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Punch Drunk: The Spreadsheet Hall of Fame

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We all strive to be the best at something. Whether that be in our career field, our hobby or something small, like loading the dishwasher — most of us want to be better than our peers in some aspect of our lives.

Unfortunately I will never compete for the world dishwasher-loading championship, according to my girlfriend Courtney, the reigning Mulberry Street dish-loading champion. She’s not crazy, I promise.

But really, why else rise in the morning? If we’re not chasing someone or something? That motivation to ascend to the ring resides somewhere deep within all of us. Sadly, most of us will never reach the pinnacle of anything, although it’s nice to strive for something, to dream. Like my girlfriend, who daydreams about winning the world dish-loading championships held in Oslo, Norway. It turns out, the Scandinavian people are militant about their dish cleanliness.

One Virginia man, at the tender age of 17, has recently attained the unattainable. He’s scaled the Everest, reached the poles, sailed the great sea of his chosen path.

John Dumoulin is now the most proficient Microsoft Excel user in the entire world. The world. All of it. Before your underwear start automatically coming off, let me remind you, John is only 17 and a high school senior from Dumfries.

See, the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship was held two weeks ago. Sponsored by Microsoft and Certiport, which is a company that certifies people in programs such as Microsoft Office. Anyone who takes a certification test can qualify for the competition. John placed number one in the Excel category against finalists from 49 countries. More than 560,000 people applied and only the top 200 of those were even invited to the finals in Anaheim, California. No American has ever won the Excel category, although we have taken the Word and Powerpoint classifications.

During the championship, participants had 50 minutes to compete in either Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Dumoulin says he was given a completed spreadsheet to re-create during his time. Imagine being in your cubicle and dealing with a pesky spreadsheet that isn’t adding up right, then multiply that by a million.

The words “cutthroat” and “fierce” kept coming up as I read through articles about the competition, like it was some sort of office “Hunger Games.” As if the thought of doing an Excel spreadsheet wasn’t terrifying enough! Although in a decidedly softer light, Certiport’s vice president of of marketing, Craig Bushman, referred to it as the “nerd Olympics.”

So maybe it’s not that scary.

Seventeen-year-old John Dumoulin, a varsity baseball player at his high school, began using Excel early to track statistics. He’s a major fan of the whole “Moneyball” saber metrics scene that’s so prevalent in Major League Baseball right now and would like to someday work in that field.

Wow. Color me impressed. At 17 I was mostly thinking about which Midlothian gas station was easiest to buy beer from. And when it came to computers, I was no Bill Gates, but I was pretty solid with AOL instant messenger and finding naughty photographs. This was a time when internet pornography was still in its infancy, at least compared to today. I certainly wasn’t aspiring to be the best at anything.

Can you imagine the life of a young Microsoft Excel world champion? Do you get some sort of WWE-inspired, jewel-encrusted belt to wear? You should. People need to know how good you are at calculating cells and formulas and pivoting rows. I took a guess at that, but it sounded right, didn’t it?

I bet you’d get a lot of free drinks in bars too, that is, if you weren’t 17. Also, and this is just conjecture, but I bet the Microsoft Office groupies are a major perk of being a titleholder.

Just ask former Microsoft Office assistant Clippy. He’s retired now, living the high life that most know-it-all paper clips can only dream of. He’s reached the pinnacle of the office supply world, the rarified air that other office supply products with huge eyeballs can only dream of.

It’s a pinnacle that sadly, none of us will ever reach.  Tomorrow we might run faster, stretch out our arms farther, but to no avail. Our meager skills will only erode over time, our dreams will only fade.

That is, unless we choose to be the best at something trivial, like loading dishwashers.

But even then, there will always be some young Norwegian hotshot that’s quicker and cleaner.

Sorry Courtney. S

Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at @jackgoesforth.

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