Lee Sanderlin is a loser. A fantasy football loser, to be exact. And in Sanderlin's fantasy football league, losers are not let off easy.
So, on Thursday afternoon, Sanderlin, a journalist at the Clarion Ledger, reported to a Waffle House in Brandon, Mississippi, where he was to spend 24 hours as punishment for losing. For each waffle he ate, he could take off one hour from his remaining time.
Over the course of the evening and into the next morning, Sanderlin chronicled his waffle-induced agony on Twitter in a hilarious, extremely viral, and, at times, harrowing thread.
He started out with two warm honeycombed pancakes topped off with some syrup and butter.
"Already my stomach is rumbling," Sanderlin tweeted. "Gonna be a long one."
He quickly dug in and ordered two more only to realize he still had so much more time to go.
Almost a couple of hours in, two kids came into the restaurant and selected some tunes that encouraged Sanderlin to keep going and get his fifth waffle, while also reminding him of his unfortunate predicament.
Waffle number five was rough.
Then things started to go downhill.
"Y’all they’re going down like cement now, and the heart is beating real heavy-like," Sanderlin tweeted 24 minutes after posting the above photo. "I’m the only non-employee in here. Got half of waffle 6 left and so many hours.
Another 20 minutes or so later: "Damn this 6th waffle is not going down," he said. "Got my first shift change here and homies are getting a good tip. Lookin’ to rally here."
It took another hour and a half, but he did it. And then he went outside for a little bit. 👀
Several hours passed.
Eventually, with about seven hours left, he finished his seventh waffle and gave himself some more time to recuperate.
"Beyond the utter and total discomfort I feel, Waffle House is pretty peaceful right now. Kind of zen," Sanderlin said.
Just after 4 a.m. Friday, with five hours left and boredom setting in, he made a plan to order two more waffles (numbers eight and nine).
FYI, according to the restaurant chain's website, each waffle consists of 410 calories, so nine waffles amount to about 3,690 calories — not including any condiments.
At 6 a.m., he decided to execute his plan. "This was real. At times it was fun. But, it was never really fun," he tweeted, as Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" played in the restaurant.
He scarfed down number eight, saying that if he got through his ninth he could leave at 7 a.m. "This is NOT enjoyable," he reminded his followers.
Finally, after 15 hours, nine waffles, and an immeasurable amount of gastrointestinal pain, Sanderlin walked out, vowing to never eat another waffle again.
"This was horrible and I recommend no one ever do this," he said.
Sanderlin did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment. (He was probably sleeping and/or throwing up.)
But Makeba Parker, manager of the Waffle House where Sanderlin almost gorged himself to death, told BuzzFeed News she thought his plan to stay at the restaurant all night was pretty funny but had no doubt he could do it.
When he told her what he was doing, she asked how many waffles he thought he could eat. He said eight.
"I know that it is very difficult to eat Waffle House waffles," she said. "You know they’re pretty big. That's a lot of bread."
In her roughly seven and a half years working there, Parker said she had never seen a customer spend so much time — or eat so many waffles — at the restaurant.
When she returned in the morning for her Friday shift, she said Sanderlin "was pretty bright-eyed."
"We took care of him," Parker said. "He interacted with the staff all night."
Parker doesn't eat the waffles anymore because she has diabetes but said they're great. Her favorite is blueberry.
But when asked if she'd recommend spending as much time as Sanderlin did at a Waffle House, Parker said yes: "We enjoy the company."
"You want to come in and dine with us? That’s fine with us," she said. "We’re not going to run you off. You can spend as much time as you want."
Sanderlin wrote about his experience in the Clarion Ledger, saying he didn't expect his tweets to go viral but that he appreciated the support from people following along online — and even those who showed up in person.
He said he was especially moved by one woman named Cyndi Hayes who stopped by the Waffle House not long before Sanderlin was going to leave, explaining she drove from 15 miles away because her son died last year and "he was very into fantasy football."
"His birthday would have been last week, and somehow my stupid little internet moment brought her a smile, something she said had been hard to come by. She thanked me for brightening her day and left. All of a sudden, those 15 hours felt worth it in a way they hadn't moments before," Sanderlin wrote.
"And that, I think, is the point of all of this. I saw people genuinely enjoy something on the internet," he added. "Sure, there were some nasty comments (there always are), but mostly people experienced real joy. And that is something worth feeling, even if it came at my arteries' expense."
Krystie Yandoli contributed to this report.