2002-07-13 12:36 p.m.

Operation Superbowl

Six years ago, 1500 miles away.

Time for a company-all meeting, and, the e-mail notice informs us, we should all be excited because it's Really Big News! My group's managers are as mystified as the rest of us are, so we all leave our comfy little cocoon and head upstairs to see what's going on.

On the wall: a piece of paper about 6 feet high and 8 feet long, marked out at "10-yard" intervals. There are little paper footballs taped to it. Sitting along the walls and on the floor: a seriously mystified group of software programmers and other sundry technical people. True to form, my group are the last ones in.

Then in come the women of HR. Other than about half of my group and half of tech writing, they're about the only women in the company. And they're dressed in cheerleaders' outfits, carrying pom-poms.

My boss and I just look at each other as our jaws simultaneously hit the floor.

In bounds our company's Fearless Leader, in full-on Tom Landry wannabe mode. He's trailed by a silent, balding middle-aged man whom none of us have seen before but will all come to know as the turnaround guy.

Fearless Leader launches into his usual laborious tangle of football and war metaphors, bouncing around the "field", moving the footballs around. The HR girls, who are kneeling and rustling their pom-poms, occasionally pop up to help, or just to offer cheerleaderish shows of support. Yay Operation Superbowl! Go team!

Operation Superbowl, it seems, is our company's plan to reach sales goals between now, in late November, and when the Cowboys kick ass on Superbowl Sunday!

While Fearless Leader and the HR girls are doing their schtick, the code geeks that make up the vast majority of the company sit around looking puzzled, knowing little of either war or football and desperately yearning to get back to their workstations. Most of us can't make much sense of the babble, but we gather it's not good.

Shortly after this, the whispered huddling started. The head of tech writing suggested to the head of our group that building a wall between our two areas of the suite would be an excellent use of company resources.

And then the layoffs came.

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