If the only point of competing is to win, what is the point of competing at all?

Watching the Olympics Athletics competition (Track and Field in the US), it’s striking the difference in attitudes that different athletes have.

By far the most fun athletes to watch are those who celebrate their finishes, and see victory in the places where they do place are my favorites. Sally McLellan and Richard Thompson finished second in their events and celebrated like it was the best thing ever.

The problem with sore losers seems to be that expectations become an entitlement, and that there is no plan B. Sayna Richards and Jeremy Warnier  were disappointed with their medals, and just soured the proceedings. There is also no excuse for the attitudes of Jen Stuczynski’s coach, who acted like her performance killed puppies after she finished second to someone who set a world record.

If the only point of competing is to win, what is the point of competing at all? The best case is to be relieved that you won. The worst case is all other cases, because you didn’t. That’s a pretty miserable scenario.

So, now dead to me: Rick Suhr, Jeremy Warnier, Sayna Richards, and Brazil’s crying fuutballing women.

The persistance of that attitude may be why there is not more adult sport participation in the US. it’s the attitude I had when running the 800 and 1600m as a freshman in high school. I went back and read my journal, and it was full of misery and fear even as I was experiencing the thrill of winning races. Winning was a great thrill, but it was always more relief than elation.

The joy should be in a competition well played, and modified only marginally based on placement. Or at least, that’s this Ben Fact.

Update: Carolina Kluft was the best heptathlete in the world from 2003-2007. By far. While she did it, she was a live wire, joking around with the other competitors, dancing, being an entertainer. In early 2008, she decided it wasn’t fun anymore, so she stopped. This exemplifies the mentality that I think is ideal: love to compete first, love to win second.

Comments (1) left to “If the only point of competing is to win, what is the point of competing at all?”

  1. Br'er James wrote:

    This is why I love Michael Jordan and Rickey Henderson. Jordan’s competitiveness is better-documented than anyone’s, but coming back to play for the Wizards makes me believe that his competitive drive is less fear of losing and more pure love of the competition itself.

    Rickey Henderson takes the cake, though. If the offensive purpose of baseball is to score runs, Rickey is best offensive player in history. In his last season in the majors, he stole 25 bases. He was 42. Once he didnt make an MLB roster, with his Hall of Fame election absolutely certain… he went and played with aspiring Major Leaguers in their teens and twenties in the independent leagues til he was 45 or 46. In those two seasons he stole 54 more bases; he was caught only 4 times.

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