The other day, I was sitting in my psychology class getting ready to participate in a review activity similar to Jeopardy. The class was split up into four teams. What happened next was one of the most frustrating moments of my life. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disgusted. What was even more concerning was that my classmates didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. So what was this repulsive occurrence that happened during an innocent psychology review activity?
One of my teammates, perhaps the most knowledgeable psychology student on our team, turned to the group and said, “My goal for today is to not come in last place.” As soon as I heard that, I looked around to see my classmates’ reactions. There was no sign of disgust, no sign of offense taken, no sign of disagreement. A couple of them even laughed and nodded in accordance. I heard somebody chime in, “That’s a great goal,” but there was no sarcasm in her voice. She was being sincere; she had adopted the same goal. I was furious.
Why was I so angry? Why did I care so much? There were no prizes, no rewards for coming in first, or even second. There weren’t even bragging rights. Nobody cared who came in first. They only cared about how fast the hands on the clock were moving. Your intellect wasn’t measured by what place you came in during the class Jeopardy game. This was a simple classroom activity designed to help us review arguably boring material in a semi-fun manner. Why not just relax and have some fun? Because I have more fun when I win and so do a lot of other people.
Everything looks nicer when you win. The girls are prettier. The cigars taste better. The trees are greener. — Billy Martin
Unfortunately, I did not say anything to this second-to-last-place-seeking champion. If I did, I would have been met with remarks along the lines of “Relax, it’s just a game” or “Calm down, we just want to have fun,” which wouldn’t have bothered me; they just would have made me a little more frustrated than I already was. In today’s society, competitiveness is viewed as a negative trait more often than not, which is a shame.
Recently, I had a baseball game. I played well, reaching base three times and contributing defensively. A lot of people would have been satisfied with a similar performance, but I wasn’t. We lost. The whole car ride home I kept wondering what could have happened if I reached base in my fourth at-bat. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun. I was able to play the game I love with my friends in beautiful weather. But my day would have been that much better if my team could have pulled out a victory. Winning is fun and not many people can deny that.
Sports provide me the opportunity to be around people who, for the most part, share the same views about winning as me. On our high school baseball team, if you don’t love winning and you don’t care about winning, one of two things happens: you either don’t play or you’re not on the team.
When I introduced the story, I mentioned that I wasn’t surprised to hear those words come out of someone’s mouth. Losing is becoming an accepted tradition. At times, it is even considered to be “cooler” when you don’t try hard and lose rather than give your best effort and win. People set low goals because they hate to be disappointed, but how will you ever amount to anything if you don’t challenge yourself?
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. — Michelangelo