Jake Harlow, one of Big Brother’s Big Sisters’ Bloomington founders, was the first person to play in what he hopes will be the world’s longest game of telephone — that’s the game you might remember from rainy days in elementary school. One person starts with a secret message written on a piece of paper and whispers it into the ear of the next person in line, who passes the message on to the next and so on. Ideally, the last person in line can repeat what the first person said, but the fun comes from the fact that’s seldom the case. It’s also not a requirement set out by the folks at Ripley’s, who are tracking the world record attempt. Beth Krouse, Big Brothers Big Sisters executive director needs 1,331 people to show up at an Indiana University gymnasium to set the record.
And there are plenty of people -– but with about half an hour to go until the record attempt, only about 30 of them are in line to repeat the secret message, despite rumors of 700 confirmed participants.
IU wrestler Ryan Leblanc says he’s still “staying positive,” and plans to do his part to break the record. Besides, he’s an avid telephone gamer.
“We used to play in my like first grade home room class, like at the end of the day,” Leblanc said. “That and thumbs up seven up all the time.”
But then, participant Lauren Schafer breezes into the gym with a group trailing behind her which is big enough to nearly double the number in attendance so far.
“Back home I’m the telephone champion 2007,” Schafer said. “Yeah, so I mean I’m really good at diction and enunciation, So…I’m pretty good.”
But, with just a few minutes to game time it becomes clear — Schafer’s entrance hasn’t sprouted a crowd, or at least not the kind of crowd Rebecca Weston, who said she used to be a big telephone fan, but doesn’t play very often now that she’s in fifth grade, had imagined.
“I kind of had a big humungous vision like there was like millions of people in a big humongous circle and stuff,” she said. “As long as we play then I’m fine.”
Finally organizers begin to face the facts, sending judges and registrars home and accepting no world records will be broken on this day. That doesn’t stop the approximately 65 people in attendance from completing the game, though.
In fact, just 100 people actually signed up for formal registration. But Big Brothers Big Sisters Director of Outreach Cathy Delaney Willett said she’s not surprised.
“I knew originally you know coming up with the idea of breaking a Guinness World Record was going to be a huge undertaking, and I didn’t honestly ever feel like we would get the numbers to actually break the record,” she said. “But the thing is people did hear about us and have come out to support us like I said, and that’s a win as far as we’re concerned.”
But though the world record remain intact, Willett says there’s some comfort in the fact Bloomington Deputy Mayor Maria Heslin has promised a proclamation declaring the event a record…for Bloomington.