Thoughts on ‘The Knockout Game’

knockout-game-1In recent months there has been an observable increase in the deplorable “knockout game”. Yet make no mistake this is not a game, but rather an unprovoked, unwarranted, (and in several cases lethal) game perpetrated often by multiple youths in a misguided attempt to find social acceptance. The “knockout game” centers on the ability of the attacker to deliver a surprise single punch against a random stranger, thereby rendering the victim unconscious. In a number of documented cases however, the assault indeed left the victim unconscious and unable to protect themselves during the fall resulting in striking the head against a curb, wall, or (in one suspected case) wedged between two fence posts with a broken neck. In other cases, the unconscious state of the victim only served to incentivize the other attackers to jump in and kick and punch the unconscious victim as a group. (Long 2013) The victims are increasingly women, young adults, and the elderly and are chosen seemingly at random. If the victims do indeed share any commonality, it would be as an “outsider” to the perpetrating party, as one the attacker does not identify with, and ultimately seen as a “faceless” opportunity. (Fox News 2013)

Going back to as far as 1992, the first documented fatality associated to the “knockout game” transpired in Cambridge, Massachusetts when a 21-year old MIT student died after being punched in the face by a local teen “for fun”. The local teen then stabbed the student in the heart before running off. Since then other deaths have been documented in Syracuse, New York (2013…twice), New Jersey (2013), Saint Cloud, Minnesota (2012), Saint Louis, Missouri (2011), and New London, Connecticut (2010). While there is little press reporting discussing it, a majority of the attacks are perpetrated by African-American teens, often against those of White or Asian decent, and increasingly in places like Illinois the game is also known as “polar bear hunting” or “one-hitter-quitter”. (Bigelow 2013) Unfortunately, no clear metric for tracking incidents of the “knockout game” exist as typically its relatively new onset has left law enforcement and policy makers behind the curve in addressing the issue. Likewise incidents often go unreported or are mis-categorized as assaults because it is often so random and spontaneous. Causes for the behavior have been attributed to everything from lacking family structure, video games, music videos, and even social trending itself. Whatever the reasons, one thing is true – this behavior is indicative of today’s youth and their views on social laws and society as a whole.

The government’s response to “knockout game” incidents is perhaps not unsurprising. In New York lawmakers have proposed legislation to make a conviction on such attacks classified as a “gang crime” punishable up to 25 years in prison. (CBS New York 2013) Elsewhere similar efforts have moved to classify the knockout-gameattacks as hate crimes, or attempted murder. Separately, in some instances the attack has not gone without risk to those committing the crime. On February 26, 2013 a Lansing, Michigan man was waiting to pick up his 6-year old daughter at a bus stop when a 17-year old local boy jabbed a taster into his side in an apparent offshoot of the “knockout game”. The taser failed to function; however, the victim’s .40 Smith & Wesson did not and he shot his attacker twice – once to the leg and the other passed a single inch from the attacker’s spine. The 17-year old was sentenced to one year in prison, however in various interviews he professed he did it for sport and acknowledged his luck in that it could have been much worse for him. (Urbanski 2013)

In many instances of these attacks, those that are documented by surveillance cameras or posted on YouTube, show the victims often unsuspecting when the attack commences. Indeed, many appear unaware of their surrounds and are walking ahead oblivious to those nearby, or are engrossed in their Smartphone’s, iPods, or otherwise simply have little-to-no situational awareness. This is not to say that they, the victim, are at fault nor instigated the “knockout game” attack. But while lawmakers and enforcement officer’s work on addressing the recent spike, perhaps this is the one area where you as an citizen can make sufficient change to avoid becoming the victim. By increasing your level of situational awareness you will become more aware of your surroundings. The people, their demeanor, how they hold themselves, eye contact, hand placement, everything that could indicate intent must be assessed – often in the space of seconds. Do you have an exit route? Are you alone? If your local laws restrict your right to carry concealed then consider alternate means of self defense; carrying your keys in your fist, pepper spray, a hand taser. Any means to defend yourself should the attacker move from a single “knockout game” instigator to an entire gang. Recently, the “game” seems to have taken an uglier turn in perhaps what is the next evolution in a culture that increasingly embraces the more extreme; – so be prepared.

Works Cited

Bigelow, William. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC Primetime Ignore ‘Knockout Game’. November 21, 2013. (accessed November 26, 2013).

CBS New York. New York Lawmaker Targets ‘Knockout Game’ With New Bill. November 21, 2013. (accessed November 25, 2013).

Fox News. Teens’ ‘Knockout Game’ a growing danger with deadly results. 2013 November 17, 2013. (accessed November 25, 2013).

Long, Colleen. Knockout game: Sucker punches have turned deadly. November 21, 2013. (accessed November 24, 2013).

Urbanski, Dave. Thugs Picked the Wrong Dad to Target for Shameful ‘Knockout Game’ – He’s a Concealed-Carry Permit Holder, and He Used It. November 21, 2013. (accessed November 25, 2013).


One thought on “Thoughts on ‘The Knockout Game’

  1. Pingback: The Next Evolution of the ‘Knockout Game’? | Musings of a North American Sheepdog

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