The latest craze among young people blazing across the Internet is called "planking", where a person is photographed lying face down, stiff as a board and in a precarious place. The "sport" now has it's first known casualty. A 20 -year-old man fell from a seven-story balcony after trying to balance himself across a two-inch railing the other morning.
The worldwide sensation of planking has thousands of participants and Facebook pages with 100,000 followers. YouTube is being flooded with images of rigid and motionless teens and twenty-somethings who then hurry home to spend hours in front of their computers sitting and staring at photos of other people lying down doing nothing.
The "sport" of planking has become a dangerous, and now deadly, craze among young thrill seekers. It involves nothing except a camera, a lot of time on your hands and an even more bored friend to record the action--or inaction.
It may even replace cup-stacking as the stupidest "sport" in the world. The "sport" of putting cups on top of each other has already been broadcast on ESPN. Could planking be next?
At least the sport of parkour has some street-cred and athleticism to it. There's not a lot of people who have the skills to vault, jump and scale walls fences like parkour athletes do. Young criminals in a prison-break come to mind.
Planking is also known as "playing dead" and "the lying down game." If those descriptions don't get your adrenaline rushing, they will at least tell you how much physical exertion is usually involved.
The sport got it's start in Japan and is the fastest-growing activity in Australia, the land that brought us poisonous toads and Vegemite sandwiches. There is even a Brisbane Planking Association who publicized this seemingly obvious message after Beale's plunge: "Don't Drink and Plank."
Call it a sport or today's fad, either way, the rules to planking are quite simple. First, you must lie face down, expressionless, with your arms at your sides. You must remain as stiff as a board. Like a plank--hence, the planking name. You can do this anywhere you can be recorded or photographed. Got your shot? You're done planking.
Where you plank can be as mundane and safe as a meadow field or a cushioned seat in a McDonald's booth. Some take it to another level and plank on poles, park statues or span from from one object to another with their chest and toes as anchors.
A man was arrested for doing a "police-car plank," after the cop didn't take kindly to the planker planking on his vehicle while he was sitting inside. Most plankers seem to lack common sense.
This leads people to push the limits and become the extreme plankers by taking bigger risks. They plank railroad tracks, sharp objects, electrical wires and forbidden locations. The Taj Mahal has even been planked. Sadly, Beale was one of these daredevils.
Police and politicians believed it was only a matter of time before a person killed them self by trying to out-do another planker's stunt. In Japan and Australia, officials have posted signs warning people of the dangers of planking and spots where they could get hurt doing the deed.
I haven't seen cup-stacking on ESPN in a while so, hopefully that sport has finally sailed. But it looks like planking isn't going anywhere soon. Get ready to see the see it showcased on the X-Games.
The next time you see a jobless, smart-ass hipster lying like a stiff corpse face down blocking the sidewalk, across a park bench or on a subway track, don't shake your head and call him a slacker--he might be the next modern-day sports star.