Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Competition: it’s in our genes (MNA Jan. 07)

Associate Editor

I recently watched the 2004 movie “Sideways,” which I thought was well written, because the way in which the two main characters, played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, spoke and acted — was just like real guys do.

Case in point: when they’re playing golf and the group behind them hits up on them, they do the typical guy thing. They turn around and hit their ball back at them.
Now, this may seem childish. It may even seem mean.
But it is what guys do.

And I have to admit. I’ve done it too.

More than once.

And I know that there are other guys out there who’ve done the same thing.
So what makes us so competitive? We all have day jobs. We aren’t professional athletes. We aren’t kids, or high school athletes, even. But, we still seem to play our sports as if we’re pros, and we’re getting paid for it.

I’ve also witnessed this zeal for adult sports in my hockey league. Grown men, who have families, kids, and go to church on Sundays – will still drop the gloves when they catch an elbow in a recreational league game from time to time. And they’ll use words on the ice that they wouldn’t want their mothers to hear.

I may have even once or twice had a potty-mouth when I’ve played. I come from a long line of highly competitive, amateur athletes (very amateur, as a matter of fact.)
Usually, in the hockey league, everyone is polite, and we all get along. But once in a while, that male competitiveness rears its ugly head, and scuffles ensue. A couple of times, we’ve even had to clean some blood off of the ice — but not very often.
We can’t help it. It’s in our genes somewhere, right next to the gene for waging war, not asking for directions, and drinking cheap beer by the keg.

Grown men cannot help playing every sport as if their livelihood, honor, and reputation depend on it. I’ve seen it in hockey, golf, softball, pool, bowling, videogames, horseshoes, fishing, hunting and lawn jarts, to name a few areas. I doubt there is any aspect of daily living that men haven’t competed at, and taken it seriously.

Sometimes way too seriously.

But isn’t that what makes sports fun? What good is playing if something isn’t at stake? Competition is healthy. It’s fun. And it’s why we play.

It’s also why we watch. We take pride in OUR team, OUR team’s record, and OUR chances for the playoffs, series, tournament, etc. We take this ownership as if we are actually playing right along with our heroes on the ice, courts, arenas and fields.

It’s this sense of belonging, of being part of the group, of competing — win or lose — that makes us human.

While I know that we take it too far sometimes, I think our sense of competitiveness is good for us – it makes life interesting, fun, exciting, and meaningful.
So if you’re the group behind me at Manistee National and you think I’m playing a bit slow, go ahead and hit up on me.

But be ready.

I’m gonna hit it right back at ya.

Cean Burgeson can be reached at

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