Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Great Walker Race, Competition

If you hang around old folks you're familiar with the walker.  These remarkable devices reduce falls in  fall-prone elders.  They are light weight and provide more stability than canes.  Often the walker comes into a senior's life after a fall, as was the case with our ninety-year-old friend, Elisa.

I have to admire Elisa's spirit.  Recovering just two weeks after surgery for a broken hip, she is determined to get quickly back to normal and she doesn't want to be a bother for anybody.  I've experienced three hip fractures (in elderly relatives) and offered my wise and not very welcome counsel to Elisa.  Which she has consistently declined. 

Tuesday we took her to a follow up appointment with her surgeon and I interrupted her entry to the building to caution her about the hazards of "safety" mats common to commercial buildings.  Walkers tend to catch the edge of the mat causing trips and falls.  My interruption annoyed her.  She became (mildly) irate.  In the waiting room she sat with her back to me as a sign that my help wasn't needed.  She's been getting around on her own for ninety years and doesn't need my advice now.

Later departing the doctor's office into the large medical center foyer, Elisa charged forward navigating the door without assistance.  It happened that another walker-user, a young women perhaps seventy years old, was departing at the same time.  And for just a minute I thought it appeared that Elisa was racing this woman toward the main exit doors.  They were side by side and traveling as fast as the walkers would permit.

I soon realized it really was a race.  The younger woman gained the lead by a couple steps but then her  walker got tangled up with the safety mat at the exit door.  Exactly as I had tried to warn Elisa earlier. The younger woman didn't fall.  I didn't say "I told you so."  Elisa didn't say, "Oh, now I see what  you meant." 

I'm telling you about the great walker race, not to call attention to my astute understanding of one of life's hazards, but because it reflects the competitive spirit within the humans breast. A spirit present even the elderly humans.  Even in women.   

Gina and Cookie running for time.  You think they aren't
racing each other?
When I've interviewed Outlaw players for the website or my blog, I've asked about competitiveness.  I had always thought men were competitive,  women were nice.  All my interviewees acknowledged being competitive.  Some fiercely so. 

The competitive spirit was apparent in tryouts.  Theoretically candidates were running against the clock but it was obvious they were totally aware of the teammate in the adjoining lane.  And trying to beat her to the finish line.
Both players determined to push the other backwards.
In practice blocking drills the objective is to develop one's skills by hitting the blocking pad.  But in reality the objective is also to "win" against the other player.  The one holding the blocking pad is just as determined as the one practicing her block.  Sure they try hard because they're going to need the skill for games.  But the competitive spirit is evident as they make those pads pop. 

A battle of strength against strength, skill against skill.
In practice, in games, you'll see the competitive spirit.  Strength against strength, skill against skill.  Every play pits eleven against eleven.  Every play is a contest as players attempt to impose their will on others. 

It is this will to win backed up by commitment of body and mind that makes football so much fun to watch.

This and the photo below capture the intensity of the competition in football.  Eleven
players on either side of the ball.  One side determined to move the ball to the
right, the other determined to prevent  them.

This photo taken immediately after the preceding shot shows competitors asserting
their strength and will to win,  the battling for yardage.  Competing.

So here's a question for you.  Is all this competition good?  There are those in society who are worried that competition damages egos in youngsters.  They've suggested not keeping score in high school and junior high games.  What do you think about that?

And did you notice something I did that was kind of sneaky?  I recited a stereotype, that men are competitive and women not.  But just to see if you're paying attention, I suggested that women, instead of competitive were "nice."  Suggesting competitive isn't nice. 

I distanced myself from the stereotype by saying I had thought that way.  Because I certainly don't feel that way now. 

Competition brings out the best in people.  The best is good. 

I love competition!   People who don't want to keep score are... ah, be nice Dennis... those people are simply wrong. 

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