Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘Send him back to Google in a focking wheelchair’

Illustration: Alan Clarke

IN AN EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM HIS NEW BOOK, SCHMIDT HAPPENS, ROSS O’CARROLL-KELLY HAS TAKEN ON HIS TOUGHEST JOB YET – COACHING THE FACEBOOK TAG RUGBY TEAM FOR THEIR ANNUAL SUMMER MATCH AGAINST GOOGLE

FOR MULTINATIONAL TECH COMPANIES USING IRELAND AS THEIR BASE, THIS IS EL CLÁSICO – OR, AS THEY CALL IT IN THE BREAKOUT ROOMS AND THINK SPACES OF BARROW STREET AND GRAND CANAL SQUARE, EL TAXICO

There ends up being a far bigger crowd than I was expecting – we’re talking 2,000 people – and it has all the atmosphere of a Leinster Schools Senior Cup final, which is amazing given that there is literally fock-all at stake.

Although you wouldn’t know it standing in Herbert Pork. The Facebook staff – I suppose you could call them our supporters? – are mixed in with the Google staff slash fans and you only have to listen to the conversations going on in the crowd to know that there’s a real edge to this fixture. People are literally bickering among themselves over which company is the best to work for.

“Google has better maternity and paternity benefits,” I hear one girl tell another girl. “We’re talking 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, and between seven and 12 weeks of paid paternity leave.”

Quite a few of them are wearing glasses, security swipe cords and Bluetooth headsets and I honestly haven’t seen this many nerds since Ryan Tubridy’s 21st birthday porty

“You’re not comparing like with like,” the girl from Facebook snaps back. “We have a 17-week-paid-leave policy that’s available to both men and women?”

It reminds me a bit of Terenure versus Templeogue College, in the sense that it means absolutely everything to them, even if it means nothing to anyone else.

I gather all of the players around me.

We’re talking Oisinn’s husband, Magnus, who persuaded me to take this job. We’re talking Chris from SMB Accounts. We’re talking Tarek from Data Analytics (Europe, Middle East and Africa). We’re talking John from Security, Risk and Compliance. We’re talking Belinda from Anti-Abuse, Trust and Safety, Incorporating Spam.

We’re talking Donna from Abuse Investigation (Sexual Harassment, Hate Speech and Overseas Election Meddling). We’re talking Phenola from Quality Assurance. We’re talking Karim from Content Moderation (Happy Slappings, White Nationalism and Islamic State Executions).

We’re talking Li from Capacity Planning. We’re talking Ciaran from Regional Trade and Customs Compliance. And we’re talking Derek, who works in the cor pork.

I’ve only had, like, three training sessions with these goys, but I give them a recap of what they’ve learned so far. I’m walking among them as they perform their stretches and I’m going, “Magnus, just defend our line like I showed you all week, okay?

Derek from the cor pork, keep your eye on the ball when it’s coming to you and try to cut out the handling errors. And all of you, just try to get the ball as often as you can to Li from Capacity Planning, because she’s an absolute flier.”

Most of the crowd are wearing branded T-shirts with either the Facebook or the Google logo on the front. Quite a few of them are also wearing glasses, security swipe cords and Bluetooth headsets and I honestly haven’t seen this many nerds since Ryan Tubridy’s 21st birthday porty.

It feels great to be finally coaching, though. I thought I was possibly overdoing it wearing my IRFU ThermoReg padded jacket tonight, but I don’t actually feel overdressed?

Magnus is in a state of what can only be described as high excitement. He’s clapping his two hands together and – in his Finnish accent – he’s going, “Come on, Fashebook – thish ish for the pride of the company that we are playing! Remember what we shay in the offish! One team, one dream! One team, one dream!”

A Google dude slips between Karim from Content Moderation (Happy Slappings, White Nationalism and Islamic State Executions) and Donna from Abuse Investigation 

I give them one last shout of, “Come on, Facebook – let’s do this thing!” and then I step off the field.

The referee blows the whistle and the match – and let’s be honest, I’m using that term very, very loosely – gets suddenly underway.

The first couple of minutes go by in a flash. A lot of players are keen to get their hands on the ball, presumably to try to impress whichever colleague they’re hoping to get off with later on in Slattery’s or The Gasworks.

This is especially noticeable in the case of Ciaran from Regional Trade and Customs Compliance and Belinda from Anti-Abuse, Trust and Safety, Incorporating Spam, who decide to ignore every pre-match instruction they were given and just do their own thing, which means basically only passing the ball to each other – a form of toss-and-catch foreplay that causes us to turn over possession three times in the opening 10 minutes.

They’re not alone either. As a matter of fact, none of our players is doing a single thing I told them to do. They’re all just running around excitedly after the same ball – like they do in children’s rugby. And grown-up Gaelic football.

I’m going, “Come on, goys, this isn’t the game plan we worked on!”

But it’s obvious that that’s gone out the window.

There’s, like, 15 minutes gone when some little dude on the Google team, who looks like Peter Stringer except with hair, gets the ball in his hands, slips in between Karim from Content Moderation (Happy Slappings, White Nationalism and Islamic State Executions) and Donna from Abuse Investigation (Sexual Harassment, Hate Speech and Overseas Election Meddling) and manages to ground the ball for a try – or at least the tag rugby equivalent of a try?

Then he throws the ball into the air and shouts, “Congratulations! You have just been GOOGLED!” right in the face of Tarek from Data Analytics (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

Magnus ends up totally losing it. He shoves the dude in the chest and the referee ends up having to step in between them to separate them.

I’m there, “Dude, I told you to keep the head!”

I look over my shoulder and I happen to notice that Oisinn is standing in the crowd just behind me.

I’m there, “I’m being totally ignored!”

“Welcome to my marriage,” he goes. “Ever since Magnus storted working in Facebook, it’s like he’s joined a cult.”

Magnus storts giving out instructions then. He’s there, “Come on, guysh, letsh go in hard on them!’”

And I’m like, “That’s the exact opposite of what I want you to do! Get the ball to Li from Capacity Planning – we need to utilise her pace!”

Illustration: Alan Clarke
Illustration: Alan Clarke

Sixty seconds later, in all fairness to him, Magnus takes a pass from Chris from SMB Accounts and runs past three women – and that’s not a comment – to score a tag rugby try. He turns around to Peter Stringer with Hair and goes, “Perhapsh now you can shee how Fashebook rollsh, Mishter Google Man – yesh?”

This time, it’s their teammates who end up having to pull them aport. I’m like, “Magnus, keep the head! Come on, let’s stort using some of the moves we worked on in training.”

Oisinn goes, “He’s not listening, Ross. It’s like they’ve stolen his mind or something.”

The crowd is going ballistic. There’s a definite sense that this could turn nasty.

Ciaran from Regional Trade and Customs Compliance takes his eye off the ball to ask Belinda from Anti-Abuse, Trust and Safety, Incorporating Spam if she has a boyfriend

Ten minutes before half-time, a woman from Google gets the ball in her hands and takes advantage of a lapse in concentration in the Facebook defence, when Ciaran from Regional Trade and Customs Compliance takes his eye off the ball to ask Belinda from Anti-Abuse, Trust and Safety, Incorporating Spam if she has a boyfriend and if she’s going to The Gasworks later on.

I’m like, “For fock’s sake, Facebook!” because everything I said about tag rugby – it’s kiss chase for adults – is being proven spectacularly right.

A minute after that, Magnus gets the ball from Derek from the cor pork and makes a break for the line. And that’s when, out of nowhere, and totally against the rules, Peter Stringer with Hair tackles him – as in full-on rugby tackles him?

The referee blows the whistle for a foul, but Magnus jumps to his feet and he’s absolutely livid with the dude. He shouts, “Thish ish typical for Google to show contempt for the rulesh!”

Oh, that doesn’t go down well with the Google crowd, who are getting seriously stirred up. They all stort booing him and telling him to fock off back to Grand Canal Square and take his low-skilled and poorly motivated colleagues with him.

Peter Stringer with Hair makes the mistake of telling Magnus to chill out. He goes, “It’s only a game!”

“Yesh, for shure,” Magnus goes, “everything ish jusht a game for Google! Like, for inshtansh, forshing shellphone makersh to ushe your shoftware on Android phonesh!”

The Google dude suddenly sees red. He grabs Magnus by the front of his branded T-shirt and goes, “Do you want to talk about Facebook’s market abuses and lack of social and political accountability?”

There’s a really ugly atmosphere developing in the crowd. I haven’t seen this many angry nerds since I set off the fire alorm at a meeting of the UCD Harry Potter Society while they were doing a marathon reading of The Goblet of Fire.

Half of them are screaming abuse at Magnus while the other half are egging him on to hit the goy and – as one girl standing behind me puts it – “send him back to Barrow Street in a focking wheelchair”.

This provokes an argument in the crowd over whether Facebook or Google provides the most accessible working environment for those with mobility issues and I notice one or two punches thrown.

The brightesht and the besht? Ha! That ish what you shay! But everyone knowsh that moasht of your Google shtaff wishes they worked inshtead for Fashebook!

On the field, Magnus and Peter Stringer with Hair are really going at it now. They have a hold of each other’s branded T-shirts and they’re pushing and pulling each other all over the pitch, even though the other players are trying to break it up. Magnus is going, “Google people are all ash holesh!”

And Peter Stringer with Hair is like, “Hey, at least our company only hires the brightest and best!”

“The brightesht and the besht? Ha! That ish what you shay! But everyone knowsh that moasht of your Google shtaff wishes they worked inshtead for Fashebook!”

“And why would they do that?”

“Becaush Fashebook ish the besht company to work for!”

“Not according to Glassdoor, which recently placed Google ahead of Facebook in terms of employee satisfaction! And that was based on a survey of 3,000 worldwide employees!”

“Thish ish shuch bullshit. The Shunday Bishnish Posht had a shimilar shurvey which showed that Fashebook’s Irish employeesh were far more likely to recommend their company to othersh, bashed on key workplashe factorsh shuch ash career advanshment opportunitiesh, compenshation and benefitsh, culture and alsho valuesh!”

There are similar rows happening everywhere in the crowd. I hear two girls having an absolute screaming match and it goes like this:

“You don’t even have a focking hairdressers in your building!”

“Er, yes, we do, actually – and a focking nail bar!”

“Well, we have a dentist! I get my teeth whitened there twice a week!”

“How would you like me to smash them down your focking throat?”

“It wouldn’t bother me! I could get them fixed again first thing in the morning – no chorge!”

“Well, we have two doctors and a full-time nurse in our building.”

We have a midwife! I gave birth to both of my children in the Google building and I was back working that night!

“We have a midwife! I gave birth to both of my children in the Google building and I was back working that night!”

“Well, my boyfriend, who’s also my Team Leader, had a stent put in his heart last year! It was done in the office and he was sitting up in one of the sleep pods working on his laptop an hour later!”

Five seconds later, the two of them are rolling around on the ground, pulling out handfuls of each other’s hair. The hairdressers in both companies are going to be rushed off their focking feet tomorrow.

All hell breaks loose then. There ends up being a pitch invasion and Herbert Pork turns into a pretty much riot zone? People are throwing and aiming kicks at each other while boasting about their working conditions and their levels of employee satisfaction.

The referee announces that he’s abandoning the match – proof, if proof were needed, that it actually doesn’t matter to anyone – and he’s heading to The Bridge 1859 for a pint.

I decide that, on balance, my time coaching Facebook is over. It was only ever about putting a first line down on my CV. I’m actually on the point of joining the referee in The Bridge when I notice Oisinn rush onto the field of play to try to separate Magnus from Peter Stringer with Hair.

Yeah, no, they’re now rolling around on the ground and Magnus is going, “Fashebook ish the besht!” while Peter Stringer with Hair is going, “Google is best! By a mile!”

Oisinn somehow manages to drag Magnus off the dude before he kills him.

“Magnus,” he goes, “you’re fighting over which American multinational tech company is the best! What the fock is happening to you?”

And Magnus goes, “I might alsho ashk what the fock ish happening to you? I haff found shomewhere where I feel really valued. And let me tell you shomeshing, Oisinn – I don’t feel that way anymore when I am around you.”

Oisinn looks about as hurt as I’ve ever seen him. He goes, “That’s because you’re never around me anymore.”

“Well,” Magnus goes, “perhapsh we haff to acshept that there ish a reashon for that.”

Oisinn’s like, “What are you saying, Magnus? Come on, spit it out!”

And Magnus looks him dead in the eye and goes, “I’m shaying, Oisinn, that our marriage – ish over!”

Schmidt Happens, by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, is published on August 29th by Penguin Ireland