The U.S. Olympic swimming team became America's darlings even before the first event at London's Aquatic Centre last summer, thanks to its lip dub video of the smash hit "Call Me Maybe." But a different kind of viral video is now threatening to have much more dire consequences for sports teams.
The "Harlem Shake" - a 30-second dance in which one individual is seen gyrating to a track by electronic musician Baauer before a whole crew of dancers dressed outlandishly and wielding props joins in - has gotten some high school and college student-athletes in trouble during the past week.
Seems the first ones to take the fall were members of the Susquehanna University football and track teams, some of whom mimicked sexually explicit behavior with each other in their version of the "Harlem Shake," filmed in a weight room on the Div. III university's campus. They were suspended for their actions but "given a plan of action outlining the pathway to reinstatement to their teams," according to a joint statement issued by Susquehanna director of athletics Pam Samuelson, assistant director of athletics and head football coach Steve Briggs, and head track and field coach Marty Owens. "We are disappointed by this behavior and the way in which these student-athletes represented our teams and the university," the statement continued. "We hope that they learn from this experience, and that they will earn their way back to representing Susquehanna as members of their teams."
Then came word late last week that the Nyack/Tappan Zee High School hockey team from Rockland County, N.Y., was forced to forfeit a Section 1 playoff game Sunday, reportedly because of the racy video masked members of the team made in a locker room featuring a strategically placed sock and what could be interpreted as simulated sodomy.
Some estimates say more than 25,000 "Harlem Shake" videos have been uploaded to the Internet since early February, including some clearly harmless albeit inane ones like these:
University of Kansas Men's Basketball Team
University of Georgia Men's Swim and Dive Team
Ohio State University Wrestling Team
Eastern Michigan University Women's Basketball Team
Plano (Texas) West High School Table Tennis Team
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Still, it's not surprising to find some raunchy ones. Indeed, a quick online search yields several "Harlem Shake" videos that come with the warning "NSFW," meaning "not suitable for work." Likewise, it's easy to understand why some athletic administrators might be upset and take disciplinary action. On the other hand, maybe it's just good, (almost) clean fun that simply helps build team camaraderie.
"Clearly, this is a trend that should be encouraged," wrote Cameron Smith on the Yahoo! Sports blog Prep Rally, in a piece that included several "Harlem Shake" videos featuring high school teams that haven't been suspended for their actions - at least not yet. "There are few things more entertaining than seeing teens act wild in an entirely controlled setting. Particularly when they get to wear goofy masks."
Still, caution must be taken. "Kids need to be reminded every so often what that omnipresent www stands for. They have to realize these hormonal snippets they keep posting on the World Wide Web are out in the open where friends and neighbors, parents and teachers, bloggers and journalists can see them," warned Mike Dougherty, writing about the Nyack/Tappen Zee incident for the LoHud Hockey Blog, which covers high school hockey in the Lower Hudson Valley. "A forfeit in this case seems a little harsh, they weren't being destructive, but they weren't exactly representing those uniforms that were discarded before somebody turned up the music and screamed, 'Action!' "
As for the meme itself, here is everything you need to know about the "Harlem Shake" - and probably more.