Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a thought or two on competition

In response to my brother's comment on a past post...

Well, who's to say what society values, but I can say with some confidence that I place value on competition...or I wouldn't be going to the races...

I've gone round and round on the 'why I compete' question. Is it about being better than others? Is it just a way of gauging personal growth? Maybe both. But clearly I also just enjoy it.

What can I say, I'm just a big kid... Bike racing is a game. Games are fun. And while simply playing the game is a good time, winning the game is better.


My disappointment at Fair Hill has to do with losing, of course, but also with losing by so little a margin. Having victory right there and not quite being able to pull it off.

There are financial and vanity issues associated with the loss as well. Had I finished in the top three I would have taken home a bag full of goodies. And had my picture taken on the podium. I admit, albeit sheepishly, that I value these things.

And there are other considerations. There are upgrade points (forth place w/ 25-49 competitors earns me two upgrade points, whereas first would have garnered five). There are series points (which would affect my call-up position if I were to race any more MAC races this year or the first of the series next year). And there's the ribbing I suffered from Moats for getting beat by someone he handily dispatched the week before.



There's a more serious response to this question as well. Thanks to Eric Liddell, I think I can come close to articulating it.

Eric, whose story is dramatized in Chariots of Fire, misses a church service because of his training. His sister gets upset about it, but Eric explains to her, "I believe that God made me for a purpose ... [the missionary work he'll later do in China, which his sister thinks very important], but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

I'm not sure that there's a better justification for sport than that.

Sport is the acknowledgment of human potential. It's the recognition that our bodies are good for more than carrying our heads around. I feel good when I ride. I feel good when I ride fast. And though there is an emptiness to competing just to prove yourself better than others, there's an unexplainable but undeniably righteous joy in being best. It's as if all creation rejoices with you in achieving that end for which you came to be.

You don't have to believe in God to find that religiously poignant. You just have to believe in sport.


doc said...

Well stated post that captures the joy of phyically finding one's limits.
Re: ELG's comment. I once had a rowing coach tell me that in a race, the last stroke you take should be the last stroke that you are able to take.
Good hunting!

Chuck said...

Hey Goat--

As a amateur cyclist I heard from my competitors that it may help to shave your legs. I know this may sound stupid, but my hair gets tangled at times when I am riding.

Looking at your legs they seem shaven in the pictures, just wondering if this increases your speed or what the purpose is?



KanyonKris said...

I don't believe competition is inherently bad. It can be the catalyst for both negative and positive experiences.

At it's core competition pits one person against another. With sportsmanship this can result in a good experience. But it can also create enmity.

Competition is all around us - I dare say it's a primeval force (it is a, if not "the", fundamental principle of evolution).

Sport provides a playful way to learn how to deal with competition. People skills learned in sports translate to other areas of life. I want my kids to do some sports for the social as well as physical benefits. And as an adult I still have things to learn from sports.

I favor more recreational than competitive activities. If you care to read more about my experiences and thoughts on the subject, they are here:

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