A crowd with pool noodles stands in a field
Johsua Vinson Jr. aka "Little Josh" basks in the glory of his victory. Photo by Chase Porter

By Kateri Hartman and Chase Porter

One man, named Josh Swain, took a unique approach to curb his pandemic boredom. In April 2020, he challenged other Josh Swains to a ‘fight for the name’.

“Almost one year ago, under a spell of pandemic boredom, I made a groupchat of all the people on Facebook that I could find with the same first and last name as mine, and challenged them to fight for the right to keep this common name,” Swain wrote in a Reddit post.

In the Facebook group chat, Swain sent random coordinates for the fight location, which ended up being a field in Lincoln Nebraska, and set the date for almost a year after the initial message: April 24, 2021.

“You have a year to prepare,” Swain wrote. “Good Luck.”

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Josh Swain tweets his Facebook messages to other Josh Swains, challenging them to a fight for the name

Almost one year later, the internet didn’t forget. In the days leading up to April 24, 2021, the fight reminders spread like wildfire. Twitter threads and subreddits quickly filled with jokes, memes and plans to attend the Josh battle. As of April 21, 2021, there were 3,081 members of the joshswainbattle subreddit. As of April 28, 2021, there were 21,366 members in the subreddit. 

What started as a joke, turned into a real event in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

“The internet took it and ran with enough endurance for you all to remember a year later,” Swain wrote in his Reddit post. “That doesn’t happen very often, so I’m afraid I have to oblige the internet and trek all the way across the contiguous United States to defend my name”

As the event inched closer, people questioned whether anyone would actually show up. The power of the word of mouth proved strong as hundreds of people, Joshes and spectators alike, showed up at the Airpark green space in Lincoln for the event on April 24. Swain moved the battle to Airpark from the original coordinates because the original coordinates led to a private field in Nebraska. 

The Josh fight attendees came from Lincoln, Omaha, and even outside of Nebraska. Many University of Nebraska-Lincoln college students were in attendance, including Josh Eshleman, a freshman sports communication major, and Josh Rotert, a junior nutritional science major. The Joshes, both members of Farmhouse fraternity, attended after learning about the fight through friends and the internet. 

“I definitely forgot about it but then I got a couple of texts from buddies also named Josh, and now we’re here,” Rotert said. 

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Left to right: Josh Rotert and Josh Eshleman attended the Josh fight on April 24. Photo by Kateri Hartman/NNS.

Dre Paulsen, Chris Henggeler and Francisco Borjon of Omaha.  had shirts made by Retro Shirtz in Omaha and while none of them were named Josh, they showed up to show support. 

“We’re just hoping the greatest Josh Swain ends up on top,” Henngeler said. 

Caption: Josh Swain poses with Dre Paulsen, Chris Henggeler and Francisco Borjon from Omaha in their custom Josh fight t-shirts. Photo by Kateri Hartman/NNS. 

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From Left to right: Francisco Borjon, Josh Swain, Chris Henngeler and Dre Paulsen from Omaha pose together at the Josh fight. Photo by Kateri Hartman/NNS

Despite the buildup, the “fight” did not actually include any physical fighting. In his Reddit post, Josh Swain announced there would be a pool noodle battle, and no actual fighting or violence.

The crowd delivered. On Saturday, April 24, hundreds of participants and spectators

The event started at noon and consisted of multiple rounds. The first was a rock paper scissors battle between the original Josh Swain and a Josh Swain from Omaha. The original Josh Swain reigned triumphant. 

The following fight was a fight for all of the Joshes in attendance. Once a participant was hit by a pool noodle, they were out. A participant warmly dubbed “little Josh” won the battle. 

Caption: Little Josh poses for pictures after being crowned king of the “Battle of the Joshes.” Photo by Kateri Hartman/NNS. 

Following the two Josh fights, anyone who had a pool noodle was allowed to fight. After the main events, people mingled and posed for pictures with the original Josh Swain, who was also signing autographs. Some people continued the pool noodle battles, and some went home. 

Throughout the afternoon, spectators could be heard saying things like “this is the nerdiest thing I’ve ever seen,” and “this is the most wholesome thing I’ve ever seen.” 

The awe and popularity did not go to waste. Josh Swain partnered with a local food bank to provide a food donation spot at the fight. 

Swain not only utilized the in-person event to benefit a good cause, but he capitalized on the internet fanfare to collect donations for the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. More than $14,000 had been raised as of April 28 through the donation website mightycause.

While many internet memes create nothing more than a few laughs, the Josh battle created a lasting impact through virtual and real-life interactions.