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Jim Bennett: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is an undeniably good thing

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28 2014 10:10 p.m. MDT

So I, like just about everyone else, took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It was touch-and-go there for a moment because my wife was filming and accidentally paused the camera just as the water was being poured over me. For one terrifying moment, I thought I’d be forced to do it over. That would have been awkward because I had chosen to wear an Oxford shirt and tie and a double-breasted jacket and a bathing suit. The swim trunks would be ready to go again pretty quickly, but I figured my 24 hours would expire if I had to wait for my suit to dry.

Fortunately, she pressed the record button a second time quickly enough to provide sufficient photographic evidence to satisfy Jeff Kribs, the friend who challenged me. I, in turn, challenged my parents, who chose to forego the frigid shower and write a check instead.

As the homemade videos of everyone and their dog drenching themselves in ice water proliferated across social media, so too did the inevitable backlash.

“I’m so sick of seeing all these stupid ice bucket videos,” one friend wrote on Facebook. “Can’t we move on to something else?”

I sure hope not. Fact is, I’m loving this. The ice bucket challenge is a communal experience unlike any I remember, and I could see hundreds more of these before I start to get tired of them.

Part of the fun is watching celebrities look for new and clever ways to approach this. Conan O’Brien staged a bit where he “faked” the challenge by pouring warm water on himself with fake, plastic ice, only to have his crew ambush him with the real stuff a moment later.

Patrick Stewart brought out an ice bucket, wrote out a check and then plucked some of the ice out of the bucket to fill his champagne glass. And Harry Knowles of AintItCoolNews.com inexplicably chose to dump an entire bucket of ice water down his pants, which is a sight I had hoped to go my entire life without seeing.

You can watch the Old Spice guy, who had a force field around him that prevented him from getting hit by cold water. Or Henry Cavill, who got garbage cans filled with water dumped on him while he was wearing his Superman cape and tights on the set of the “Man of Steel” sequel.

Then there’s Kermit the Frog, who risked his life to complete the challenge. He’s an amphibian, and that means “being drenched by freezing cold water could make (him) go totally dormant.” He survived, albeit just barely.

Perhaps I should be more cynical. A case can be made that all of these stars are jumping on the bandwagon just to promote their projects or to get themselves noticed. There’s no risk to them, and it’s an easy way to generate good will and garner some attention.

Maybe that’s true, but I don’t care a whit.

This is an undeniably good thing that has raised tens of millions of dollars for ALS research. I have no interest in questioning anyone’s motives. In addition, I’m getting a kick out of an experience that’s being shared by young and old, rich and poor, famous and anonymous. This is one of the few times when the ubiquity of the media has produced praiseworthy results. When was the last time the entire world was united in a cause that was so undeniably positive?

So if you’re reading this and you haven’t yet taken the plunge, consider this your challenge. I also publicly nominate my brother Rob, my nephew Jeffrey and his wife Whitney, and the guy who wrote the Facebook comment that described all my columns as “middle-aged fanboy rants.”

You have 24 hours.

Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.

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