February 1, 2018

SLAC Gets Sporty at First ‘Nerd Bowl’

SLAC Gets Sporty at First ‘Nerd Bowl’

Facebook ultimately prevailed in a flag football tournament organized by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and hosted by SLAC.
By Amanda Solliday

Structured Content

It began with lunchtime flag football games at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The lab’s social media team, inspired by the devoted players, came up with a challenge to other labs and several tech companies—a flag football tournament that would take place around Super Bowl time.

The challenge came through a surprise video on social media and led an all-day athletic battle between three Bay Area national labs and Facebook.

The “Nerd Bowl” teams met on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Stanford University’s Arrillaga Recreation Center (ARCAS) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The sun was shining, and the competition was fierce.

Charlie Hunts, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory social media lead and public information officer, explains the rules of Nerd Bowl to the participating teams. (Dawn Harmer / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Of the eight total teams, Facebook’s Cache Money team took home the first place trophy, with LLNL’s Lazer Cats and Sandia National Laboratories’ Ballistic Thunderbirds coming in second and third, respectively. Rounding out the tournament were SLAC’s Dark Matter Knights (fourth), Sandia’s Hypersonic Hedgehogs and Livermore’s Nasty Neutrons (tied for fifth), Facebook’s Past Our Primetime (seventh) and the SLAC Attack (eighth).

The completed tournament bracket for Nerd Bowl 2018. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

“We thought the event would be a great way to highlight the work-life balance at the labs,” said Charlie Hunts, LLNL social media lead and public information officer. “And we also thought it would be a cool way to interact with other labs.”

Erick Schlimmer, a fitness operations specialist at ARCAS, replied to LLNL’s challenge first. He later became team captain and quarterback for SLAC’s Dark Matter Knights.

“It’s such a great idea. An event like this creates an environment that brings together people who might not meet otherwise,” he said.

Erick Schlimmer, fitness operations specialist at Stanford University’s Arrillaga Recreation Center at SLAC, outruns the competition for the Dark Matter Knights. (Dawn Harmer / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

With the support of ARCAS and SLAC management, Andy Freeberg, SLAC’s digital communications manager, organized a response and offered to host the tournament. A call for players in the lab’s employee newsletter and some word of mouth soon led to an enthusiastic response. 

“We had enough interest to create two separate SLAC teams,” said Brian Sherin, deputy director of operations, as well as captain of the SLAC Attack team. “It was great that we had such a good turnout.”

SLAC’s communications team later responded with their own video, featuring a football that travels down the lab’s 2-mile-long linear accelerator.

SLAC is ready for #NerdBowl 2018. (Farrin Abbott/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

One of the SLAC employees to join the effort was Stephanie Moffitt, a postdoctoral researcher in the Applied Energy program.

“It’s fun to see everyone out playing, my parents are here, and it’s such a beautiful day,” Moffitt said at the event. “Next year, I’d really like to see more women join the teams.”

An experienced flag football player, she led practice drills and became a key member of the Dark Matter Knights team.

“All the teams and individual players embraced the challenge and ran with it, and really made the tournament their own,” Hunts said. “It’s a goofy idea that soared.”

LLNL, Sandia and SLAC are Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories. 

SLAC Gets Sporty at First 'Nerd Bowl'

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SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, Calif., SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

athletic field at Stanford University’s Arrillaga Recreation Center at SLAC
The SLAC Attack team at Nerd Bowl 2018.
SLAC’s Dark Matter Knights at Nerd Bowl 2018.
Andy Freeberg with a bull horn standing next to Chi-Chang Kao.
A Facebook player throws a ball with a Livermore player in the background
Group photo of Facebook team