Addicted to Competition

Recently I read a quote that I have heard many times before.

“The rest of the world has culture, America has sports.”

Apart from the annoying thing that it is to have the United States just claim the whole continent; “Even someone born in the Patagonia is still American” the US has a real hard time getting their heads around what the culture here is. I mean, not like it is not annoying enough that American sports claims to have the “World” champions in so many sports. The more I try to explore the topic, the more it comes back to competition, individualism and in some extreme ways to look at it as narcissism.

The other conversations I have been having recently lead me to believe that more and more people don’t understand what it takes or don’t want to become adults. It is an interesting concept and I have seen it all my life. The taglines for this blog at one point was “just a child stuck in adulthood.” A lot of people told me that I had to grow up fast, or that I grew up too fast.

Considering myself an adult is something recent to me, and marriage did not do it… what actually did it was having to face the death of those around me and when the people I consider adults started to look at me for answers or advice. It was a weird feeling, and honestly I don’t know if I really like being an adult all that much. Responsibility is a tricky thing, and most of the time not a pleasant one.

Trying to anthropomorphize the United States to make a point seems valid in the discussion. If we look at the 60s and 70s as the teenage years, why does it seem like the country never came of age?

Is it because we have a nation of children that want to be taken care of at every corner? or is it because being a responsible adult is just not part of the fabric of this country any longer.

I think one of the basic principles in the culture of Colombia comes down to a simple proverb,

“El vivo vive del bobo” a good translation is almost impossible, “The clever lives of the simple minded (or dumb)” just does not encapsulate all the meaning that the phrase has for those that group up with it. It begins to teach you at a very young age that you will be taken advantage of unless you wise up. It does not have anything to do with competition though.

I was already a teenager when I moved to the US and not growing up in an average American household I have no idea what little proverbs were used to teach kids lessons. I do know what Hollywood always portrays… the rise of the underdog. The geek has to beat the quarterback at something to get the girl right?

I do think competition is good, but I don’t think it should be the only way to interact with other people. I have seen it ruin many of my relationships. Compromise is laughed at because there always has to be a loser.

I don’t hate sports, I actually love that many sports do teach a lot of lessons to kids about teamwork and sportsmanlike conduct. But what about those people that don’t get to play sports, where do they pick up those skills?

The next topic I want to discuss is chess and my love of that game. Even though the game is all about beating your opponent I think it does a lot for not just critical thinking but teaching healthy competition. Failure should not deter you from trying, it should make you want to try harder.

Is American culture just a mirror of what sports culture is like? only one winner, only one “World” champion?

3 Responses to Addicted to Competition

  1. America has generally had one major cultural difference than most other counties. Individualism. It’s built into the very fabric that makes us American. Whether we’re born into it or immigrate towards it, the simple fact is that thebasic idea here is that each one of us is ultimately responsible for our outcome. Sure it’s more convoluded than that, but the idea of the American Dream basically comes down to individual success. It’s not about the family model or whether you come from a rich family or a poor family – though they can and often affect outcome. I think we’ve agreed that one of the biggest difference is the family culture. Where elsewhere it is normal for everyone to co-exist in the same household for generations, this does not exist here. Not only was it a personal desire for me to become self-sufficient on my own at 18, as a parent now, I expect my childen to do the same when they come of age.

    Sports and competition are a direct result of this idea. It’s a microcosm of personal economic achievement. I can run faster jump higher throw farther and earn more than you. That success translates from our childhood to adulthood. Whether you excel on the field or you excel in the classroom, those who are competitive growing up typically are successful as individual adults. Whereas in other cultures, co-existing with your parents here is more of a burden than the norm. Sports are the world, athletesthe individual. Sure I’m a Bulls fan but moreso for Jordan than the team itself. In that sense I think we all desire to be the Jordon of our world. And that’s why our ideology is for the underdog. Regardless of who we are, if we strive for success we can achieve it. And even though we may have help along the way, it’s an individual achievement.

    I think ultimately because America is better off than much of the world, we spend less time of struggling for survival thus allowing more time to fabricate a struggle on the field. Or in our case, a competition of strategy on the chessboard.

    Checkmate.

  2. Call it check, I don’t think you have achieved mate here. Its dumb to sacrifice your queen unless you already have a plan that does not use it.

    I think if your comment applied to schools in that sense of making the achieve excellent through individualism, American schools would rank better amongst the world. I think America does not have the smartest people in the world (you and me excluded of course) anymore.

    I think the culture of individualism is really not achieving how it should, instead it is making more and more self entitled people and not enough individual achievers.

  3. I do not disagree. Individual responsibility is slowly being replaced by entitlement and instant gratification. The American Dream has slowly been domonized by its outcome being labeled as unfair. This the multitude of the younger generation that has enjoyed the fruits of the labor of those before them fail to contribute to the continued greatness of the society as a whole. This is where they fail to realize that the success of the individual helps contribute to the success as a whole. Instead they have become accustomed to expecting a trophy for last place or simple participation. Should the trend continue, participation will no longer be necessary. You’ll receive a trophy for just surviving birth.

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