The Will to Win

Remember how I hate this time of year?  I would hate it even more if it weren’t for the fact that January and February is when dodgeball season occurs. I’m thinking of rose-among-the-thorn-type metaphors – Similes?  Analogies?  I’ve never really known the difference – that aptly describe what having dodgeball during the dog days of winter means to me, but I’m failing to come up with anything sufficiently dramatic.  How about:  “Having dodgeball to look forward to during January and February is like losing your will to live, but not killing yourself primarily because you have a decent life insurance policy that you know your wife is going to use to buy a gold-plated dog jacuzzi.  And also a little bit because you look forward to playing dodgeball.”

Wait.  This is better:  “Having dodgeball to look forward to during January and February is like someone sticking 500 tiny needles into your eyeball.  But then they pull one out.”  Nailed it.

This year marks the 5th year I’ve played dodgeball in a charity sports league.  10% of me likes the dodgeball, and 90% of me is just remarkably and preternaturally charitable.  We’ve been playing for a while now, and we have one division title to our name.  Last night was the last match of the regular season, and although it looks like we made the playoffs, I’m a little sad that the season will soon be over.

dodgeball 9
The 2006 squad:  What they lacked in experience they made up for in enthusiasm, heart, and creepy single dudes.

I love dodgeball, and not just because it’s something to do at a time of the year when there’s nothing to do.  First and foremost, I love competitive sports.  New York is a hard place to play sports, and as I’ve gotten busier and more out of shape I’ve kind of forgotten how fun playing sports is.  Now, you may be smirking at the idea of people competing seriously at a sport as inherently silly as dodgeball.  I will wipe that smirk off your face with a big red ball traveling 90 MPH.  Actually I won’t, because I can’t throw very hard, but there are plenty of people in the league who could. 

Dodgeball is serious business around this league.  There is plenty of trash talk, arguments with the refs, and screaming at underperforming teammates.  In fact, Melissa opted out of playing for the first couple years we were dating due to the . . . intensity that characterizes our team.  Actually, that intensity really only comes from the women on our team.  Mean bunch of women.  Just really terrifying.

The 2007 squad:  I’d like to make you believe that I’m wearing a different t-shirt than the rest of the time because I’m the goalie, but that’s not true.  You wouldn’t think it was weird that I chose to wear a different t-shirt if you knew just how small the league uniforms run.

Beyond the competition, another thing I really enjoy about dodgeball is seeing grown men and women cheat.  At dodgeball.  I never get tired of watching this, and I especially enjoy it when they go to great and sneaky lengths to do it.  Watching a 29 year-old dude get hit by a ball, and then walk toward the side line, and then kind of slow down right before he leaves the court, and then just sort of hang out in no man’s land between his team’s bench and the court, and then kind of sidle back a little onto the court warms my heart.  Every one has their price, I suppose.  Mine is just a little higher than a win in charity sports league dodgeball.  I’ve never been able to make up my mind as to whether cheating in a low stakes contest is more repugnant than cheating in a high stakes one.  But I am certain that it’s more fun to watch.

Watching this phenomenon has made me realize that there are two kinds of competitiveness.  The first is a function of the stakes involved; the higher the stakes, the greater the desire to win.  Most people would play a game harder with $1 million on the line than they would with $100 on the line.  Perfectly rational.

The 2009 squad:  Once again playing goalie.

The second type of competitiveness is the desire to win solely for the sake of winning.  It’s the characteristic that distinguishes great athletes from good ones – and that leads people to cheat in charity league dodgeball. This type of competitiveness varies from person to person, and for the most part seems to be an innate characteristic.  For example, Kook is a very talented, natural athlete.  He’s tall, fast, can jump, is in great shape, and has good hand-eye coordination.  You’d think you would want him on your team for virtually any sport.  And as far as wanting a teammate who is a great guy who you can count on for some first-rate pranks and jokes, you’d be right.  But as far as winning a family volleyball game through intense effort and focus and concentration goes, you may want to scout out some of your older nieces.

On the other end of the spectrum you have my friend Ron, who at this very moment is trying to read this blog post faster than you are. I have some of this type of competitiveness in me, but not to the degree I’ve seen in Ron and others.  I like to win, but losing doesn’t ruin my week.  With one exception:  I hate losing to the ultra-competitive types so much that I morph into one of them whenever I compete against them.  For example, when we lived together Ron and I never once just rode our scooters home from being out on the town together.  Every single ride home turned into a harrowing race involving running red lights and going down one-way streets the wrong way.

Under normal circumstances I would have just chosen not risking life in a wheelchair over winning a meaningless scooter race, but I hate to lose to Ron so badly that paralysis seemed like a small price to pay for the chance to beat him.  And beat him I did.  Over and over and over again.  And then some more.  And it felt sooooo good. There’s no prize so sweet as beating someone who hates to lose. Which is why I show up to dodgeball every week.

This entry was posted in Competitiveness, Dodgeball, Melissa, Ron, Vespa, Winter. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Will to Win

  1. Christian says:

    “And as far as wanting a teammate who is a great guy who you can count on for some first-rate pranks and jokes, you’d be right. But as far as winning the game through intense effort and focus and concentration goes, you may want to scout out some of your older nieces.”

    lolol. True story. I blame it on ADD, which is decreasing as I get into my 30’s, so I ask that you give me another chance. Trust me, 30’s Kook is a different animal than 20’s Kook. I’m ready to roll.

    And I’m surprised you say I’m fast in light of the infamous Plymouth Beach Footrace Of 95, in which the sand composition and strong tailwind gave great advantage to the Big Guy.

    Dodgeball sounds awesome. I love dodgeball.

  2. Eliza says:

    So how do you feel about January and February? because I just feel like your being a little ambiguous. So funny and so true about being competitive just to beat someone who is ultra competitive. I never really realized that before but when you said that I realized I totally do that with Josh and dumb little card games, normally I don’t have one competitive bone in my body, as you’ve seen, but when it comes to playing too confident Josh, I will do anything to beat him at phase 10. (how’s that for a run on sentence?)

  3. Andrea W. says:

    LOL, boy I would love to be a fly on the wall for Eliza and Josh’s heated Phase 10 games. Seriously, though I know exactly what you mean. Brennan and I are both really competitive and he’s found a sure-fire way to mess with my head. Whenever I’m beating him at something he’ll start claiming I’m cheating. We both know he’s totally full of it, but I HATE cheating and cheaters and it makes me so mad when he accuses me of cheating I kind of fall apart.

    The part Christian quoted had me dying of laughter. Christian, just because I was laughing doesn’t mean I agree with him, it was just dang funny.

  4. maweesa says:

    “On the other end of the spectrum you have my friend Ron, who at this very moment is trying to read this blog post faster than you are.”

    LOL.. I can just see him now reading it as fast as he can, and those scootsies races… those are pretty funny memories.

  5. maweesa says:

    oh, i forgot to mention how freaking cute lyla looks in that pic.. she was so little then.

  6. Ryan says:

    I really feel like dodgeball is one of those imperfect sports that could be a lot of fun with a few tweaks. As it is, it’s only slightly better than Quidditch. Fun game, but so full of potential.

    The best thing we normal people can do with the ultra-competitive people around us is to find them an ultra-competitive person to marry. That locks them in a cycle of competition that seems to energize them and lets them leave the rest of us mercifully alone.

  7. Troy says:

    If you’ve never had your wife throw a Monopoly board in your face with fake money falling like confetti, you’re just not trying hard enough.

    So true, by the way, about the stakes being higher when you sense someone is ultra competitive. I play indoor soccer this time of year — a sport in which my experience boils down to a handful of P-days — and I always seem to find Mr. Socceroo and try to get under his skin. Last week we came back from a 3 goal deficit to beat a serious team and I thought there was going to be a rumble. Hilarious.

    Davis, who would you most want to beat and what would you want to beat them at? Think of beating Kemp in a sprint with hurdles…

  8. Davis says:

    Kook, I’ll believe it when I see it. The Plymouth race merits a blog post of its own.

    Eliza, Melissa and I had the same thing going in Tetris for a while. Bad for the marriage.

    Ang, I’m disappointed in you. When it comes to the ease with which I can get into someone’s head, Brennan is at the top of the list. And you’re telling me HE gets in YOUR head? You can do better.

    Melissa, way to find the Lyla angle.

    Ryan, you are wrong about dodgeball. Played the way we play, it is a blast.

    Troy, that’s a great question. There are certain people I just absolutely love to beat (and hate to lose to). These people include: Kemp, Ron, Finn Dog and Peter (volley tennis only), and the red team in our league. In a fantasy world, I’d beat Kemp at a combined sprint/math-a-thon, Ron at roller hockey, Finn Dog and Peter at volley tennis, and the red team at a new form of dodgeball where the winner executes the loser on the spot.

  9. ron says:

    lolololol. i’m not sure i’ll ever get over that one loss. you remember. i took riverside. you and melissa took broadway. i new victory was finally mine. even as i approached the red light at 97th and riverside. and then my world started to unravel. first i saw a cop car parked on 97th with an officer in the front seat staring at me with eyes that said “don’t even think about it.” running the light wasn’t an option. and then you and melissa rounded the corner at 97th and i knew it was over. you cruised through the intersection giving me that annoying wave where you just stick your hand up and wiggle your fingers, melissa had her ams wrapped around you and was dying of laughter. and to add insult to injury, as you passed you gave me the dreaded “beep beep” with your horn. that smug sign that announced victory was yours.

    our friendship will never be the same.

  10. Davis says:

    Ron: I mean what I am about to say very, very literally: That was one of the top 20 best moments of my life.

  11. Natalie says:

    Wait. Is that dog wearing a grey jersey?

  12. maweesa says:

    ron, davis and i were talking about that VERY moment earlier today… i can still picture your face as we drove by you and honked… SO FUNNY.. you need to come back when it gets warm so we can have more races. on second thought, if you do, i’m sure one of us will die.. so maybe just stay in utah.

  13. Danica says:

    Three things:
    1. Love that you called yourself out on the different colored shirt.
    2. I also love watching adults cheat when they don’t have to. I swim laps at the YMCA on Monday nights with some other washed up (oh man, the puns are rolling for me today) college swimmers and I’m always amazed at the people who cheat – stop early and turn around before the end, pushing off the bottom, pulling the lane lines. They’re adults and they’re there, as far as I can ascertain, by their own will and volition. Makes no sense.
    3. I also love those people who take competitiveness to another level. Once I played a couple rounds of racquetball with said type of person, while pregnant. He hit the ball with such force that it almost knocked me over after hitting me in the head. Just means to an end. 🙂

  14. Andrea says:

    “Actually, that intensity really only comes from the women on our team. Mean bunch of women. Just really terrifying.”

    I know when you say women, you are just meaning one woman – me. thanks for going easy on me. I just really, really hate to lose. I use to have this track tshirt that said, “you have to love to win, more than you hate to run.” that became my mantra. i kept running track, not because i loved it, but because i kept winning.

    very few things taste sweeter than victory.

  15. andrea says:

    btw Ryan – Dodgeball is one of the best sports ever! That instant gratification you get when you see the crestfallen look on your opponent’s face when you catch their throw or when you angle the ball just right and nail them, that feeling is priceless.

    Davis – you better bring that same competitive edge that allowed you to beat Ron in a scooter race to our playoff game. If it helps you, we will be playing the red team and i know how you love to beat the red team. Get ready to wipe that smug look off their faces.

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