I mentioned yesterday that I am not a fan of competition and that I feel that it brings out the worst of human beings. As I think on this, I find more and more examples that exasperate me.
This Sunday there was a Super Bowl, a celebrated competition event that some would call an American tradition. Of course, it is hard to call something that is only 47 years old a tradition, but that only shows the importance people place on this game.
In the last Super Bowl, a fellow by the name of Ray Lewis played. Ray is legally involved in a double homicide. That’s right, he may be a party to murder, yet he played in the Super Bowl. Why, because competitive sports trumps all things. Champs and pros are generally given a pass. If I were involved in a homicide, I would be suspended from my job without question. There are children in the school where I teach and the owners could not risk the loss of customers. Children watch the Super Bowl, but the team and the game outweigh everything. Ray’s involvement in a crime is kept hush-hush from the kids so that the mighty competition can go on, and the almighty dollar collected. The worst of humanity raises its ugly head.
Lance Armstrong has just been dethroned from his lofty perch. But does anyone mention the guys that came in second to him, just two-tenths of a second behind him? Lance illegally boosted his capabilities. Do you think those guys right on his heels did not? Either those drugs do not do a lot, or the guys right behind him were doing them too. But let’s not worry about the losers. They are not important. The competition is the thing.
Look at Washington, a city rife with competition. This party wants to beat that party. At one time party affiliation was a simple shorthand for the candidate’s philosophical preferences, but elected officials worked together for the benefit of all. Now one party seeks to dominate the other. One party is even looking at ways of changing the rules so they can win on a technicality, not on a real choice of the people. A representative of one party puts forth proposals that may save human lives, and representatives of the other party spin those words to suggest that tyranny is close at hand. Reality is kept hush-hush so the competition can go on, and almighty power can be achieved at any cost. Again the worst of us rises to the fore.
Many people, and even whole civilizations, have existed without competition. They try to improve themselves, competing only with themselves. They learn new things, practice and play with no care for winners or losers. It is all about the game itself and the enjoyment of doing. Some people compete with that same spirit, being as gracious at winning as they are at losing. But in America those concepts are gone. If you aren’t a winner, you are a loser, and losers are seen as failures, diseased and to be shunned. Little thought is given to the courage to step into the ring with the risk of losing. Little thought is given to the learning experience gained from a loss. We forget that it is an honor just to be able and allowed to compete, that there is nothing wrong with second place, it is after all, right next to first.
We have become so consumed with competition and winning that we are now a gross and brutal society, having little civility in our civilization. I will gladly take second place. I will gladly not compete. I will play and learn and enjoy the game. It isn’t who wins that matters, it is how much fun can be had. It isn’t the destination. It is the journey.