Bronze Medal in Stilting

Bronze Medal in Stilting

Competence is compelling. I’ve been watching in wonder this week as the world’s finest athletes display their skills, some seem humanly impossible. But I have mixed feelings. To see what the human body is capable of is awesome and encouraging, but the word “cooperation” means a lot to me and it’s the opposite of “competition”. I’ve always had a hard time relating to the fierce rivalry it takes to be the best.

I’m told by my significant other that everyone is competitive in one way or the other. He insists, but I disagree. I simply don’t care if I win… at anything.

I’ll never forget how disappointed my dad was when I dropped out of the swim team as a teen. Having wet hair was, apparently, interfering with my budding interest in boys. Blow dryers in bathrooms did not exist then, and attention from the opposite sex far out-shadowed the satisfaction of winning swimming races… in my crazy teenage mind. It seems ridiculous now and I regret that youthful decision. The thing is, I was pretty good. Backstroke was my game and I was winning my races, so it’s puzzling to me now how I could let vanity keep me from the joys of winning. The answer is simple: competition never did grab me. My coach and my dad cared more than I did.

Oddly, I do like board games and get easily hooked by the computer kind. But the fun is in the playing, not the winning. Serious competitors are to be avoided. They nit-pick the rules, seldom crack a smile, and turn play time into work instead.

The excellence of Olympic athletes still draws me in, and my thoughts at the end are always the same: to be really good at anything takes an overpowering desire to excel… and lots of patience. I have neither. What I do have is the fleeting attention span of a gnat.

Still, I do admire competence. It’s the reason I hunt for the most experienced employee when I shop Home Depot. And it’s why I choose doctors of a certain age. Young can be extremely smart, but experience is what weeds out what does and doesn’t work in the real world.

The Olympics is a good reminder every two years that it takes more than a passing interest to excel at anything. So, with all those impossibly sculpted bodies in mind, I’m pumping more iron this week. Perhaps they’ll add Stilts in 2020!