Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Just Got Pwned.

             Today, I’m sitting at my 5 year-old Lenovo, typing out my thoughts. Rewind about a year and half, and I’m frantically pacing back and forth along my end of the fencing strip. Just before the ref calls, “Break over!” I drag my sleeve across my face to catch the droplets of sweat that have accumulated over the last 8 minutes. It’s the bronze medal bout, and I’m up 13-10.  Lauren has been a b*tch to fence; her parry is way too strong, but I somehow found a way around it. Two more points. Two more points and I go to nationals!
            I slip my mask back on, and everything disappears except Lauren. Two more points. Two more points on her and I win! Somewhere on my right, the ref mumbles, “Fencers ready? Fence!” and all hell breaks loose.
For the next 3 touches, she flies at me full force, and screams like a banshee each time she lands a touch. By the four attempt, I finally recover and manage to get a double. It’s now 14-14, bout point, and I’m losing my mind. If my next point isn't perfect, I'll be spending my summer watching Grey's Anatomy instead of cheering my teammates on in Reno. I can't lose. I can't lose. I can't lose.
Suddenly, I stop myself. "I CAN lose, and I WILL lose if I don't calm down. If I don't make it this year, I'll try again next time. But right now, I need to focus." As I near the end of my strip, I finally figure out what I need to do. Lauren makes a final lunge at my chest, I catch her blade, step back, parry, and repose to her shoulder, a move that I was taught my second week in fencing. My sensor lets out a shrill 'beep' as Lauren simultaneously lets out a shrill shriek.

Jason and I don't agree on a lot of things, and the value of competitive sports is no exception. I'd like to make a case for the value of judging ones worth based on others, fittingly, just in time for the 2012 Olympics. Oh, goody!
            In his most recent essay Football is Un-American, Jason states that:

     "I believe that only progress matters...There is no need for competition or comparison for individuals or parties to reach their full potential unless the competition is against one’s self." 

               I believe this philosophy is a great mentality to have in the process of self-improvement, but I don’t think it’s a very effective one to live by. The main flaw that I find in Jason’s argument is that life rarely gives the opportunity for hindsight. Nobody cares how much you've worked out this past month. You still don’t have Chris Evans’ abs (drool). As you pass up your math test to be graded, your teacher doesn’t care how bad you were at differentiation two weeks ago. He or she will grade it according to how well you presently understand the material, and base the curve (if they’re one of the awesome teachers who use it) on how well you presently compare to the average score. My peers and I will shortly meet such a mentality outside the classroom when we enter the job market. Macintosh and Google aren't going to care about how much your C.S. skills have improved since you started college. The only thing that matters to the interviewer is how much you stand out in comparison to the other hundred and fifty people waiting in line. And in the slim chance that you do land the position, you'll spend the rest of your days proving and re-proving your worth to your employer.  
         Whether we like it or not, we have to compete for most things in life: college acceptances, our jobs, even our relationships. You must be thinking, "Then don't we already have enough stress in our lives? Why would we want to add more?" Because competitive sports help you learn to deal with that stress and often simultaneously act as a release from it. In any sport (fencing, basketball, soccer, etc.), there is rarely any stress at the recreational level. At my fencing club, people come in with a big smile and go out with a bigger one. The value of competitive sports is in the experience we gain in learning how to do deal with the pressure of competition we will no doubt face, but in a contained, stress-free environment where the stakes are minimal. Had I not spent months in my fencing club, losing again and again, tying at 14-14 again and again, and regaining the calm to come out in the lead, I would not have made that last touch. Competitive sports also teach you respect for the game, respect yourself, and respect your opponent. Ultimately, they help you become a better sport not only on the field, but in everyday life. Nobody likes a sore loser. 
         Competition is also one of the most pure forms of jealousy (which I elaborate on in my wonderful essay 'You Jelly?') that provides an additional push to reach our goals on top of our own desire to do so. Lucky for Jason, there's usually a correlation between focusing on self-improvement and one's rise in skill as compared to one's peers, so, in a way, our opposing theories end up complimenting one another in the universal struggle to get better. As my fencing coach always says: "Be better than you were yesterday, but know where you stand today." 

On a final note, I'd like to wish Courtney Hurley, Kelley Hurley, Susie Scanlan, and Maya Lawrence luck in the women's epee event at London 2012. Go kick some international ass!!! 

-Julia Chinchilia

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