Winners and losers

One of the great things about my little corner of hell is the ultra-competitive nature of the populace. These folks can and do compete in all things, from organized bowling leagues, to fantasy sports betting, to blood pressure measurements over the course of a week. "I win! I have the lowest blood pressure!" This propensity is deeply ingrained, having been placed into the tribe's offspring from their earliest development. There are T-ball leagues and pageants of startlingly coiffed and painted girls, the living plastic dolls of suburbia, beginning at around age five. For the older kids there are competitions in every conceivable category, from karate class to competitions in sacred music, and in every sport ever named.

We are told that these activities build character, confidence, and ability, and that the child's success in the world and in life may ultimately depend on the lessons learned on the mat, playing field, pool, track, or gym. I don't doubt that this is true, given that competitiveness extends well beyond the confines of these venues. We have all met the soccer moms and softball dads that become so involved in the exploits of their offspring that they lose all perspective and balance, screaming at kids, referees, and coaches when results don't match expectations. We hope that these occurrences are rare, but suspect they might not be.

Yesterday we watched the cheer competition of our youngest, feeling somewhat mortified to learn they had placed fifteenth out of fifteen teams. That's the way it works, someone has to be at the bottom of the pile. The crowd jeered a bit, the other competitors laughed a bit, quietly, and that was that. In the scoring analysis that always takes place after these things there were a number of mis-steps, mistakes, and a lack of cohesion, in addition to some obscure rule infractions, resulting in a LOSER score. Going forward, the girls and the coaches have a lot of work to do if they hope to improve.

We question the wisdom of the "every team gets a trophy" policy if it plays out like this, but expert competitors and judges make these decisions. We question the byzantine rulings and the corpuscular nature of the analysis. We question the categories and seeding of the teams. And so on. But guess what? The questions and concerns of this kind are only expressed by the LOSERS!

I just wonder.

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11 Responses to Winners and losers

  1. lauowolf says:

    Poor kids.They must work hard, even to be there.Yeah, I don't believe the whole team competition thing accomplishes anything, beyond artificially making random kids feel either entitled or lousy.(btw, if she's doing cheering, has she ever thought of doing dance?

  2. Emmi says:

    Wow, that's crazy. Competition in blood pressure is pretty funny. I almost had to be hospitalized for low blood pressure. It's about balance. And competition over sacred music? Sorry, I think that's obscene.
    Your child is lucky to have a dad with perspective. I feel especially sorry for the kids who never experience defeat. Can you imagine when they finally get into the real world? They have nothing to look forward to and expect life on a silver platter. I can't imagine a worse scenario.

  3. Doug says:

    Oh yes, there is a dance team. With dance competitions 😉

  4. jaklumen says:

    Garrison Keillor joked about this a lot on The Prairie Home Companion, didn't he?

  5. Doug says:

    I share many things with G.K., including a frog-like appearance.

  6. jaklumen says:

    Hehe. He looks a lot more frog-like than you do.

  7. Michelle says:

    There *is* such a thing as healthy competition, it's just very few people understand the mutual respects that belong on the excelled to the needs improvement gradation. Competition doesn't have to mean squashing others down, unfortunately all too often how people waste an opportunity to elevate each other in favour of making others feel worth less. We can, in the most profound ways, teach our children to win victory *and* suffer defeat with equal grace. We can do this as well as prepare them to extend on those experiences in every day life.

  8. Michelle says:

    I hit send too soon!… should have read:

  9. Doug says:

    We can attempt to teach our children to both win and lose with character, but the "marketplace" mentality we create through competition rewards only winners. It leaves them, and us, feeling that winning is right and losing is false. Losing can spur us to greater efforts, and competing with a strong adversary will of course bring out better performance. This is what competition is supposed to do, and indeed the benefit we seek. But when it extends to every area of life something is wrong.

  10. Doug says:

    Is that nand logic? Cool!

  11. Michelle says:

    2 B XOR != 2 B, that is the question. 😉

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