The player fakes to his right, then spins left and arches a hook shot over his shoulder. The spheroid descends through the hoop as softly as a ping pong ball. It is a ping pong ball. And the basket is tiny and taped to an office wall.
"Five in a row from over here!" says the shooter proudly. "Who can match that?"
It's a moment of rare glory in the annals of office sports and games. But the sports and games themselves are far from rare.
There are experts on the art of throwing pushpins, and even opposing theories on technique. And corkboards and acoustical ceilings are targets that draw other missiles, too: pencils, "Read/Write" rings from computer tapes, X-acto knives, lead type-spacers and many more.
The rubber band is also an inspiration to some of us. It figures in target games, surreptitious sniping and even an occasional interdepartmental battle.
Recreation of this sort is not confined to junior members of the company, either. I'm told that the managing editor of a famous newspaper regularly played a form of baseball with his editors, using a ruler and a wad of paper, during their daily story conference.
Of course there are people who think that's why his newspaper went out of business, but I'm not so sure. There are mighty enterprises which are surviving in spite of conducting business during golf contests in the president's office. (These are usually putting contests, but chipping into wastebaskets is not unknown.)
Back when I was an ad agency copywriter, I originated one type of office game myself. An agency producer and I were waiting for a film editor to make some adjustments to a TV commercial one day, and I was idly spinning one of his film footage counters. Then I started resetting the counter at zero and seeing how close I could come to an arbitrary footage count with one spin of the counter . . . and a competitive game was born that kept the producer and me occupied while we waited.
Many of our games, like this one, involve the specialized tools of our respective trades. And in recent years computers in particular have given rise to a profusion of game playing.
Company policy on this matter is notably varied. Some companies forbid any "non-business use" of their computer systems. Others encourage people to create original games in their spare time as an exercise in programming and creativity. A few even permit the use of home video games during certain hours.
Regardless of the local ground rules, however, computers are considered fair game by gamesmen everywhere. And breathes there a programmer who hasn't summoned forth an elaborate printout--with large letters made out of many smaller ones--proclaiming MERRY CHRISTMAS or HAPPY BIRTHDAY?
The computer is used rather widely for pranks, too. People who have labored for days to put data into their systems have been shocked with this favorite spurious message on their display screens: "Your data base has been dropped."
With a terminal and a little help from your friends, you can receive all kinds of chilling messages now that are far more believable than a phony phone call.
Fortunately, fun abounds more than fright. And some of our play is not only childish but childlike in its imaginative nature and contagious warmth. Consider the case of the company cricket.
For months there was a cricket who spent more time in the ladies' room of a local company than its champion primp. Unlike an ideal child, the cricket was heard more than seen, yet it became downright popular.
When it died and was found by someone who took it back to her desk, two engineers--men with only a hearsay relationship to the cricket until then--were moved to make a small cardboard coffin for it. Someone else created a small guestbook, which was signed by scores of employes over a period of several days while the cricket lay in state. Then a lunchtime burial ceremony was held on the lawn behind the office with considerable solemnity as well as mirth.
If there's a moral to this story, it's that office fun and games can sometimes, in an almost mysterious way, have a positive, unifying effect. Certainly they're not undesirable per se from a management point of view. The company where they don't happen is probably in at least as much trouble as the one where they consume too much time.