I’ve been ultra competitive my entire life. I was born a month early, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I assumed pregnancy was a race. Growing up, I was always the kid challenging my friends to a race, or seeing who could climb the highest tree or bike the tallest hill (I’ve also been to the ER 8+ times, not sure if that’s related). This competitiveness has been both a good and a bad trait of mine throughout my life. It’s what drives me to advance my career and to never coast for fear of someone doing better than me, but it has also made me come across as what one of my exes referred to as a “non-stop douchebag.” I’m sorry, but if you think that “arguments don’t have a winner and a loser,” you’re on the losing side. Dating me is just a delight as you can tell. I’ve managed to tone down my competitiveness in most areas that can have multiple winners (wingmanning my friends,), but any kind of sport is another issue entirely.
I see no point in playing any sports without giving it 100% effort. I don’t do casual games, or scrimmages, or anything that would involve lessening the degree with which I play. When I’m playing a sport, even if it something I couldn’t care less about (soccer), or am horrible at (also soccer), everyone on the other team is my enemy until the final buzzer sounds, and often for a few minutes afterwards. Since graduating college, my access to competition has been few and far between, and it’s been taking a toll on me. It’s been a long two years since I was starting fights in intramurals or shit talking my friends who were trying to have a “friendly game of beer pong.”
Fast forward to last Tuesday when I received the intriguing text from my former roommate, “Hey are you any good at volleyball?” Before I even understood what he was asking me, my subconscious caught on and a spike of adrenaline struck me like a lightning bolt to the balls. It was fucking on. Did I know anything about volleyball? Fuck no. I used to play on the sand at my friend’s private beach back in high school, and then on family camping trips to Yosemite (camping is a strong word since we had full electricity and a club house with a wide range of amenities), but I hadn’t touched a volleyball in years. Nonetheless, my body craved something to compete at, so I immediately responded. “Fuck yeah, I spike balls stronger than the punch at prom. What’s up?”
Turns out their rec league team had been steadily losing players for the last month, and they needed some new members to meet the minimum. I committed to the team without hesitation and mentally steeled myself for the upcoming game. The day of the game, as I was munching down on a late afternoon PB&J to supply my body with all the fuel it would need later, I asked my buddy what level of shit talk was appropriate in the game. “Uhh none, it’s just for fun. Don’t get too crazy,” he responded with a worried, but not surprised, look on his face. Just for fun? There were points weren’t there? There would be a winner and a loser. How could he be so cavalier about this? I’m a firm believer in having fun during sports, but you can’t have fun if you lose. There is nothing less fun than someone else beating you at something. Hell, it’s not even about winning so much as it is not letting anyone beat me. I hate to lose more than I like to win.
However, I did my best to keep my cool and “have fun with it” throughout the first game. Honestly, I was super rusty, and I did not have the vertical I thought I did, so I was mainly focused on not embarrassing myself and getting the basic motions right. However, midway through the second game, I could feel myself warming up and getting my groove back. I hit a couple good serves, didn’t shank the ball out of bounds, and even set a ball up for a great spike by my buddy. Then it happened. A kid on the other team that had been pissing me off all game (he had fucking knee pads on. Seriously?) blindsided me with a spike that came straight down on me and hit my hands into my crotch. I was seething with anger, shame, and a good amount of pain, and I felt the competitive beast come out.
“FUCK. Let’s pick it up, guys!” I yelled, mostly at myself. My friend shot me a warning look, but it was far too late. Two plays later I got my chance. A ball came over the net hot, and I hung in there and dug it up to my teammate. “Yess” I exclaimed as he got under it for the set. He put it perfectly in front of me, and I swear that ball hung there for an eternity. I gathered up my legs and launched all 5’10” of me straight up for a spike. I felt the ball hit my palm and I knew it was perfect. It came down with the wrath of a thousand suns (like 5% of the speed that my girl Misty May hits with) and hit Kneepads Mcgee square in the face. “YEAHHH!” I yelled at his red, stupid face and turned around to high-five my teammates. My hands slowly sank as I noticed my friend shaking his head, and multiple people on my side of the net ask the opponent if he was ok. If he was ok? Who cares? I had just dominated him. I went one on one with this guy, and not even his kneepads could save him from my athletic prowess! Why was no one high-fiving me? It was then when I realized I was the team asshole.
Every team’s got one; the kid that lays out for plays, wears his emotions on his sleeve and comes across as a dick. I had felt this persona brewing inside me for years, and it had finally come out. And you know what? It felt great. I regret nothing. If people beat me and they rub it in, I get it. I accept that. But what I won’t accept is playing with people who don’t care about the win. If I’m competing at something, the win is my only goal, and I will do whatever I have to achieve it. I’ll throw my body around like my joints don’t already hurt in the mornings, and I’ll shit talk someone if I think it will give me an extra edge. I’d rather win as an asshole than lose as a nice guy. You might hate me, but you want me on your team. Unless it’s soccer. I’m fucking horrible at soccer..
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