Shake On It


Meghan Bean and Reagan Sterrs

High school is meant to teach you about risk and reward: deciding to whether to make that comment in class, to procrastinate on homework, or try out for the sports team you have never played for. The students at Stephen Decatur High School have decided to make this lesson self-taught by organizing a modified betting system, all revolving around sports.

A dozen boys from the senior class have elevated the stakes of Fantasy Football by organizing a series of punishments for the group member whose team scored the lowest. The surprisingly sophisticated system that decides the punishments consists of an automated wheel, labeled with unappealing challenges, to decide the loser’s fate.

The group of twelve started this fiasco last year, with a one-time punishment for the lowest scorer of the entire season. Since mid-September, one unlucky group member has been forced to face the wheel each week, as opposed to a one time challenge.

The first person to lose this competition was Luke Mergott, at the end of last year’s Fantasy season. After a brutal defeat, Mergott’s fate was in the hands of the group. On January 16, friends gathered to watch Mergott eat the worlds hottest gummy bear. Much to his distress, the gummy bear was not only frozen, but there was not a drink in sight.

As friends took out their phones, Mergott proceeded to place the gummy bear into his mouth. Instant heat coursed through his veins. Some say it was un-bear-able. Despite the freezing weather and short sleeves, Mergott couldn’t handle the heat of the punishment.

That experience left a bad taste  in the mouths of all the participants; no one wants to be the one stuck eating the world’s hottest gummy bear. And yet, when their senior year rolled around, they decided they were going to increase the risk.

When your option becomes running a “milk mile” – a challenge where you have to drink 16 ounces of milk for every quarter of a mile – just for a few lost points or having to suffer through the movies by yourself, then you’re going to try your hardest to avoid a loss. Despite the imposing nature of the punishments, it doesn’t seem to discourage those who may have to face them.

Adam Gardner had to shave off his right eyebrow after losing a friendly wager on the Phillies position in the World Series.

“Losing is the fuel to the fire,” said Gardner, who hopes to keep the loss a one-time occurrence and separate from the Fantasy Football competition. “When adversity strikes, I strike back.”

Not only is the group taking this as an opportunity to test the ideas of risk and reward, they are finding out what exactly it means to keep their word. There’s no one forcing the losers to hold up their end of the bargain.

Every loser, however, has faced the wheel and completed their challenge with respect to the deal agreed upon when they “shake on it.”

Despite the comedic nature of the group’s idea, this collection of seniors has managed to show tremendous amounts of responsibility. You would expect parents to roll their eyes and shake their heads at what their kids have been up to. However, this group was met with a different response.

“When my parents saw me,” Garder said, “it was a lot of laughing towards me. They were proud of me for keeping my word, though. I think it shows who I am and that’s what this is really all about.”

Along with the responsibilities also comes tension. The frequent reminders of loss have created mild animosity among the group. Some have even started to play the blame game. “There’s a lot of beef, and friendships get broken through this,” Gardner said.

Matthew Rankin has sunk to the bottom of the betting pool more often than any other member.

“I’ve lost three out of the six weeks,” said Rankin. “I got finessed by Davion (Rounds) and Luke (Mergott) and made some mistakes. This was in the beginning and it put me in a position to lose a lot more often.”

Rankin and Gardner attribute their losses and less successful weeks to alliances made by Rounds. “That’s caused him to have an overpowered team,” Gardner said. “I want to see a major distribution of talent through the entire league.”

This group has been close for many years; most of their friendships pre-date middle school. Just as much as the friendly competition causes tension, it gives them something to remember as they all prepare to graduate.

“It creates core memories with the boys,” Rankin said. “I had to go to a game by myself with no phone or distraction, drink a gallon of iced tea, and shave one of my legs.”

Aside from the memories, they’re taking the lessons they happened to learn along the way.

“I think it’s a good way to bond as a friend group and gives us a way to stick together when we go our separate ways in college,” Gardner said. “I feel like going high-risk, high-reward is the way to go.”