As long as there have been icy oceans and frozen lakes, we have seen our nationâ€™s finest men and women turn out for an event as ancient and esteemed as nude wrestling: the polar bear plunge.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, participants in the polar bear plunge strip to their skivvies each winter and test their fortitude against frostbite, hypothermia and shrinkage by jumping into the coldest body of water available.
Itâ€™s an activity born of the same noble mentality as fire walking or crushing a beer can against your forehead. Since prehistoric times, it has allowed those of us lacking any athletic or intellectual prowess to bask in the sweet warmth of undeserved applause.
But, like most proud traditions (like nude wrestling), the polar bear swim is being threatened by modern East Coast sissiness.
Saturday, in Annapolis, Md., the plunge was cut short for the first time in nearly two decades.
Why? Ice sharks? Actual polar bears? No such luck.
The event â€“â€“ intended to raise money for the Maryland Special Olympics â€“â€“ was canceled due to the cold.
Despite the fact that the water temperature was a full four degrees above freezing and the air a balmy 23 degrees Fahrenheit, doctors supervising the event told thousands of would-be swimmers to turn tail and go back to the comforts of their heated cars and homes.
These days, it seems, all it takes is a few dozen cases of hypothermia (doctor-speak for the â€œchilly-willysâ€) to stop everyoneâ€™s party.