If the Flickr office was its own country, I think I would be the head of the all-powerful Interior Minstry and control the Totally-Not-a-Secret Police. The national foods would be viennoiserie, oysters and xaio long bao. Tax reform and better conference room cooling would be on the agenda, and the national costume would probably include headphones.
But the craze sweeping the nation? Why the national sport, of course! FACEBALL!!1
The rules are simple. Contestants sit 10′ (3.048m) apart and throw a small blue or pink beachball. If you hit on the face (no hair whuffs, no chest, no ear grazes) you get to throw again. If you miss, your opponent gets to throw. Winner is the one with the most hits in total. (In tournament play, there are five rounds and records are kept for the longest hitting streaks.)
Historians disagree about the origins of the sport and aficionados quibble about rule variants (a movement exists to change the distance to something more arbitrary sounding, like 12 feet, 3 and 7/8ths inches) but this has not diminished its popularity.
Various techniques, like the Orchard Piston (where the thrower holds the ball steady with the palm of one extended hand, held flat, then pushes it forward with the other arm in one straight and rapid forward motion) have been refined to the point of excellence and beyond, but hair whuffs and complete misses still occur.
Nothing matches the excitement of tournament time when months of hard practice and random ball throwing and kicking around the office pay off for the winners and losers. Winners are heralded for their bravery, skill and determination while losers, looking on from the crowd shriek with glee and excitement at each hit or miss. Improvised musical scores accompany each match.
So the next time you visit the Flickr office, make sure to try the local beverages (the drinks in the break room are free and the little fridge in the mother’s room often has beer), ask when the next match is occuring, and plan to linger for a while.
[All photos courtesy of the sport’s legendary chronicler, Faceball photographer Rev Dan Catt.]