I wrote this a while back and thought it would be great to share as we head into another race season. – Heath
Racing is about laying all opinions aside. It's about gauging your performance against the rest of the world. No guessing. No argument. Just results. Just the elapsed time between the last beep and the finish line. Do you have what it takes? To be the best? Can you beat the competition? It raises an interesting question that has taken me to different places than I expected... Competition, what is it, really?
I hear the phrase "he's so competitive" and for some reason it always gives me pause. It makes me think of Type-A, driven folks with short tempers and shorter attention spans that are always trying to prove to everyone else that they're better than them. Anybody else out there feel this way? The Keeping up with the Joneses mentality? In cycling he's the guy that always has to stay a half wheel in front of everyone, even on the most casual of rides. He's the guy who always has to have the better story at the party, do the better flip off the cliff jump, have the newest phone, best car. Sound familiar? I've come across many of those guys, and I've been asking myself, what makes one that way? Is it how they're wired? Is it a learned practice? Do they feel like they have to prove something to the world? Well, I've decided to do my own personal study on the matter and my first step in doing so brought about some pretty interesting findings...
The first step was to look up the meaning of the word competitive. I have my own version of the word as many of us do, but the way it's used in most conversations these days is not the true definition of the word. Todays version of the word "competition" makes me think of a high school football coach screaming at kids to be better, hit harder or run faster than the kids on the other team. Like the coach from the Kobra Kai gym in the film, Karate Kid. Soooo...stop me if I'm wrong but these athletes have taken the level of competition to another place, a darker place. Nowadays when someone makes a play in sports they have to rub it in or talk trash to degrade or demean the efforts of their opponents. They jeer and slam their chests and scream with the intensity of someone that has just killed an opponent to please the crowd. The "Anything goes as long as you get the "W" and the glory that goes with it attitude" has become one of domination and intimidation.
This is all the more interesting when you learn that the true definition of the word competition is summed up like this- "when two or more folks get together, the level of ability is raised exponentially.". In other words, if you ran as hard as you could around the block by yourself, your fastest time would still be slower than your average time around the block with someone else running with you at a similar level of ability. This is the true definition of the word competition, "to raise the ability of all involved in a like achievement". I don't know about you, but if that's the real definition of the word, then I would be honored to have someone call me competitive. But that's where I've become confused. If that's competition, then what is it that most of us call competition? What is the word for the behavior we find so often displayed in professional sports? Which word defines the tactics, attitudes and the behavior found at the highest level in sports right now?
That's what I found to be a big surprise, the term as we know it is not competition, but WAR.
That's right, WAR.
The difference between the two looks a lot like this: Running around the block with a kid your ability = competition. Running around the block with the school bully that tells you, "I'm gonna kill you if you win or if you lose so you better get ready to die." = War. So, I have found myself in a quandary. Is it the nature of men primarily to declare war and act as though their lives are on the line even in the midst of a friendly group ride? Is it believable that all of us have found ourselves in the clutches of war albeit in a less blood thirsty level than our governments? And does that mean if we were in the position, would we not be waging war on our "friends" in more terrible ways? Are we really all that different than the people we choose to call our enemies? The fiends of history, the destroyers of families and nations? Would we find ourselves in their positions if we had their power? Am I going too far with this?
Is this why we're so ready to rage when someone cuts us off on the freeway? Ready to burst at the seams when things don't go our way? When your boy posts a faster time than you on Strava? Is that feeling of intimidation or domination deep within you? Or is it right under the surface, bubbling over whenever you get the opportunity to ride your bike or drive your car or play basketball? Right there ready to take out the first person that crosses your path? Not real? Not true? How many times have you stopped for a fallen competitor during your race run or helped up a competitor in any sport? How many times?
Do we need to re-examine why we race? Why we ride? Why we need to be better than the next guy? Are you going out there to achieve your best, or to be better than the next guy?
Just something to think about...I know why I roll. do you?