Sport as Metaphor

Timothy - Parkville, Missouri
Entered on October 30, 2007

Many years ago, I had a very close friend who, like me, loved to ride his bicycle. We went on many cross-state tours, racking up hundreds of miles, all at a decent pace. A few years later, he was introduced to the world of competitive cycling and had no more time for our leisurely rides or even our friendship. He had been changed by glory of competition.

The basic goal of all sport is, ideally, a healthy competition between two opposing teams or individuals with the end result being one side or the other crowned as victor.

War is the ultimate competitive sport. Two sides fight each other, to the death, for domination, spoils, and bragging rights.

When I was in high school, there was a football cheer that went like this: “Blood makes the grass grow, kill, kill, kill!” What a pleasant picture this paints! Mangled and bleeding bodies strewn on the field, while the champions, no doubt bleeding themselves, leave the arena to high fives and whoops of victory.

This is implanted in our brains from the earliest age possible. What proud father wouldn’t want his son or daughter to rise through the ranks of sport to the apex (and the attendant money and fame it brings)? It is a mindless march to push your way to the front of the line at any cost. How many stories do we need to hear about fathers who pull a gun on a coach before we wise up to the idea that, just maybe, life itself does not hinge on being number one?

This concept of competition and victory at any cost is not unique to sport. Look at the business world: Enron is the prime example. Thousands of trusting employees lost their retirement savings because of the drive by a few executives to dishonestly push the company (and themselves) to the top of the corporate heap. This needn’t have happened had these corporate athletes competed fairly and legally. But it’s easier to cheat, steal, circumvent the rules and pray you don’t get caught.

Being first is pounded into us from our earliest cognations. In school, kids do whatever it takes to make those honor-roll grades, even if it involves cheating. Road rage is caused, for the most part, by the drive to be first. Everyone wants to be a winner. Our society’s mantra today is bigger, faster, and stronger, get to the top first. And Lord help you if you get in my way.

I’m not saying that competition is inherently bad, but when the drive to be number ones overrides all sense of what is right and proper, something is very wrong. I think it’s time for people to step back and slow down. The incessant drive to be first is killing our society. I believe what the world needs is a little more compassion and a large dose of humility. This would go a long way to restoring a morally healthy America.