One Upsmanship…

Watching the Olympics has been a blast for me. I am blown away not only by the sheer physical talents but also the demeanor which seems to be almost childlike. Of course Bob Costas wants to attach deep philosophical significance to every move. Personally I like Vince Scully. If someone hits a dramatic home run he just says nothing and lets the roar of the crowd do the talking. In this case let the athletes and adoring parents fill the gaps.

The kids have kids and spouses and significant others. The swells and glitterati seem to be backstage in the Green Room. I hope they don’t get called to the set. The young’uns are doing just fine. Simone Biles at 4’8” is beyond incredible. Beyond her performances is a wonderful character underneath. There is friendship so deep among teammates you just wish you could bottle it. But somehow I don’t think that is our way.

I ruminate often about this thing called competition. We chant USA. USA and that is fine but what about the kid from Peru in lane 8 that no one knows. Maybe she or he has spent endless hours in the pool or gym floor only to come in DFL.( For the uninitiated in sports that is Dead F—ing Last). Is there virtue and consolation in that? It depends on whose eyes you are seeing it through.

Now don’t think I am going soft in my old age. I still love to win a $2 Nassau at golf but I wonder if we have gone over the top. There is such a fine line between all out effort and victory and yet we are so prismed to think the only outcome is winning. If you don’t, you are a loser, plain and simple. Sports, politics, business and perhaps even marriage are a fight for supremacy. The only real competition you don’t want to lose at is war but I still think that is highly overrated.

Pondering further it seems that it is really a struggle between dominant and subjected people. We always want to be the leader, the conquerer. Four of a kind when someone is showing a full house. If you are not the lead dog the view is always the same. We don’t take the victory in stride but want to jam it down the vanquished throat.Akin to the gladiator standing over the fallen hero or animal to the wild huzzahs of the coliseum. Oh baby, am I cool or what? Really?

We do it in even more subtle ways. We hate deficiency or handicap of any sort. Sorry for your malady or loss but it makes me better than you. We will even try to categorize individuals into groups or dare I say stereotypes. All blacks are lazy while I work my ass off. Women? Ha! They should be home, barefoot and pregnant and leave the heavy lifting to us. They have no place in business. A Harvard or Stamford education will beat St Olaf’s every time. Every step of the way I have put you in your place.

Think this is nuts? Think again. If I have the latest Ferrari or Porsche then I am better than you. My big house towers over yours and even if it does not, it has more goodies inside like a full court gym for my kids. Mine is bigger than yours takes on all sorts of new implications. Is it primal or an acquired taste? I dunno. We all want to do well. We all want to use our God given talents. But we always want to keep score somehow even if only mentally.

Is it me or are we blocking out a lot of life’s joy by our obsessions? I think we fret as much about losing as winning. Okay you did not make the shot at the buzzer or you fell off the beam. You missed the three foot putt for a win or you lost a big deal in business. You are apoplectic, depressed,suicidal and self loathing. You kick the dog and break furniture if you or your team loses….and that is in the first hour or so. Over days that loss gets in your gut so bad you become visceral at the thought.

We have become so enamored with outcomes that we totally ignore the process. I am not so foolish to think we don’t undergo pain and the inevitable reruns in our brain as we toss and turn in bed at night. But how did you get up at the plate to start with? There was some sort of selection process where you proved yourself worthy to be considered. If you nuke a five iron over the green don’t curse that you used he wrong club but revel in the fact you hit the crap out of that little white ball.

What if instead of a brief encounter with winning or losing this is your lot by virtue of your place in society? A kid in the barrio or ghetto is forever taught they are less. Women have eternally fought for their place from suffrage to the board room. You don’t speak my language? You are low life Mexican even though you may be from Spain or Costa Rica. All the little things that make me superior and you inferior.Have to feel good about me.

In your eyes you are right and I am wrong. Nice bottle of wine TTG but I have one better in my cellar. Your kid is cute but mine is handsome. Let me tell you how to do things the right way. The only problem is you will never be satisfied. You will be on edge to make sure things are just perfect. People, places and things all have a pecking order and your spot is at the top. You think it is fun. I think it is sad.

Compete but enjoy. I am not espousing participation trophies for all but get a grip. The odds your kid is going to make it into pro sports are slim and none. It doesn’t make them bad. It captures the essence of humanity.
One up? Very rarely is it forever. Life has its twists and turns and that is what makes it a beautiful and beguiling thing.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Leo Durocher coined the phrase,”Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser”.

Mark Twain said,”We are all perfect. Just at different things”

Jim Carrie,”Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes”.

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” Isaac Asimov.

‘If you embrace the winner take all philosophy then it makes working with others impossible” Unknown.

“If you score a touchdown don’t showboat. Make it look like you have been there before” Lou Holtz

“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.” Leo Durocher

One thought on “One Upsmanship…

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