Archive for competition

Watching the Game

Posted in Culture, Economy, Media, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2009 by 99ppp

I never dreamed of playing pro hockey as a youngster, but enjoyed playing the game. I discovered I was a lousy skater and didn’t like waking up early on Saturdays. Eventually, I played street hockey with friends until my mid-teens. I’ve followed the Montreal Canadiens (or Habs as they are called informally) ever since I was a kid, even while my interest in actually playing hockey eroded. There is nothing very unusual about this, and likely its occurred to many fans of other sports. What intrigues me about watching and following sports is that it different from any other pasttime, it isn’t like being a fan of our favourite TV show. We can get euphoric and depressed when our favourite team wins or loses, my uncle used to literally cry when his pet soccer team lost some “important” game. In Montreal, hockey is a religion, and there is even a university course exploring such themes . Some goalies, past and present are often given nicknames alluding divinity (“Jesus” Price, St. Patrick). Some didn’t even wait for a championship to riot , just after a first round win.

Don’t get me wrong, watching hockey is a fine diversion during these frigid months of winter, yet recently Montreal has caught Habs fever, even former GM and player Serge Savard has opined that they are currently more popular than when they had won the four Stanley Cups. I often found the “Habs as religion” premise as fun hyperbole, something Hab fans tell one another to exaggerate the devotion to the team, and the craziness that surrounds the Canadiens, especially in the media. But I got a glimpse of it one night when we made plans to watch a game with some friends. I haven’t been to a sports bar for a few years and I thought it would be fun. It was a very cold night (under -20C), so we didn’t expect a large crowd at this particular bar. We arrived late and the place was PACKED, and everyone looked at us like we walked in the middle of Sunday service. The audacity of us coming in late to the sacrament, the rambuncious church that every pub has become, worshipping the Holy Habs. How dare us be late and expect to find a seat??!! We bolted and had a very pleasant evening at a good Thai restaurant closeby, no screen showing the game, and I didn’t miss it.

Some curious thoughts about this pastime of mine often invade my mind. Why do I watch this? I can dismiss it easily as just entertainment, but I feel its more than that.  Millionaire players payed by billionaire owners that often don’t even live here, playing for the highest bidder with specialized skills no one really needs. Do they represent us? People proudly wearing a team logo which is now just a corporate logo. Why aren’t I playing a game instead of watching others play? Isn’t that the way, not only in sports but in other endeavours, like the arts and music? We watch the skilled without developing our own skill, we are mesmerized by mastery too much to attempt competency. We cheer athletes, actors, musicians, politicians. We watch, but what to we do?  We absorb media, but do we create it?

Oh, the game is on. I wonder what’s the score.

Questioning Competition

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2009 by 99ppp

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with competition. I grudgingly admit that it is necessary in various contexts, but I question the level of importance that is often placed in our society. The ugly side of people often arises, and I believe the stigma of “losing”, keeps many of us from taking risks and challenging our conditioned patterns. We tread the same paths, follow formulas for “winning”, anything to avoid losing the game. I began this post with the intention to make a case against competition, but I can’t in good conscience. Competition can wean out poor ideas in favour of better ones, and also gives us the ability to test our skills against a worthy opponent. In the business sphere, competition allows us a range of products without a monolithic monopoly. Yet I wonder how much energy we waste upon defeating our opponents, and in the case of war and peace, at the cost of human lives. Cooperation seems to be more energy efficient.

Can there be competition without ego?

I’ve been an avid club level chess player for the longest time. I was playing a much higher rated opponent in an online correspondence chess site, and I was grateful since I often don’t get to play such an opponent. Wanting to test my skill, I made highly deliberate moves, always checking for errors, giving this game a greater amount of time for analysis, and seeing how long I could last before he would crush me. I found the game was fairly even after a substantial amount of moves. After a while, my opponent accused me of using a computer to cheat. I assured him that I was not, just giving the game a greater amount of attention that I usually would, but he insisted I was cheating. “Look at your rating”, he said. The game stopped being fun. I told him that and resigned in disgust. I stopped playing chess, a game I love for a few months after that unpleasant incident. I re-contextualized the game in my mind, as two people exchanging puzzles in order for me to have the stomach to play again.

If one wins a game, but loses goodwill, what is really won?

Dallas — The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”(LINK )

There is no honour or integrity in crushing one’s opponents, especially in this case where the losing team is a formed from a school that specializes in learning disabilities. This “victory at all costs” mentality is pervasive, and hard to shake as it even permeates foreign policy, as the pro-war propaganda machine often mocked the voices for peace and restraint as those who didn’t want to “win the war”.

Explorations into competition

I will explore further topics on competition, the next time on professional sports fans, and competition in the context of the Prisoner’s Dilemma,  business, science innovations, and ideas (intellectual property) in future posts. There are many examples and expressions when it comes to “The Game”, yet perhaps not enough on whether The Game is worth playing. I will also explore cooperation, and why the concept seems elusive to so many.