Let The Games Begin

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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Leave it to those fun-loving Japanese, the folks who invented the kamikaze attack. Now they're taking that basic concept and putting it to work on Japanese game shows.

The problem with kamikaze attacks has always been the same people can get hurt. But at least this latest variation is hurting nobody but the Japanese.

Turn on a game show on Japanese TV and what you'll see is a far cry from "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune." According to a recent Associated Press article, "Japanese game shows can be outlandish and oddball, often reveling in their slightly sadistic bent."

But now, two serious spinal injuries and a "copycat death" have caused people to wonder if those wacky Japanese have gone too far.

The injured contestants were competing on a show called "Muscle Ranking." One was hurt when he fell over six feet into a 4-foot-deep moat. The other was hospitalized after "trying to catch a 100-pound plastic ball nearly 6 feet in diameter."

The victim of the copycat death was a middle school student who "choked to death on a bread roll while imitating a 'speed eating' game called 'Food Battle Club.'" Show contestants "race against each other in double-fisting platefuls of sushi ... or slurping up bowls of steaming ramen noodles" often holding back a vomit reflex.

In explaining how Japan's pioneering game-show style "taps the perverse pleasure of watching sometimes sadistic, but creative, tests of endurance and humility," the article recalls the mother of all Japanese game shows. On "Tokeshi's Castle," a show that was popular in the '80s, contestants leaped onto swinging vines or wobbled through a field of giant rolling pins while hollering "I'll do my best."

Leave it to the Japanese, the inventors of karaoke, to find stupid ways for people to embarrass and humiliate themselves. Just imagine if Payson were a Japanese town the kinds of game shows that might be popular here:

MAYORS CAMPAIGN CHALLENGE

Contestants on this show run for mayor of Payson, brutalizing and bloodying one another as they wage down-and-dirty, anything-goes campaigns complete with outrageous statements like, "I know where the water is."

TYLER PARKWAY 500

Unlike the Indy 500, contestants do not use automobiles in this race. That would be far too conventional for those wacky Japanese. No, because the speed limit on the world's slowest parkway is 25, contestants must race down the asphalt on their hands and knees while hollering, "This is a residential neighborhood."

BRIDGE CLOSURE ANTICS

This event is waged at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, visited by more than 100,000 tourists a year. The object is to approximate the stupidity displayed by the state parks board in closing tourist attractions in a state whose economy is dependent on tourism by slamming the park gates at the precise moment most tourists are trying to get in.

NAME THAT COMMUNITY COLLEGE DERBY

Contestants attempt to re-name the college using oversized Scrabble letters on a huge college entrance sign from which the words "Eastern Arizona" have been removed. Like Scrabble, the winner is the one whose college name adds up to the highest point total. Xavier and Villanova universities were named in this manner.

DODGE-EM IN THE WAL-MART PARKING LOT

Only one parking spot is left empty in the Wal-Mart parking lot in this game show. Contestants enter from different directions and try to get to the parking space first. To make things even more interesting, contestants must maneuver around blue plastic bags being blown all over the lot by giant fans.

MAIN STREET MADNESS

The winner is the contestant who comes up with the longest list of stupid reasons why we should do away with the Main Street program. Heading every list, of course, is, "There ain't no history down there on Main Street."

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