Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I’m a big fan of sports.  When I was a kid, I played basketball, football, baseball, and lacrosse – in leagues and in the neighborhood.  I love competition, I love athletics, and I love the camaraderie of team sports.  Everyone wins together, or everyone loses together.  As I get older, though, it seems like team sports are fading away.  I don’t know why, but I can never seem to find 17 other guys to go play baseball with me.  So people my age seem to pick up individual sports: Triathlon, Golf, Skiing.  By making this switch, we’re mostly picking up sports that are more convenient for us.  But there’s a subtle change in the nature of the “competition”.

When I was playing football in the neighborhood, the competition was between our team and their team.  More specifically, it was between me (the receiver) and that guy covering me.  I would win and he would lose (touchdown), or I would lose and he would win (interception), or something else would happen on the field.  It was pretty much a zero sum game, though.  Everything that was good for my team was bad for his team.  But the in the sports we are choosing these days, it’s completely different.  It’s us versus the course, us versus the mountain, us versus ourselves. We’re all on the same field and we’re all playing it our own way.

I kind of like it like that.  Without the immediate pressure of competition from the outside, I’m forced to try to get better at the sports I do all by myself.  I go to the putting green and practice my chipping before I play golf.  I try to beat my personal best time on my road bike route.  I’m taking steps to personally better myself without having to feel the competition from outside sources.  If I need an extra boost, however, there are some easy ways to light the competitive fire.

Some people bring the winner-take-all mentality into their individual sports.  They enter bike races, golf tournaments, and bump contests.  They keep meticulous count of their calorie intake, their training schedules, and their workout regimens.  They count their vertical feet skied, power generated on bikes, and greens in regulation on the golf course.  For them, not only must you achieve success, you must also quantify your improvement (and later, post it on the internet).

I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point.  I like stats as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I’ll be getting these goggles any time soon. But there is something to be said for a little goal setting in personal development.  For example, I’ve never ridden my road bike as much as when I was training for the 100 mile Tour de Cure this past June.  Even though I didn’t get to finish (horrible mechanical problems), I was definitely a stronger rider because of the training.  And if you’re not training for something, simply riding with other people seems to kick in a little something extra.  Ace goes out on group rides with a bunch of local women, and she’s always pushing herself to be faster on the climbs, quicker in the sprints, and stronger on the downhills.  Just skiing (or mountain biking) with friends gives you a chance to size up the people you’re riding with and dazzle them with your sweet skills.  Because, even though this is between you and the mountain, it never hurts to show the mountain who its real competition is.   

1 comment:

  1. In high school I had this incredibly competitive best friend, Charlie. He was a really good athlete, coordinated and fit. But what took him to the state championship level in cross country was that he just REFUSED to be beat.

    We did everything together. Tons of wiffle ball. This other game we invented called La Scoop. It went on and on. It didn't take Charlie long to figure out that if he consistently BEAT me at everything, I'd get loose my enthusiasm.

    So he invented this concept. "OK Deac (I was Deac before I was Harv)... we are playing against THE RUSSIANS. In those days, the Russians were the universal bad guys, and we could still compete, without me losing every time. It was really brilliant. The Russians hit 50 Wiffle Homers last inning, we've got to hit 51. It kept me in the game.

    MC2 ... you are part of the insanely huge tree skiing family at Gore ... and you know ... there's ALWAYS a challenge, but we're on the same team.

    Great post - I think I never really realized all this until I read it. Thanks.