The Three Strikes of Competition
Competition is a huge part of my life.
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that. This quote by Derek Jeter describes me on a daily basis: “You race down the street, I want to beat you. If we play checkers, I want to win. I could be playing my grandmother, and I want to win. I have a competition problem.
” Ever since I was young, I was never satisfied with a loss. As soon as I could, I threw out my second place medal from a tournament that we lost in the finals last year. When I was younger, I refused to play with anyone that went ‘easy’ on me in a game. But mostly, I despise participation medals. I hate the idea of them.
You go out every day, and work as hard as you can at one particular skill, while the opponent could be sitting on a couch watching TV, and you both receive the same exact medal at the end of the season. It’s like communism for little kids’ sports. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world. And that’s why I quit softball when I was seven. I loved softball.
I loved being able to hit the ball and run as fast and as far as possible without being tagged out. I loved trying to be sneaky enough to steal a base. I loved making great plays that made myself and my parents proud. The only problem was: I just hated the rules. Basically, as a second grader, if you hit the ball on the first pitch, great, run to first or maybe even second. The same goes for second, third, or fourth pitch.
And the same goes for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. That was the first strike for me. Second strike. As a second grader, I loved the idea of playing first base. They were almost always involved in every play, and my dad used to play there, too.
Also, since outs were rare for second grade softball, I had the best chance of getting someone out, which would benefit our team. The game that I was about to play was going to be my best opportunity to make an important play in my very short softball career. It was the second inning and their third hitter was up to bat. My dad, mom and sister were watching that game, and my sister never came, so I wanted to do something special for them. The pitcher threw the first pitch and the girl hit a high pop up. Keep in mind that we were only second graders, so this pop up felt like it was as high as the Empire State Building.
It finally started to come down towards the Earth after what felt like forever and it was heading towards me. I was so excited to get an opportunity to catch it and do something impressive. I moved myself in a position directly under the ball and put my glove up, never taking my eye off of it. Finally, I watched it fall into my glove. I started jumping up and down and everyone started clapping for me. As mean as it sounds, I was so excited for that girl to have to go back to their bench because I finally had caused an out.
However, despite the rules of the game, the umpire said, “No big deal, just go to first base anyway.” I don’t know if I’ve ever been so frustrated. I hated the fact that my amazing accomplishment was reversed into something that would benefit the other team. That was the second strike for me. Third Strike: participation medals.
As I said before, I think they’re pointless. At the end of the season we only lost one game, and our team was first in the league. Even though it doesn’t sound like that much of an accomplishment now, I was ecstatic. Softball wasn’t my full time sport, so it meant a lot to win still the league. We had a softball dinner about a month later where each team got to celebrate and remember their accomplishments. Also, each team would get called up to the front and receive their medals.
When it was our turn to go up to receive our medals the director of the league announced, “And here come the first place Green Machines!” We all shot up cheering and ran to the front of the room. He opened the box full of our medals and pulled out silver, shiny… participation medals. I stopped cheering. I couldn’t understand why we were getting the same medal as someone who got last place. We got the same medal as the teams that needed eight strikes in order to hit the ball. We got the same medals as the teams that forgot to bring their mitts one day to a game.
It was almost embarrassing. That was my third strike. I was out. I quit softball that year. Competition is a huge part of my life. My life revolves around it.
I play competitive soccer and basketball. And, like Derek Jeter, when I play cards against my grandma, I never let her win.