Eating Caterpillars

When I was in middle school, I lived next door to two boys who were constantly creating ad hoc competitions between themselves.  Of course, their parents thought this was cute when they had bike races down the street or tried to build the best snowman.  Except apparently those little battles weren’t extreme enough.  To up the ante, they decided to recreate Fear Factor in their back yard, and the next thing anyone knew, both boys were gulping down live caterpillars in an effort to outdo each other.  What most people would consider unthinkable suddenly became necessary and desirable in the name of competition.  By making rules for themselves and calling it a game, absurd actions became permissible and exciting.  (If anyone is wondering by the way, the record was thirteen live caterpillars in a row).

This caterpillar-eating frenzy is what immediately comes to mind when I first heard about Ultimate Tazer Ball.  No, that was not a typo.  Ultimate Tazer Ball.  The players carry tasers, self-defense weapons, and zap each other as they fight over a 24” ball.

According to Discovery.com:

The sport was is the brainchild of Leif Kellenberger, Eric Prum and Erik Wunsch, who work in the world of professional paintball.  They were brainstorming ideas for new extreme sports and thought of adding some real energy with the use of tasers. As the concept developed, they dropped real tasers, which can cause cardiac arrest and death, for stun guns that cause pain but are not dangerous. “It’s relatively safe as any contact sport would be” Prum says.

Then they turned to creating a sport that would be more than a gimmick. It includes elements of rugby, soccer and hockey. Teams of four vie to carry or throw a 24″ ball into the opponents’ goal. Tackling is allowed; punching isn’t. Defenders can only taze a player in possession of the ball who is within a designated space around the goals. (Tazing of the shoulders and groin is always illegal.)

Well, as long as shoulder and groin tasing are illegal…

With the creation of Ultimate Taser Ball, Kellenberger, Prum, and Wunsch have transformed assault into a game.  While the tasers used aren’t police-grade one and are set to a lower amperage than would be required to induce cardiac arrest, the players are fairly vocal about the pain.  Of course, in any sport or game, there is a risk of injury that players consent to undertaking.  How much risk, however, can or should someone consent to accepting in the name of competition?  Are games, no matter how dangerous, acceptable as long as the players agree to abide by the rules and accept the relevant risks?  In war, soldiers consent to risk of being killed, but should a civilian be allowed to consent to the same for the purpose of playing a game?

(You can watch videos of Ultimate Tazer Ball on YouTube.  One example can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M5_Jlio08k ).

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