“Good game,” we’d all say as we slapped hands together. Every little league game. Every soccer match. Usually not after an impromptu scrimmage in gym class. But basically, every time we played a formal match — one in which we all had uniforms with the team name emblazoned on them — we’d line up afterward, winning and losing team, doing the high five and the monotonous drone “good game, good game, good game.”
Were we half-assing it? Sure. Some of my teammates and rivals both had a perfunctory way of saying “good game” that made it sound positively sarcastic. As though it were coerced sportsmanship.
And frankly… it kinda was. We were children.
Sometimes people are a little surprised to know I played team sports as a kid. And I don’t blame them. I was primarily a very clumsy child. And as an adult, I’m not much for competition. I’m just not. True, I’m driven and hard working. Have been known to push myself a little much sometimes. But that’s me versus me. I’m not much of a fan of competing.
I played sports because my father wanted me to. And I loved him — and wanted his approval. Plus, the games were fun. Figuring out strategy. Moving my body. Getting that exercise.
I wasn’t a stellar athlete (although I was a pretty decent softball pitcher once upon a time). I went on to focus more on music, debate, and writing. These all, sadly, seemed to involve competition, too.
But I went through the motions of it, even though I’m not a big fan of competition. Winning doesn’t appeal since I don’t get much of a rise out of besting others, and I will often feel bad if I win, and the other person feels bad. Losing isn’t great either, for obvious reasons.
And I’m especially not a fan of poor sportsmanship, when someone lashes out because they lost.
I Miss Thinking Adults Were Mature
It’s been a curious trend, as I’ve gotten older and older. I sort of expected the way that adults were pushing us children to be good sports that… well, adults would be better sports when it came to winning and losing than children.
But sadly, that hasn’t been the case. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered grown people who should know better being less than gracious losers. Less than gracious winners.
This has happened on the small stage — with people that basically just I know or a handful of others do. And also on the biggest stages imaginable (say, big political contests).
It seems to be getting worse, not better. And it gets exhausting after a while.
It’s bad enough when people think of everything as zero sum. When they’re also ungracious about it, then everyone effectively loses. It turns not into a zero sum — but a net loss over all.
It’s not just sportsmanship that I miss either — although that’s a good example of it. I miss thinking that adults were mature. That they had actually mastered the lessons they impressed upon us as children.