Mom, Dad: The “Choking Game” Must Be Stopped

By Danny Tyree

Columnist’s note: Let’s get the “But seriously folks…” disclaimer out of the way first. This column’s satirical tone is an exercise in “whistling past the graveyard.” Asphyxiation “games” are deadly serious. Parents must be watchful. The DB Foundation has posted warning signs online at .

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a recent survey showed that one in seven students at an unnamed Texas college had participated in “The Choking Game” at least once. The goal of the game is to reach a point where blood flow to the head is cut off and the participant feels tingly and euphoric for a few seconds before passing out.

Either alone or in groups, the participants seek this lofty goal by placing plastic bags over their heads, wrapping ropes or other ligatures around their necks, strangling with bare hands or in extreme cases following tuition into the stratosphere.

A Texas school was used in the survey, but the phenomenon is going on across the entire United States. It is not something students discover in college while away from their parents’ watchful eyes; the average age at which the survey respondents started the practice was 14! And it is not just a harmless fad; four years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported at least 82 deaths among youths up to age 19.

Young people call the game by a lot of names, including “Pass Out,” “the Fainting Game” and “Space Monkey.” Adults have their own name for a brief period of euphoria followed by disappointment, remorse and revulsion. It’s called “Inauguration Day.”

The game is widely known among teens, but most grown-ups (including parents, teachers, and physicians) remain blissfully ignorant. (“The Choking Game? Wasn’t that the one with Gene Rayburn and Charles Nelson Reilly? Fun-eee.”) Parents have a hard time accepting that their shaving, driving teens can revert to six-year-old behavior; give them 500-channel cable, give them iPods, give them Xbox — and they play with the plastic bag!

Both males and females participate in the game, but males made up 87 percent of the fatalities in the CDC study. Apparently girls are more interested in being liberated from male chauvinist attitudes than being liberated from their earthly existence. I mean, you never heard Helen Reddy sing, “I am woman, hear me *GAG* CHOKE *SPUTTER* …in numbers too big to ignore!”

If the underground game goes mainstream, the effects on society will be devastating. The time-honored position of club-hopping “wing man” will suddenly be a buddy who smothers you with his armpit. Gold traders will send world financial markets reeling by dumping the precious metal and putting their money into eBay purchases of “G.I. Joe With Kung Fu Grip.” And I don’t think we really need a new Bravo channel reality show in which judges decide whether a victim’s face is more mauve or fuchsia.

Parents, do not let your precious children be swayed by the “advantages” of this pastime. Yes, it’s cheaper than illicit drugs, but only in the short run. And unlike casual sex, it doesn’t lead to unplanned pregnancies. But if your child’s luck runs out, you may never have grandchildren at all!

Research it. Discuss it. Before you’re choking and sobbing in a funeral parlor.

Danny Tyree
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