Sportsmanship

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I’ve pretty much always not been good at sports. This holds true despite the fact that I have a huge NCAA Championship ring that I’m allergic to wearing. In Little League I played left field and chased butterflies out of boredom. I had no idea about the correct timing to hit the ball. Elementary basketball was similar. Instead of stealing the ball, I asked if I could please have it. I was the tall kid, but had no hops, and no aggressive streak. I was okay at golf, but outgrew my clubs. In Junior High and High School I ran. I was the slow guy.

In college I walked on to the fencing team, worked my ass off, and mostly due to the benefits of having teammates of world class, Olympic caliber, was good enough to beat those opponents who didn’t have the opportunities and access that I had.

I’ve always considered myself more cooperative than competitive. I still am, but I’ve come to a different understanding about what it means to be competitive. I used to think being competitive meant getting really upset at losing; wanting to win so badly that losing is anathema. I think I’ve realized where I (and other folks) have gone wrong. Being competitive can also mean reveling in the competition, no matter what the outcome. Sounds like a rationalization from a guy who’s used to losing, right?

What keeps me in the game then, if I’m such a loser? It’s the competition, the striving, the testing, stupid! I enjoy it. Trying to win does not mean having to win. The mindset is sort of zen with a lower-case z. Would you rather be competitive as a test of your own ability or that of your team’s, or be competitive because you enjoy beating your opponent? If the latter, why is beating your opponent so important? Answer that question and you’ll know what fuels your competitive streak.

I’ve pretty much always been good at trash talk. I’m mouthy. I’ve been known to play games with my own goals in mind. I used to play chess by trying to see how many pieces I could take before losing. I used to have a Magic: The Gathering deck which could pretty much not ever win, but would make the process of winning as absolutely miserable and drawn out for my opponent as possible. The sadistic psychology of competition lives in this kind of trash talk, and asymmetrical strategies. But like the two types of competitiveness I’ve created, there’s another type of trash talk, too; sportsmanship.

What?

Taking the high road is always a win. My friend Chas is a huge Pitt fan. Being a Domer myself, we’ve got an understandable rivalry. Chas loves to talk smack. I’ve not talked to him in a few years, but it used to drive him absolutely crazy that I wouldn’t rise to his bait, and would instead compliment Pitt whether they won or lost. Graciousness and class can be just as effective at unsettling your opponent as anything else.

I guess this boils down to the following: The stereotypical competitive streak, and the accompanying trash talk & other behaviors seem to reflect such a strong need to win, there’s got to be some lack driving it. For folks who just rejoice in sport, however, winning and trash-talking aren’t necessary (although both are quite fun in different ways), just being in a position to strive, and having the ability to do so is enough. At the same time, that zen-with-a-small-z state of mind can be just as effective a tactic as telling your opponent that you’re sleeping with his girlfriend.

Training Day ?

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

I haven’t run consistently in weeks. Here are the excuses: I’ve been reading through 41 grant proposals. I’ve been directing my energies toward job searching. Running is destroying my knees. See? I don’t have very many of them. This is why having someone to run with is important. You don’t want to let them down by bailing and they feel the same way. I call this: Runner’s Codependence.

Training Day 58

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

I had an unintentional week off from running, mainly due to being back in the Bend, but also with job related business. I was supposed to run 7 miles today and I got in 5.5 before my left calf went Gordian on me. Stretch, test-run, walk::wash, rinse, repeat. I gotta just take my time and stretch for 15 minutes or so before the run, I suppose. I’m usually good on the tightening if I can run and not stop the whole time, but just let one traffic signal bring me to a halt and I get all bent out of shape.

Training Day 51

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

I had a crummy run today. I was supposed to put in six miles, but only did 2.5. My calves felt like bad clockwork. I think If I’d run much farther I would have torn something. No matter how much I stretched, they were still tense. Better take it easy.

Training Day 50

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

They say that it takes six weeks of any exercise program before you start noticing results. And by results, they usually mean weight loss. I don’t think I’ve lost much weight, apart from maybe a pound or two, but my body has definitely changed shape. I dropped a waist size and am now back to the ever-cursèd size of 32×34. Suddenly my hopes for finding pants that both don’t hang off my ass and cover my ankles are dwindling. I ran three miles quickly today.

Training Day 47

Saturday, 18 February 2006

I think 12 miles is the longest distance I’ve ever run. I managed to do it in three minutes under two hours today, which is three minutes faster than pace. About 5 miles in I started singing “Venus in Furs” to myself, which is a very bad idea. “I am tired/I am weary/I could sleep for a thousand years…” So I tried to get Acceleration by Machines of Loving Grace stuck in my head instead. “White light inside of me/acceleration all around/till it don’t seem/like I’m running at all/till it don’t seem/like I’m running at all” That didn’t help, but I did settle on Veruca Salt’s Volcano Girls, which has a bit about running in it, although it isn’t much better than Venus in Furs. “A million miles of running and/I hit the wall,/I bounce back and I run some more.”

I hit the wall about mile ten and beat on it for the rest of the run. It was one of those times when you know if you stop to walk you’re done done and won’t start running again. The wind was absolutely horrible and my lower lip was totally numb by the end of the run, and my beard fur was all bristled up to keep my face warm. I tried to let a homeless dude know I was passing him, but only managed to make blub-blub sounds, which still served the purpose, I suppose. Brr! but done! I’m pleased. If you’ve got recommendations for good running songs, that I’ve not mentioned [I just thought of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell] please let me know. I think I’ll make a compilation.

Training Day 46

Friday, 17 February 2006

After a week like this week, it isn’t really a surprise that I ran like a fiend today. Only three miles, but I busted it out like the fat kid in dodgeball and was raring for more at the end. I’ve got a 12 miler tomorrow though, so I didn’t run more. I finally got my training t-shirt from the Cleveland Marathon, and I almost regret it. It is possibly the ugliest shirt I have ever worn. And for those of you who remember what I wore in high school, that is saying something.