Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guinness

When I was in the 6th grade, I remember stumbling across my parent’s copy of The Guinness Book of World Records. It was the most enthralling collection of information I had ever seen. It had pages upon pages of the world’s tallest man, the world’s oldest Siamese twins, and the world’s tallest building. Here was an authoritative volume chronicling the greatest achievements of both humanity and the natural world complete with pictures. I believe I read that entire edition from cover to cover and continued to stay updated when a new version was released so that I would not be in possession of outdated information. 
The series, like all great contributions of mankind, began with an alcohol-fueled disagreement over which European game bird flew the fastest.  Since the argument involved Sir Beaver, the then managing director of Guinness Breweries, he decided to recruit a London fact-finding firm to settle the argument. He then realized that there must be similar debates occurring in pubs all over Europe with no definitive reference book to settle them. So, in 1954, the first copies of The Guinness Book of World Records were distributed to the public and the rest is history.

Sadly, the modern incarnation of Guinness Records is but a hollow shell of its former glory. Case in point: CNN ran a story a few days chronicling a group of people attempting to cook the “world’s largest outdoor stir-fry.” Due to their hard work, determination, and obvious lack of full-time employment they were successful and Guinness officials were on-hand to present them with an official world record. The final dish, prepared in a 14-foot frying pan, weighed in at 4,010 pounds and shattered the previous record of 2,319 pounds. Over 800 pounds of chicken and 50 pounds of canola oil used to prepare the meal.

I can only imagine how emotional such a moment must be for the participants and their families. I was hoping for an interview with the previous record holder where he shook his fist skyward and vowed on the graves of his ancestors that he would restore his honor by making a 5,000 pound stir-fry served on a bed of rice pilaf the size of a Motel 6. That poor guy probably had “get into Guinness” on his bucket list and figured “largest outdoor stir-fry” would be a foolproof category to tether his dreams to.

Unfortunately, the stir-fry incident was only the most recent in an embarrassing downward spiral. Other “feats” given Guinness status include:
  • Most Simultaneous High-Fives 
  • Largest simultaneous self-check for testicular cancer
  • Most Consecutive Gender Reassignment Surgeries
  • Oldest married couple to visit the North Pole
  • Longest time spent playing Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Fastest Marathon Finish While Dressed as a Viking
  • Most simultaneous opposing rotations of the arms in one minute
  • Most consecutive donuts (spins) in a car while standing on the roof of the car
  • Youngest person to row by themselves across the Atlantic Ocean from west to east

While each one of these obviously represents the pinnacle of human achievement in their respective fields, I am not sure that a synchronized, outdoor scrotum groping deserves the same attention as say, fastest mammal or oldest human structure. It seems as though Guinness is simply creating categories in order to stay relevant so that people have a reason to buy the newest edition. I can sympathize to an extent because “oldest fossilized biped” isn’t exactly a page-turner, but there has to be a balance between the franchise’s integrity and their sales figures.

If, however, they continue down the path of unnecessarily-specific world records, I offer the following categories:
  • Longest Involuntary Eye-roll by a Swede.
  • Fastest Marathon Finish by a Non-participant in a Different State.  
  • Most Simultaneous Appendectomies Performed on a Jewish holiday.
  • Oldest Fraternal Twins to Cross the Canadian Border on a Tandem Bicycle.
  • Longest Unbroken Stream of Profanity by a Licensed Nurse Practitioner.
  • Tallest Pentecostal to Circumnavigate Milwaukee in a Kayak.
  • Most Consecutive Felony Convictions by a Type II Diabetic.
  • World’s Largest Hamburger Helper Wrestling Match to Benefit a Marathon.
  • Shortest Custodian to Lose a Knife-Fight.
  • Youngest Pianist to Never Take Up the Cello.

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