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Playing the Joke at the Inaugural Florida Man Games

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The inaugural Florida Man Games were a testament to embracing the wild and wacky reputation that the Sunshine State has garnered over the years. Pete Melfi, the mastermind behind the event, was inspired to create a competition that celebrated the infamous “Florida Man” meme after the success of a beer run event in St. Augustine. The all-day competition featured ridiculous events like a mullet contest, a mud duel with pool noodles, and an “evading arrest” obstacle course, complete with real sheriff’s deputies (don’t worry, no one actually got arrested).

“We understand that Florida is weird,” said Mr. Melfi, acknowledging the state’s reputation for bizarre news stories. The idea behind the Florida Man Games was to embrace the state’s quirkiness and have a good time without overthinking it.

While the Florida Man meme has been a source of entertainment for many, it has also sparked discussions about stereotypes and the portrayal of the state. Some have raised concerns about the impact of using real people’s misfortunes for laughs, especially those struggling with addiction or mental illness. However, the meme has become a cultural touchstone, with Florida Man being used as a stand-in for various figures, including former President Donald Trump.

The event itself was a colorful and chaotic celebration of all things Florida, with participants and spectators alike reveling in the laid-back atmosphere. From shirtless overalls to mullets and “Merica” hats, the Florida Man Games embodied the spirit of the state in all its eccentric glory.

One team, the Red Eyed Gator Huggers, even brought a green iguana named Mikey as their mascot, because what’s more Florida than a stinkin’ iguana? Contestants competed in pork-eating contests, pinup style competitions for “Florida Ma’am,” and improvised mud duels after someone sabotaged the original pool.

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The event was a hit on social media, with TikTok personalities serving as emcees and teams promoting themselves with over-the-top personas. Participants like Joshua Barr of the Cooter Commandos leaned into the absurdity of the event, creating flashy characters and embracing the Florida Man stereotype.

Despite the fun and games, participants like Mandy Millam emphasized that Florida is more than just its wild reputation. The state has a wild heart, she said, with a love for nature and a unique charm that is often misunderstood by outsiders.

In the end, the Florida Man Games were a playful and light-hearted celebration of the state’s quirks and eccentricities. It was a chance for Floridians to come together, have a good laugh, and show the world that they are in on the joke when it comes to the infamous Florida Man meme.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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