I should start with a disclaimer: This was all my fault. I’m the one who suggested we make the person who finished last in our fantasy football league spend 24 hours in a Waffle House.
I had seen it done before on the internet and thought: ‘'That would be hilarious to watch one of the other 11 members of our league go through that. Surely it won’t be me."
That, dear reader, is hubris. Call it my fatal flaw. Call it karma. Whatever way you spin it, I ended up screwed. So what if half of my team ended up on injured reserve in the first three weeks and other players severely underperformed?
That’s what brings me here, sitting at my desk trying not to fall out after having eaten far too many waffles.
I’m going to do my fair share of moaning here. Mainly about how cold it was in the Waffle House, how cold waffles feel like you’re chewing on wet cement, how badly my gastrointestinal tract was screaming to me for help.
But first I want to shout out Mississippians. I tweeted during the whole ordeal — through 15 hours and nine painful waffles — and I truly never expected the Tweets to go viral like they did. To the folks who showed up to take pictures (which still feels weird, but whatever makes you happy) and the ones who just wanted to bring me antacid tablets and provide moral support: All of you guys are awesome and I wish I had written your names down.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how cool Waffle House’s staff was with the whole ordeal. Did they definitely think I was completely moronic for doing this? Yes. But, they kept the waffles, coffee and water coming and were generally cheery about it all.
But, enough hand-wringing, let’s get to the action. The rules are simple: Spend 24 hours at the Waffle House, with every waffle eaten taking an hour off the clock.
I sat down at 4:07 p.m. and ordered two waffles. Some syrup, some butter and… BAM! I crushed those things. Overall, I’m feeling good and have already shaved two hours off my sentence. I'm impermeable.
A few minutes later, I ordered numbers three and four. Literally nothing will stop me, I’ve decided. Then, it hits. My stomach starts to feel like someone backed up a cement truck, ran the boom down my gullet and started pouring. I wanted to be launched into the sun.
Then, the Tweets start doing well. Like really well. So now I have some support behind me, and I’m vibing a little bit. Then the jukebox starts playing "Eye of the Tiger."
Screw my bubbling stomach, I’m ordering waffle number five, baby!
Eating about three-quarters of this waffle and I start to feel it turn into lukewarm mush with every bite. This is not going well. A check-in with my league mates confirms that I am 1) Allowed to walk around the parking lot to get some air, and 2) throw up without consequence.
So I finished that waffle.
Now we’re on waffle six. This is where things go totally and completely wrong.
It takes me hours to finish this thing. It tastes exactly how I imagine a wet dish drying mat would. In between the numerous starts and stops, three different groups of people show up to take a picture with me. I hope they frame them one day.
I’ll spare the goriest of details, but you should know I had to exorcise some batter-covered demons behind the dumpster on the side of the building.
A seventh waffle gets ordered. This one is the hardest of them all. My desire to continue is at rock bottom. It also takes hours. Another exorcism behind that dumpster is in order.
After several cups of coffee, a few podcast episodes and a failed attempt at a New Yorker crossword, I'm getting a third wind. If I can eat two more waffles, I get to go home at 7:07 a.m. When I tell you it's all I've ever wanted, I mean it. Somewhere, deep, deep inside I found the will to finish those last two waffles.
I finished them much easier than numbers six and seven. At this point I had 15 minutes to spare, and was looking to leave when in walks this woman, Cyndi Hayes.
She said she followed along with my escapades all night, and drove the 15 miles from nearby Florence to see me in person. Her oldest son had died last year, and he was very into fantasy football, she explained. His birthday would have been last week, and somehow my stupid little internet moment brought her a smile, something she said had been hard to come by. She thanked me for brightening her day and left. All of a sudden, those 15 hours felt worth it in a way they hadn't moments before.
And that, I think, is the point of all of this. I saw people genuinely enjoy something on the internet. Sure, there were some nasty comments (there always are), but mostly people experienced real joy. And that is something worth feeling, even if it came at my arteries' expense.
Lee O. Sanderlin is an investigative and political reporter covering the state of Mississippi. This column originally appeared in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Follow him on Twitter @LeeOSanderlin.
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Waffle House: Fantasy League loser spends 15 hours in restaurant