Random Thoughts About the Spirit of Competition
Earlier this week was the Bruce Mahoney basketball game and later this week is the US Olympic Marathon Trials. Both of these events encapsulate the spirit of competition.
It’s caring about the outcome that makes sports fun and exciting and that’s what I like to call the spirit of competition. When I race, I care about my time and my place. When I coach, I want my team and athletes to get personal records (PR’s) and win awards. What can I say? I’m a competitive person.
The Bruce Mahoney basketball game is the second leg of a best two-out-of-three series of games in football, basketball, and baseball between Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) and St. Ignatius (SI). The first school to win two games wins the Bruce Mahoney trophy for the school year. By virtue of the football team’s win in October, SHC had a chance to win the trophy with a win in basketball on Tuesday, January 10. It would be only the second time in the last fourteen years that SHC has held the trophy. If that wasn’t enough drama, keep in mind that the SHC-SI rivalry is the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi. The two schools have been playing each other in sports contests since 1893.
I did not attend the game but I’ve seen some video highlights and the tweets and Facebook status updates during the game really capture the energy and passion that surfaces for a great competition. SHC won the game and on Wednesday at school I got to see the coveted Bruce Mahoney trophy before it was paraded out in front of the student body. It’s just a “silly trophy” and yet, there’s something mystical about it. I felt lucky to be one of the first to see it on our campus. The administrators around me were snapping pictures of the trophy as if we were at the Vatican. Even Sister Frances came over to comment on the lack of dusting the trophy has received since it was last in our hands in 2009.
I was really happy for the Sacred Heart Cathedral community and especially the boys on the basketball team for their success. It’s community building to have the winning team. But it’s also life building to have something you truly care about. I love watching the emotional responses during a big competition. All the hard work at practice and all the sacrifices are for opportunity to compete in games like the Bruce Mahoney basketball game.
On Saturday, January 14, three hundred men and women will have the opportunity to race at the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas. There will be nervous energy at the starting line just like there was in the gym for the basketball game on Tuesday night.
A top three finish and a berth on the US Olympic team is only a realistic goal for a small percentage of the runners. For these few, Saturday’s race is make or break. The Olympics only happen every four years. Finish in the top three and it’s as if you won the Bruce Mahoney trophy. Finish fourth or lower, and you are utterly disappointed. The fact that that kind of pressure exists is what makes the race so interesting to follow.
However, for many others, the spirit of competition at the Olympic Trials is not necessarily to make the Olympic team but rather, to run a personal record, or place in the top 20 or top half of the race. Still others are just proud of themselves for having run the qualifying time to be in the race. Not everyone can be an Olympian but that doesn’t mean those people don’t care about their results. All these people, with different goals and different definitions of success, run in the same race together. They will battle each other, the course, the 26.2 miles, and the clock because they care about the outcome.
A high school basketball game in California. A footrace in Texas. What do these two events have in common? The spirit of competition!