Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Competition Gene

("Psychobabble" follows...)

Do we humanoid-types have an inbred craving to be a winner? Is it a "learned" attitude, because of the competitive, free-enterprise society we live in? Do we hate to see somebody out ahead of us?

Is it stronger in some people than in others? Do men have it more than women?

When I was a kid, I was never on sports teams, and I hated board games and stuff like that. (I still do.) In retrospect, I'm not sure if it was because I didn't care about winning and losing, or whether I dreaded losing so bad, that I didn't want to compete. (I was a "band geek," and competed for first chair.)

Nowadays, if I'm riding my bicycle up the street and see another cyclist out ahead of me, I'll pick up the pace a bit, just to see if I can "reel 'em in." Likewise, if I see a cyclist in my little rear-view mirror, I'll turn the wick up a notch or to, just to see if I can maintain that out-in-front position. Sometimes it's a cyclist with obviously-superior abilities, and he seemingly effortlessly reels me in and breezes on by. (I, of course, rationalize that he's half my age and 75 pounds lighter - obviously he's better! It must REALLY hurt when that half-my-age guy isn't able to reel in the middle-age fat guy!)

I usually ride alone. When I go on a ride with friends, it frequently (almost always?) becomes a "race" - always instigated by others - at least for the last mile or so. Which puts me to huffin' and puffin' more than I would have been otherwise. I've heard women say that they don't like to ride with men for that very reason. So perhaps women aren't as competitive by nature.

You see evidence of it among drivers, too. It's amusing, in a warped sort of way, to see a bunch of motorists stuck in the bumper-to-bumper... and even though there's no relief in sight, some of them will be revving their motors and riding the bumper of the car directly in front (15mph slipstreaming?) and swerving from lane to lane in a vain effort to improve their position. They think they're "Dale Junior" or something.

And my "car observations" kinda invalidate my "sex theory" (that men are more competitive). Because I'm tellin' ya - Hell hath no fury like a woman in a big SUV who gets cut off. They road-rage with the best of 'em!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, we're competitive. It seems like any time I play a friendly game of volleyball or softball, "that guy" shows up who isn't content to play the game and just enjoy sunshine, fresh air, and good company; He needs to crush the competition, to establish himself as the alpha, and to run his mouth the whole time.

Sadly, this over-competitiveness kept me off biking for years. My father is "that guy", and if he wasn't going all-out on the MTB with a continuous commentary (As I, a newbee, struggled to keep up on his old, ill-fitting bike), he wasn't having a good time. I finally got into biking (road and MTB) on my own, and I can hold my own with him now on my bikes no problem. His approach definitely put me off the sport for a long time though.

There's probably a lesson there when trying to coax new riders into the sport.

Anonymous said...

While it may be a gender-related thing, I do know some very competitive females.

Also, I know one family (bikeboy might also know this family) that had to stop playing board games because it got so competitive that people started cheating.

There seems to me (after years as a scout leader) that there's a difference between just being competitive -- making everything a contest or race -- and needing to win so badly that everything has to be a contest that I must win -- and I'll cheat if that's what it takes to win. That's the attitude that really bothers me.