You probably already know I am not a big fan of competition. This is especially true for physical competition, sport, where attributes like strength, flexibility and endurance dictate who comes out on top. Since I have my I-detest-sport reputation to upkeep amongst my immediate circle, I had to utilize some extreme stealth during the past few weeks, because I was curious.
So here’s my dirty little secret – I did catch quite a bit of the Olympics.
At points, I was quite excited by what I saw (and I don’t mean the young nubile gymnast sorts doing their thing). I was cheering, I attached myself to some of the participants and rooted for them to win. I felt happy when they did, and almost sad when they failed. Within 10 minutes of seeing a sport I had never known existed prior, I would become some sort of expert and comment on how poorly or well the athlete was doing, in “technical” terms. Now that got me thinking. I seemed to be almost having fun, what was it I really detested? Was it the concept of competition? or the realization that there are various things in this world out there at which there are a ton of people who are insanely better than me.
There are a couple of competing schools of thought in my head, and I always end up picking the “better” one purely as a matter of convenience. On the one hand, you realize competition helps people push boundaries, and gives them clear goals to make themselves better and better at various things. Forget sport, this is entirely valid across most fields. Even something weird like military technology or space exploration. It’s fair enough to believe we’ve made progress at the rate we have in such areas purely because you’re always in competition with your “enemy” to be better (or in this case, too scared to be worse) than them. So when our lil-green-alien friends attack, for instance, we might be ready with the thermo-nuclear war head (or enhanced communication skills to con them into believing we’re a peaceful and harmless race) or whatever it takes to save our behinds. If you’re still not out of sport mode, let’s assume said lil-green-aliens have firepower that moves at (the appropriately convenient rate of) 10 m/s on small ranges. At least, as a result of competition like the Olympics, we will have the Maurice Greens and the Yuliya Nesterenkos who can outrun said bullets and survive to procreate later and repopulate the earth.
All this is nice and all, but I usually lean on the other school of thought, the one that avoids competition and declares it evil. You see, it is just as possible even greater progress could have been made if the bright minds on these “enemy nations” trusted each other and openly shared intelligence. That way, ideally, they’d be no duplication of work and no great ideas would be missed because of stupid trivialities like that country being wiped out in a war. And once you’re smart enough to do what you want, you have little to fear from our lil-green-alien friends. No matter how slow we run, or how unfit we are, or how far we can’t throw a heavy ball-and-chain.
I might not be a big fan of sport, or always understand the subtle nuances of most of them, but I do realize it feels good to win. Being better than someone (or everyone) at something and knowing everyone knows this does tend to make people all warm and fuzzy on the inside, at times. It’s too bad that Phelps can’t represent the uni because he’s pro. It’d have been nice to dominate.
Even if it isn’t you doing anything toward it. Or actually dominating anything.