Winning

winning
"They will celebrate by ceasing further play …"

I explain that I've never been terribly competitive. The Muse objects to my self-characterization, reporting that I have gotten fairly fierce at the old Scrabble board sometimes. Perhaps, I reply, but how often do I play Scrabble? It's not like I make a habit of engaging in competitive 'games.' I find every other board game aptly named. They bore me. I never really learned to play cards, chess, or the lottery. I have twice entered casinos only to realize that I didn't have the first clue how to engage in any of the 'games' there before going to find a quiet place to read. I sense the rising tension in a late-inning close call baseball game, but I never quite lose the understanding that winning and losing never mean much. There's always tomorrow or next season or never lurking around the corner. Winning's more transitory than cloud, so I don't quite understand the roar of that crowd.

Yet I do not characterize myself as a loser, either.
I don't catch myself slinking around begrudging all the engagements I failed to win. My adrenaline doesn't spike at the prospect of putting any other low. I don't race around fearful that I won't get my share or envious that another might end up with more than me. I cannot see the percentage in either winning or losing. I'll choose to watch until quickly bored, then slink off to find a quiet place to read. I recognize that this culture reveres competition, though it might more reasonably be characterized as a form of neurosis than a viable philosophy. Not everything's a dog eat dog contest, and needn't be. I'm generally satisfied to let the big dogs bite each other while I find a quiet place to read.

I think of myself as engaging in a more infinite game, though I might just be protecting my over-delicate ego from the inevitable ravages of continued competition. Infinite games never arrive at a judgement day, they feature no finish line, and so cannot sort out winners from losers or encourage depressive whining or degrading enthusiasm. How well do the participants continue playing? Has one gone sullen and squelched? Has another turned boringly boastful? In any infinite game, each state will shortly be replaced with another. Are they still in the game? My game never bestows bowling trophies. One engages for the experience of engaging, not to, as all finite games insist, for the purpose of ending play. The purpose of every football game ever played seems to have been to end each particular game, to cease playing. This seems like an inherently nihilistic and self-denigrating purpose, but who am I to judge?

Even so, I seem to have won an adequate share or, perhaps better stated, not continually lost my shirt. I have been fortunate, and also sometimes extremely unfortunate. I suppose that statistics determine more outcomes than skill ever could. How else to explain that fading playoff prospect soundly defeating the hottest team in the bigs? Did the hottest team suddenly and catastrophically lose their ability to win or was winning always associated with something other than skill? I suspect that they'll take the trophy anyway, eventually, and will gratefully accept the characterization that they are winners, all their disconcerting losses along the way deeply discounted in retrospect. They will, unarguably, be winners then. They will celebrate by ceasing further play until the next season begs them to begin again.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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