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Humour@SAP: IV. Sports

Sports is an important part in the SAP culture. Although SAP employees at the headquarter in Walldorf participate in the SAP Symphonic Orchestra, the SAP Sinfonietta, the SAP Big Band, SAP Choir, rock bands, comedies and many other cultural activities, the preferences of the founders and current board members are clearly connected to sports.

SAP sponsors a variety of sport events and clubs, starting with golf- and tennis-tournaments, the ice-hockey team Mannheimer Adler, the soccer club Bayern München and the Formula One Grand Prix series. Not to mention the America’s Cup, the most prestigious sailing competition that even was won once by Hasso Plattner’s boat (and is another source for countless anecdotes).

Not only does SAP sponsor generously, SAP folks world wide participate in those events and sometimes even win, as Hasso’s and other examples show. New York half marathon? Shai Agassi and team compete with the trained lungs from end- and breathless negotiations. Heidelberg man through the wild waters of the river Neckar and the jungle of the Philosopher’s way? An SAP BW team takes the challenge, steeled by experience in the data-jungles of SAP installations. San Francisco 10 miles run with a flower in your hair? SAP Labs Palo Alto ensures, that the flower shops do not run out of business.

How did this passion start, from where does it come from? And why exactly those forms of sports and not sack-racing, caber tossing or battle-knitting?

Well well, this all started a long time ago, when SAP was still a small company with only a handfull of employees. Long before the term startup was invented or other companies praised themselves with fringe benefits for employees like inhouse massages, free lunch or dog walking services. In those good old offline times, when employees needed to be in good shape to lift the printed error logs arriving from customers, the founders introduced a well thought exercise program. In the late afternoon a soccer game behind the office building became somehow obligatory. To motivate the employees, an annual soccer tournament was scheduled, which now hosts more than 100 teams from all over SAP.

On one of those afternoon soccer games, one founder – was it Hasso Plattner with his iron foot, or Dietmar Hopp, or Klaus Tschira, or whoever, everybody wants to take the credits for that story nowadays – gave the ball a good spin and in a high bow quite away from the goal it smashed into the nearby glasshouse. Broken glasses clashed, eternal silence fell on the dismayed soccer players, when suddenly the loud voice of the angry gardener yelled through the air and broke the silence.

“You fools! What have you done!? Grownups like you playing soccer! Shouldn’t you be working!? Who is going to pay for all that mess?!”

The guilty soccer players stood there embarrassed and murmured their excuses, like little boys whom their mothers had caught smoking, experimenting with fire-crackers or playing doctor with the girls from the neighbourhood. Only Dietmar Hopp started to smile broadly and then couldn’t stop laughing. The others who feared that this behaviour would even aggravate the situation (the rural charme of the native Walldorf population was still commanding respect), signalled him to stop, but he didn’t. When he regained his contenance, he said:

“You remember, two weeks ago, when we were discussing our new office building? I just bought that piece of land and that very glasshouse for SAP’s new offices.”

More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.

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