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The Intern Decathlon

February 23rd, 2009 by · 30 Comments


Five years ago tomorrow, my friend Richard wrote a letter to his boss.  Richard was working as an unpaid intern with the San Diego Gulls, a minor league hockey franchise.  Richard loves hockey, and gets along famously with pretty much everyone, but as I recall there was for some reason a personality clash with the guy that oversaw the intern program, and Richard grew dissatisfied with the gig.  Fortunately, he had me to help him out.  I convinced him that if he was going to quit, he should at least go out in a unique fashion, and we crafted a letter proposing a challenge to his boss.  We knew that this would essentially serve as a resignation letter, since this guy wasn’t the sort of person who valued “willingness to dream up wacky stunts” as a desired quality in employees, but what did we care? It would make a great story, albeit one that I had completely forgotten about until Richard rediscovered the letter and forwarded it to me yesterday.

Below is the unedited letter.  Richard has since toured the country with his band and seen the Great Pyramids.  The Gulls folded in 2008.

Jeremy and Dave,

I am disappointed at the recent events that have led to disagreements and tension between us in the workplace. While I am unsure as to what specific events have led to these disagreements and tension, I wish to assure you that it was never my intention to be anything other than a model intern. I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the Gulls, writing for the newsletter, meeting the players and coaches and watching the exciting games. I am willing to concede that at times, it may have been possible to interpret my behavior as overly brash or arrogant, but this is only because I felt that I was able to help the Gulls with my abilities, and felt that it would be beneficial to neither myself or the organization to not attempt to utilize them.

Unfortunately, with the current state of affairs, I am not sure that I will be able to stay on as an intern with the organization. I feel that due to recent incidents that remain unspecified to me, my behavior will now be put under a microscope, and that I will not be given the same opportunities to contribute and advance as the other interns, or as I might have before. This may not be the case, but based on the condescending tone of Dave’s email, namely lines such as “I can assure you that, regardless of your talents, you have made far from a good impression on those in a position to judge those talents,” I feel that my standing within the Gulls organization as a negative employee have been set in stone.

As I’ve said, I feel this is a shame, because I thought that I was a good fit for the Gulls, and I am reluctant to abandon what is the most unique and interesting internship opportunity I have had yet because of a few petty personal squabbles. So I would like to make a proposal to you, and it is as follows:

I compete against one or both of you in a decathlon, comprised of 10 pre-agreed upon events, ranging from tests of knowledge to physical contests. This would take place over the course of a single weekend afternoon, observed by our friends and judged by a panel of three impartial judges. Following the decathlon a party will be held at my house or at Dave’s or on the neutral territory of one of Pacific Beach’s many bars.

If I lose this decathlon, my tenure with the Gulls shall come to an unfortunate early demise. You will never see my face around the arena again, barring a deep playoff run, wherein the true hockey fan in me will likely be unable to contain itself. I will not bother you for references, further employment or too many complementary tickets.

HOWEVER, if I emerge victorious in the decathlon, I will continue my internship with the Gulls, and we will act as if I have started over from day one, with no prior knowledge of my attitude or abilities, nor prejudice.

I feel that this is the fairest way to resolve our conflict. I have begun the process of choosing potential events for the decathlon, here is a list of what I have come up with:

  • Old fashioned staring contest
  • Simpsons Trivia
  • Hockey shootout, either against each other or against Trevor Koenig
  • Who can beat the first four levels of Super Mario Bros. 1 the fastest
  • Bocce ball
  • Who can count a large pile of Goldfish snack crackers the fastest
  • Catching tennis balls in a tennis ball can (possibly with can in your mouth)
  • Surfing contest
  • Eating contest, preferably corn dogs (barring dietary restrictions)
  • We leave the room and go into separate rooms, and whoever comes back into the room the closest to five minutes without coming in before five minutes wins (no watches, clocks, cell phones, etc.)
  • State capitals, or state abbreviations or state flags quiz (i.e. a picture of a state flag is held up, first person to identify state scores a point)
  • Hockey Trivia
  • Seven game series of Seven game series of Rock Paper Scissors

These are simply a few of the ideas that I have come up with in the first hour or so of kicking ideas around. I am open to your suggestions and to those of outsiders, whatever will make for an exciting decathlon. I feel that this is by far the best way to resolve our dispute, whatever it may be. Please let me know your thoughts one way or another so that I can resolve my schedule for the next few weeks and prepare for the various events.


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