The spirit of competition

It’s probably not a shocking revelation that our culture thrives on competition. We get the competitive urge in almost everything, whether it’s our academics, jobs, sports, or theater. The recent presidential election brought out intense competition in not only the candidates, but also their supporters. In the weeks leading up to the election, debates broke out in classes that had nothing to do with politics.

Students who supported McCain would send their Facebook friends who supported Obama a button or a sticker supporting McCain and vice versa.

The day after the election, I even saw an Obama supporter walk into one of my classes and smile, exclaiming “In your face!” while gesturing toward a brooding McCain supporter.

These examples are tame compared to what we see on TV with reality and game shows that always boil down to winning being the ultimate goal.

Whether it’s a cutthroat competition to vie for someone’s affection, or contestants subjecting themselves to eating creatures most of us only see in our nightmares, we come to understand that people will go to unimaginable lengths to be deemed a winner.

Now, I wouldn’t really consider myself a competitive person, at least not by those standards; but I did come to realize something interesting and actually pretty funny about what competition does to most people, which might be why it’s so popular.

Those of you who live on campus may have heard your CA’s groaning on Halloween weekend about how early we had to be up for a Residence Life conference at Lyndon State. In light of the fact that Friday was Halloween and some of us were on duty until 2 A.M., the 5 A.M. wake-up call and 6 A.M. departure was not exactly popular among the staff.

To say that a 5 A.M. wake-up call and bus ride is the hardest part of the CA job would be a dreadful understatement, but it definitely lit the fuse on a number of issues we’ve been having in the past rebuilding year.

The 34 of us tend to vent to each other when we need to as to not drag others into it and this morning, as most of us were running on only a few hours of sleep, the venting was at an all-time high.

The funny part, though, was after we got to Lyndon. It was Castleton, Lyndon, and Johnson, and even though we’re all apart of the Vermont State College system, there are still vast differences in how our Residence Life departments operate. Part of the conference was sharing policies, ideas, and strategies.

Suddenly, any time it was Castleton’s turn to speak, bring something to the table, or anyone from our school was in the spotlight, an enthusiasm erupted from our group that I’ve yet to see in my three years as a CA.

We defended practices in the panel discussions that many of us have complained about and were determined to be the school, in spite of our exhaustion, to be the loudest presence. (For the record, Lyndon and Johnson were doing the same thing, too).

As soon as even a subtly implied competition was brought to the forefront, the attitude completely changed from “this sucks” to “we’re the best.”

I can see the same thing happening once football finally comes to Castleton. It’s clear that there are already a lot of people who aren’t huge fans of the prospect of football, but I’d be pretty shocked if most of the campus isn’t going to gloat about our prospective success when it gets down to it.

So, at the end of the day, is competition just a quick self-esteem boost? Some sort of vindication that everyone seeks out? I think it’d be pretty cool if we could see all the good things about our jobs, sports teams and abilities overall without having to put them to the test against other people’s.

I can dream anyway, can’t I?

— Laura Olson

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