competition

Glory or gory days

A little red flag popped up on my facebook page last night terribly exciting for this digital introvert. I was in the middle of writing my previous post and I had momentary smirk as the strange synergy of the universe seemed to be toying with my sense of irony. Someone was inviting me to play a game of football tomorrow. Back to kicking balls, something I spent many hours doing in my youth and was pretty good at it. Of course this is all in the past, in fact my last real club game was last century. As I was pondering my response – which could only be a yes or a no, I wanted to understand the simultaneous excitement, dread, and curiosity. It’s a division 3 game and apparently won’t be that serious…yeah right. Problem is my default setting has always been extremely competitive at least when it comes to football/soccer. The other is my aging body that while reasonably fit has done nothing of the explosive kind in so long I am worried about my fragile scar tissued hamstrings blowing. I’m also not sure how I will feel playing for fun but I figure it will be a good litmus test of identity. The beautiful game brought out a bit of an ugly side of me long ago so perhaps I will allow myself to be reborn tomorrow. It’s a 10am kick off which in the old days would be like 6am, but will feel more like 3pm now, so at least I will be awake. I’ve dug out my boots, I did upgrade about 10 years ago for coaching so at least they are from this century!

Maybe I just need to remember why I started playing in the first place and why I fell in love with the game. It’s a team sport, it requires multiple skills and ways to use your body. It’s simple and you cannot hide behind your gear or equipment, if you make a mistake, you do everything you can to fix it yourself. The ball doesn’t pick sides, both teams are using the same ball.

If there is one other memory I hope stays the same then I hope it will be that the bar will be open after and asparagus rolls at the after match function. Stay tuned for the over exaggerated post match blog full of colourful hyperbole.

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Hard to swallow

I often wonder if I met someone from another world or a parallel universe what I would find difficult explaining to them. It’s a nice yardstick for checking myself in relation to life. Competitive eating would rank pretty highly on my list. It might just be the weird head space I’m in currently but after a good night sleep I doubt my feelings will change much. I can only watch for a couple of seconds before I truly just want to scream ‘slow down you’re eating too fast’. Not only is the speed at which these ‘athletes’ eat outrageous the kind of food that is downed isn’t exactly nutritious. It might have a history of some kind heck most weird things can be traced to something if you find the right social anthropologist to share a pie with (or 40), but does that make it worthy of becoming a sport? Maybe the word eating needs to be dropped because it isn’t really consuming food for the purpose of fueling the body. Even the word ‘food’ could be dropped given most of the contents of a hot dog are not grown in any way shape or form.

What would I say if I had to explain it? Maybe I could just shrug my shoulders and say it is simply part of the strange and bizarre relationships human beings have with their bodies and the rituals we have invented to make our lives meaningful. Then I might politely guide my visitor to a local bar for their next lesson. I really need some sleep – now a competitive sleeper might be something I’d sign up for right now.

There’s some food for thought…just give it some time to digest.

Games represent our common wealth

Our flag might be the topic of much debate for some but when I see that black shirt, singlet, togs or lycra onesie with the silver fern I recognise a symbol that has etched its way into our cultural heritage through sport. But competitive sport can polarise people and I suppose being brought up with my parents coaching gymnastics and then squash it has formed an integral part of my identity.

But with the commonwealth games I feel there is an opportunity to perhaps reflect on the rich diversity of sport that spans gender, age, culture and disability. This is the place where lawn bowls boasts a team of youth and ‘experience’ blond locks beside silver haired foxes outwitting opponents with strategy, skill and determination. Where para swimmers sit in readiness alongside every other swimmer with nerves and anxiety matched with excitement and pride. For something other than rugby and netball to take centre stage in our collective sporting psyche. Watching athletes congratulate each other after giving it their all but perhaps not quite making it – that is the spirit of competition where regardless of the flag that is raised pushing each other to strive to the next level is what I enjoy.

The common wealth of sport is in danger of being lost in the market place of commercial and professional sport where athletes are brands, billboards and pawns in the global economy. Of course they train hard and at a personal level athletes have desires, hopes and dreams and still represent strong personal values. However the obsession and personal investment or association with the success of teams does boarder on sociopathic at times – but don’t try telling these people it is just a game!

So lets not get distracted by medal tables, yes they offer a comparison of relative success but they do not show the values and potential worth of that common and uniquely human drive to better ourselves and each other to be the best that we can be. This is an opportunity to join in appreciating the full spectrum of physical performance and see bodies move in extraordinary ways and I for one am enjoying watching people explode with joy, pride and ecstacy or collapse in sheer and utter pain and suffering.

But lets be honest if you are a kiwi – black and silver should always beat green and gold.