15 hours and many waffles later, a fantasy football punishment is complete

During Lee Sanderlin's waffle-eating ordeal, he was cheered on by tens of thousands of people — more than 62,000 by the time he finished.

If Lee Sanderlin didn’t want to spend almost 15 hours in a Waffle House, with tens of thousands of people on Twitter joining him in his intestinal shame, he should have been better at fantasy football.

Such is the life lesson that the internet imparted Thursday and Friday, when Sanderlin, 25, tweeted along as he dutifully served his sentence for finishing last place in his fantasy football league.

Under the terms of his punishment, which he said was his idea, he was to remain in a Waffle House in Brandon, Mississippi, for 24 hours, with every waffle he consumed removing an hour from his term. He brought the world on his journey, with Twitter users riveted by his boredom and gastrointestinal distress, wondering how many syrup-and-butter-topped waffles he’d be able to choke down.


“Full of waffles but devoid of life,” he tweeted at 12:25 a.m. Central time Friday, as he struggled with his seventh waffle about eight hours in.

Look, if you don’t think a man being funny while eating a lot of waffles is news, it’s not clear what you expect from the internet. It was the kind of lighthearted, fleeting moment — the my-life-is-now-your-life invited voyeurism — that easily gets buried under the more common parts of the internet: the constant physical and spiritual threats to individual well-being, a collective aimlessness expressed largely through anger and, for the love of God, a pandemic that has sapped the world of most of its joy for about 18 months. It’s OK to think about waffles for a bit.


Sanderlin declined to be interviewed, even though he had nothing better to do at 4:30 a.m. Friday, because as an investigative journalist at The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, he is considering writing his own tale.

The version he told on Twitter started at 4:07 p.m. Thursday. By 4:24 p.m., he got two waffles down. “Already my stomach is rumbling,” he said, having little idea what his future self was in for.

At 5:18 p.m.: “Two more waffles and one human who is dead on the inside.”

At 5:39 p.m., after four total waffles: “I am already in immense discomfort. Please, somebody launch me into the sun.”


He exceeded 2,000 calories by 6:33 p.m. with his fifth waffle. (Each waffle has 410 calories, not counting butter and syrup, although his photos indicated he was using a reasonable amount of both.)

By 7:19 p.m. he complained of “an incredible amount of agony for my intestines.” By 10:21 p.m., he finished his sixth waffle. It took him several hours to finish his seventh.

Overnight, he was entertained largely by podcasts and a crossword he described as “meh.” He spared the public some of the more vivid details of his physical distress. But as his tweets spread far and wide, he was joined at his table by thousands of people online, cheering him on. (He declined offers of money, inviting people instead to donate to charity.)


He was also supported by tens of thousands of people — more than 62,000 by the time he finished — liking his tweets, with thousands of people commenting in response. Most of them appeared to be nice.

At one point, he posted a photo of his Week 8 fantasy football lineup. It was, indeed, garbage. He couldn’t have known Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, would implode and eventually be benched, but his running back and wide receiver talent was doing him no favors.

Other fantasy football failures have completed the “Waffle House challenge” before — at least two other efforts, apparently using the same rules, have gotten their fair share of attention in recent years.


Waffle House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It did, however, tweet: “Sounds like someone WON his fantasy football league, not lost…”

At 6:37 a.m. Friday, Sanderlin said he had completed his chore, nine waffles and nearly 15 hours later, and assured that he tipped the staff well. Shortly after 7 a.m., he emerged into the daylight.

In his moment of triumph, he tweeted: “This was horrible and I recommend no one ever do this.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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