe because) there is an element of danger. That’s not to say I’d let Simon or my five year old daughter, Penny, crawl under the electrically charged wires. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine. There’s a lot of frightening shit out there. No need to put yourself directly in front of it. But, no sense in trying to hide from it either.
And, because it seems appropriate (and also kind of inappropriate) enjoy: