If you’re wondering where I’ve been hiding the last several weeks, look no further than the our local Corporate Challenge! What’s this? You say you’ve never heard of this alleged social and physical cocktail of the business world? Well, pull up a pommel horse whilst I tempt your ears with tales of immense competition, tremendous physical feats, and pudgy middle-aged dudes who show up for the Speed Walk race in flip flops and black dress socks.
See kids, each year, for the past 27 years, the folks of the City of Las Vegas have slapped together this thing called Corporate Challenge, wherein local businesses from throughout the valley can fire one of their employees, use his annual salary to pay the inflated entry fee, make some un-wearable tee-shirts and have the chance to come together in amateur athletic events and make every attempt to not look as pitiful as the competition.
According to their website, Corporate Challenge promotes, enables, and supports teamwork, company pride, and corporate wellness. But more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to see what your boss looks like in shorts. That’s great ammo for taking him down a peg. The next time you’re up for your annual review and he says he’s not sure about your job performance, you just pipe up, “Well I’m not sure about YOUR performance on the soccer field, Mr. Falls-Every-Time-He-Kicks! By the way, were those YOUR legs, or were you riding on top of a chicken?”
Not sure you want to play soccer? Not a problem. Turns out Vegas is not only a morally free-thinking city, but is quite liberal with their definition of “sports” as well. Corporate Challenge offers 33 different events, including archery, bocce, golf, poker, tennis, swimming, volleyball, buffet eating, binge drinking and pole dancing.
Myself? The only sport I can play with any confidence where I will not embarrass myself is racquetball. And the pole dancing, but they don’t allow men to compete. Discriminating fatheads. However, the night racquetball was on the docket, I had a previous commitment. No racquetball for me. I was devastated. Rumor is I could have taken the whole thing. That rumor…was started by me.
Feeling that I’d let my company down, I signed up to participate in events that were not necessarily my forte, but that needed somebody with both a pulse, and an ability to talk trash to the competition. I assumed that even though I didn’t run, I could still compete, figuring that my regular regiment of racquetball playing must keep me in decent aerobic shape; plus, in the spirit of humility, I will tell you that I have strong legs and a bum that could crack walnuts.
My first event: The 5K. Despite having two parents who have been runners their whole lives, I did not receive that insanity gene. I loathe running. Unless a bear is chasing me, or Billy Ray Cyrus is about to take the stage, I’m just not going to turn and start running. No iPod mix or crowd cheering is going to motivate me either. My mom used to explain why she loved it. “It’s great exercise.” “It suppresses your appetite and you lose weight.” “It’s when I have time to myself and I can say my prayers.” Finally something we agreed on. Because when I run, I’m praying too. But mine usually go something like, “Please, for the love of heaven, don’t let me die out here! (pant, pant) Where am I? Please stop my heart from trying to shoot out of my chest like an alien. (pant, pant) Please…don’t let anybody I know drive by and see me face-down, drinking out of the gutter and grateful to do so.”
Yet, surprisingly, in the 5K, I came in fifth in my age bracket (which must have been 35 to 82).
Two days later was Track & Field. I have never run track, but I agreed to, because they needed somebody to run the 400m. My only stipulation was that I would not run hurdles. Those scare me. There must be 1001 ways to maim yourself on a hurdle, and most of them involve your groin. So, thanks, but I’ll just go on enjoying my voice at the octave God intended for it to be.
The competition started at 6 p.m., but with so many events, coupled with poor organization by the Corporate Challenge folks, I didn’t run until 9:30 p.m. And I hadn’t eaten since my delicious burrito at lunch. I tried to do some prep work beforehand and asked around about this enigma of the track and field events, The 400. Some people told me it was a sprint. Then others said it wasn’t. Then others asked why in the world I was running the 400, and they kind of wringed their hands together and cackled at my not-knowing anything about it. This made me nervous. Then somebody told me the 400 was an entire lap around the track! Then everybody else confirmed that! Then I wet my pants! It didn’t help that my lovely wife and our seven adorable children were all in the stands, watching and assuming that I would do wonderfully.
The air felt heavy, like it had eaten a big meal. I felt a knot in my stomach. I wasn’t sure what to expect, how to pace myself, and when to start praying. Then I got my smarts on and decided I would just pace myself based on the guy directly in front of me.
Then, fate pooped on my head. I took my place on the track, and found that we were starting in a staggered position. Fanned out. I was on the outer most lane, meaning that I started most forward. Meaning that there was nobody in front of me against whom to pace myself. Who could have seen that coming?
The gentleman shot the firing gun, and I took off. I mean I ran like a bear was chasing me and Billy Ray was saddled on his back singing “Don’t Break My Heart.” I didn’t look behind me. I didn’t look to the side. I didn’t look up. Silence fell around me, and all I could hear were my lungs. And man, were they ticked! They were yelling all kinds of profanity at me, including some Swahili words I didn't recognize. I kept sprinting, figuring if I slowed at all, I was never going to pick back up. Now my legs were pitching a fit. They were threatening to go on strike. And they knew the lungs would join them immediately. I continued to sprint. Now my stomach was about to show who was boss. “Don’t make me search for that burrito,” it said, “I’ll find it, and I’ll embarrass you right here at the 300 mark. Don’t think I won’t. I wasn’t particularly happy to have it here in the first place.” I kept sprinting. Only now, it didn’t feel like sprinting. It felt like that bear was going to catch me. My whole body was shutting down. Then, I was pretty confident I could taste blood in my mouth. But what scared me worse was that I was pretty sure it was blood coming from my bleeding eyeballs. Then, right at the end, I saw the guy in the lane next to me pass me. And then the guy next to him. And then, permanently disfigured by the 400, I crossed the finish line. Third Place. Some coworkers were there to congratulate and cheer, but it was hard to see them. Because I was rapidly losing my vision. Walking like an inebriate, drunk on his own blood, I strolled over to my family, not in a hurry to get there and have one of my children demand to be carried to the van.
This concludes the running portion of my Corporate Challenge sentencing.
Saturday was Horseshoes. I’ve never played. Not one. Single. Game. I didn’t think it was a big deal, because … who plays professional horseshoes? There are no endorsements, no ESPN coverage, and no photo on the front of a Wheaties’ box. On the other hand, there’s no running! But I’ll tell you what you might not expect. Getting hit with a horseshoe. Oh, the casualties! I saw an older gentleman get hit in the knee, a younger man catch one in the shin, and several horseshoes actually hit and shatter on the concrete. This was not your grandma’s horseshoe tournament! Actually, it most likely was. And my partner and I walked away with the Bronze for the Men’s Team, thank you very freakin’ much.
Finally, we have our Sand Volleyball tournament this Saturday. Remember the volleyball scene in Top Gun? We look nothing like that. For one thing, none of us are Scientologists. For another, Kenny Loggins has not agreed to provide us with a theme song. Billy Ray probably would, but we ain’t askin'.