Understanding the universe one head injury at a time
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter in the past year, you know the drill. Rex Chapman, Kentucky basketball legend, tweets a short video of some dunce getting maimed in one way or another, and then asks a straightforward question: Block or charge?
Block or charge?🏀🤷♂️🏈💥🤭🤣 pic.twitter.com/uzjeN6q7FR— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) January 15, 2020
The ape-brained simplicity of the schtick has made it super popular. Chapman is up to about 450,000 Twitter followers and now there’s a Block or Charge? livestream on AdultSwim.com where fans of the show’s patented “Gore Lite” can watch the videos in real time while Chapman and his co-host, lifelong friend David Helmers, add hilarious insult to their humiliating injuries.
They beam the show into being from Helmers’ garage behind his Lexington home. The “Garage Mahal” they call it since it’s been tricked out with so many amenities it could easily go for $200 a night on Airbnb. There’s a stack of Rex’s old basketball cards–Topps and Fleer and all that–from his NBA days on top of a well-equipped bar. And every Thursday evening the guys climb a wobbly ladder up to the loft, up to the Block or Charge? mission control pod, which isn’t much more than a couple computers, an iPhone, and some headsets.
At first glance, it’s a real Wayne’s World 2020 kind of setup. Just two buddies regressing to a carefree state of wild immaturity for a half-hour of fun.
Or is it?
“I have a theory that Block or Charge? is much more important than most people realize,” says Helmers before a recent livestream. “It’s really about mankind’s quest to understand the universe. It goes back to the Big Bang. The creation of all things. If you think about the Large Hadron Collider, how is that different than Block or Charge? It’s matter colliding at high speeds. People observe it. The known laws of physics are applied. And then they decide if those rules were followed or broken.”
He pauses a second so everyone can swim in the deepness.
“I equate Rex and I with the physicists at the CERN lab. I really do.”
“But we didn’t even take physics,” says Rex.
“Well,” says Helmers, “whatever. Food for thought.”
Ten minutes later they were putting The Theory to the test, rigorously applying the scientific method to the internet’s most disturbing videos. A lady digging in her own ass crack like she lost her keys in there. A guy getting literally blasted out of his pants by some other Tokyo-drifing idiot melting the tires off a Nissan Sentra. A chimp flinging shit onto an old woman’s face.
Helmers is more of the play-by-play guy. He keeps relatively cool and offers some meaningful insights into the clips, all while moderating a live chat where viewers with handles like Fart4Me and HabaneroNuts are either singing the show’s praises or damning it straight to hell.
Rex, on the other hand, is the color man. His 6’4” body is all pretzeled up in a little folding chair and he’s rocking the thing back and forth, stomping and screaming and cussing and laughing so hard that it’s impossible not to catch at least a little secondhand joy.
“Ooooooooh no!” he warns as Helmers queues up a clip of an obviously drunk lady teetering at the top of a spiral playground slide. “What’s going on here?”
He quietens and leans in real close until his nose is almost touching the monitor. Maybe The Theory is true. Maybe he’s just like a CERN lab scientist dutifully observing the collision of particles in space.
"Let's play it,” he tells Helmers. “I hope she kills herself."
“ALMOST!” he quickly clarifies. “I hope she almost kills herself.”
It might seem harsh, but looking at it through the lens of The Theory, Block or Charge? is a very Zen experience. It’s not about rooting against the poor souls getting mangled in the videos. It’s about justice. It’s about rooting FOR the universe and its remarkable self-regulating mechanisms. Instant karma. After all, if you believe in God, then you have to admit that it’s God who’s doling out the punishments that make up Block or Charge? Therefore, to study them and accept them is like prayer in a way.
In a way.
Back when they were kids, in Owensboro, Rex and David would sneak away from their classmates and the mole-covered troll of a librarian. They’d hide under the card catalog and make fun of everybody. Or they’d needle David’s brother who was always doing something weird like pretending to be The Fonz for a year.
Rex had the big-head energy typical of most star athletes, so he was always getting into trouble on account of his indifference to everything off the court. And David, who was the better student, usually found himself in hot water for giving the finger to authority in some form or fashion. There was the time he drew himself throwing a big Looney Toons-style bomb at his teacher, for example.
David didn’t join Rex when he went to the University of Kentucky, but they always stayed in touch. Even after Rex started his NBA career, David would go to games and they’d make time to hang. When David’s first child was born, Rex was the first person to meet her.
Of course, everybody knows Rex’s post-basketball troubles. No amount of money or notoriety could insulate him from the brutal charge of modern America, and he ended up in a deep, dark hole that he spent a decade and change trying to dig himself out of.
As if further proof of the universe’s absurdity was needed, his salvation came in early 2019, when he tweeted a 17-second video of a guy on a standup paddleboard getting body checked by a jumping dolphin. “Block or charge?” he asked. And that was that. The fuse was lit.
Block or charge? pic.twitter.com/M0QBV60Dx9— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) January 11, 2019
He religiously tweeted new videos with the same caption and the phenomenon grew and grew. He started picking up retweets from guys like Ice T and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. People just loved it’s purity.
His loyal buddy Helmers, who’d parlayed his law career into some pretty unusual connections, knew a guy at Adult Swim that saw the concept’s potential. They drove to Cartoon Network headquarters in Atlanta, jumped through a few hoops with style, and now here they are. Just like old times. Back under the card catalog. Watching all the dumbasses get what’s coming to them.
Prior to streaming this particular evening’s episode, Rex and David do a call-in interview with the show that airs before theirs, The Wonder Closet. Online, their heads are superimposed on a giant crystal ball on a pedestal between two young black guys in hoodies.
Rex has a ton of media experience so this kind of thing doesn’t really faze him. It can be a little nerve-wracking for David, but he’s getting the hang of it.
There’s this other guy in the Garage Mahal named Tim in argyle socks and suede hushpuppies, chewing gum with his glasses on the end of his nose and never really looking up from his phone except to relay the occasional text message from the show’s producers.
“Tim’s our hype man!” explains Rex. “Right, Tim?”
About ten minutes until 10:00 p.m., it’s time to head up to mission control, up the wobbly ladder and into the loft. Rex already has a beautifully chaotic finale to the Block or Charge? franchise orchestrated in his mind.
“One of us is going to die climbing this fucking ladder,” he says, “and that will be it. That’s how the show ends. The final charge.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be me,” he adds. “I kind of hope it’s me.”
“Now let’s go watch some people get jacked up.”