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The Intramural Sports of Kings

The signup sheet in the break room wants you and your co-workers to meet at the park on Saturday for a game of softball. For some it may just be fun, but for others it’ll be pure competition.

When the office manager at your work stops by and asks if you’d like to join the company softball team, don’t reject the offer too quickly. It’s true these lighthearted sport leagues where people with a common vocation get together to toss a ball around may just be an excuse to see each other in short pants, but to the observant eye, they are in fact a symbolic battle between ideological entities. Here are a few such competitions I’ve had the privilege of watching.
 

Think Tank Softball

The Heritage Foundation. The Center for American Progress. The Brookings Institution. The Cato Institute. They all meet to do battle over the fate of American discourse in front of the Washington Monument. Metal bats allowed.

The conservative groups play just like they write tort-reform policy—vicious and underhanded. The left-wing groups get creamed. They come in thinking it’s just for fun, like a picnic badminton game, and they get their asses handed to them on a plate.

Softball rules get bent a lot. Is stealing allowed? Does anybody here know the infield-fly rule? Is it still a fair ball if somebody hits it into the EU Delegation’s soccer game in right field? Left-wing groups like the Cato Institute will let those calls slide, favoring whoever shrugs the most. The Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, will deem their player safe before he’s even touched the bag. Instead of recruiting anybody from the office who wants to play, they play the minimum number of women only to maintain co-ed status. The rest are ringers.

Maybe the liberal tanks are your Bad News Bears who just want to have a good time and don’t care so much about winning. And maybe the conservative teams go home and cry themselves to sleep because of the soulless lives they’re living. But they still win 20-2.
 

Computer Programmer Ping Pong

At least they make the most out of the only exercise they’ll see outside a game of Dance Dance Revolution. In fact, the back and forth of the rallies can reach such a fevered pitch at times that the games could even be considered a spectator sport. Until somebody learns how to spin the ball, becomes undefeated, and spoils it for everyone by making the game that much more complicated. It’s over as soon as somebody says they’d rather debug assembly code than keep on playing.
 

Rock Star Hockey

An epic battle of egos under the guise of teamwork. They go after the puck like Little Miss America Pageant losers go after chocolate cake. Yet somehow, it’s exponentially more entertaining than watching professional hockey. The game play alternates between a confusing rugby scrum and a strategic strike. Nobody keeps score and in the end everybody pats each other on the back like they just worked all day at a soup kitchen. Any jealous complaints about fouls, unfair goals, or unsportsmanlike conduct are held back in favor of what might make for good song lyrics down the road.
 

Graphic Designer Soccer

Confusing, to say the least. You wonder if somebody is eventually going to go after the ball. Then, when they do, are you sure they’re on the right team? Are they sure? And you thought those two guys were playing but they just walked off the field. The tempo fluctuates back and forth enough to make you dizzy. It’s like watching the Rolling Stones record “Sympathy for the Devil” in sweatpants.

There’s always one guy who finally gets fed up and mounts an excitable attack, getting the other players to join in, and then scores a goal. That guy won’t show up next week. Maybe the victory is too hollow for his tastes or he just wanted to leave on a high note. The league is probably not still in competition.
 

Government Worker Basketball

They play like the ‘50s Celtics: lots of passing. Lots and lots of passing. So much that you just want somebody to take a shot at something, anything. And then somebody does and it’s an awkward fade-away three-pointer that planks off the rim and hits their teammate in the shoulder.

When they’re low on people, which is most every week, they’ll ask a random passerby to join in. This person is always better than anyone in the league, and will usually take this opportunity to single-handedly score as much as possible—and even showboat a little. This is the only part of the game worth watching.
 

biopic

TMN Contributing Writer Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones is a Washington, DC-based writer whose work has also appeared in the Atlantic, Toronto Star, Washington City Paper, and the Awl. More by Llewellyn Hinkes