Let’s Revisit the Ice Bucket Challenge
Welcome to part 10 of our Internet Nostalgia series, which looks back at phenomena that captured the imagination and attention of the internet for a fleeting moment and then vanished as everyone moved on to something else. This series looks back at those olden times, and what they told us about the internet, and ourselves. If you have a suggested topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Last week, we looked at 2 Girls, 1 Cup. This week: The Ice Bucket Challenge.
Date: Summer 2014.
The Story: At first, the Ice Bucket Challenge had nothing to do with ALS at all. It began on The Golf Channel, of all places, with various golfers on the channel’s morning show pouring cold water on their heads for charity — any charity. But a former Boston College athlete named Pete Frates, who had recently been diagnosed with ALS, caught wind of the Challenge and made it the centerpiece of his fundraising efforts. Because Frates (who died in December 2019) was beloved in the Boston area and was active on social media, he became the spark. Suddenly, every major figure in Boston was doing the Ice Bucket Challenge as a way to raise money in the fight against ALS. Boston’s an influential city. And suddenly it was everywhere.
The premise was simple: Take a bucket of cold water, say the names of three people you challenged to do the same (and/or give money to fight ALS), and then pour the water over your head. And just about everybody did it. Bill Gates did it. Mark Zuckerberg did it. (Looking graceful as always.) George W. Bush did it. LeBron James did it. My dad, who I didn’t even know understood how to use his phone, did it, and challenged me. President Obama didn’t do it, but it was so large that he acknowledged it and donated instead.
One of the reasons he might not have done it? One of the guys who challenged him to do it was … this guy.