Monday, February 23, 2009

Winning Kind of Is Everything

So lately I've been spending a lot of time at the gym doing cardio. I've just been craving it. I have this special treadmill I like at my lunchtime gym, and I hop on, make sure the TV is tuned to ESPN with the closed captioning, and just go to town. I'm trying to do 3 miles in 24 minutes but averaging about 27. I'll get there.

But anyway, with all of this time I'm spending on the treadmill, I'm also spending a lot of time watching SportsCenter, which I love. Not only do they have the best commercials, the pace of the show is just quick enough for my short attention span. I can even overlook the fact that they are talking about basketball, a sport I couldn't care much less about. Plus, I really admire people who can speak almost completely in metaphors.

But these days, when they do talk about football, they're talking about the team drafts: who is jumping ship, who is a hot commodity, who got thrown under the bus, and how many dollar signs it will take for someone to take off their shoes and stay a while. (See what I did there? With the metaphors?)

And when they talk about what makes someone a hot commodity, it's all about who can win championships. They say that a lot. "He knows it's all about the win." "This is a kid who can win championships." "He plays to win, and he knows that winning is the name of the game." "This kid is a winner; he knows what it takes to go in there and win." "He's not going to play on a team that doesn't win; he is all about the win."

It started to wear on me. What about love for the game? What about being a role model for little kids? What about spreading a message about physical fitness and hard work? Am I just a product of the "everyone gets a trophy" generation or is there more to playing a team sport than just winning? I started to feel indignant, even a little haughty. They have obviously lost the focus on the big picture, I would think as I turned off my treadmill and headed for the showers. Good thing I still know what's really important.

And then I would go about my day.

I would think about that 3 miles and my 27 minutes, and promise myself that I would do 26:30 the next time.

I would pass on that glass of wine before dinner and pat myself on the back for my dedication.

I would get to the gym the next day and hammer out three more push-ups, even when I was about to throw up.

I would smile at how nice my shoulders are looking when I do cable work.

I would set extra weight on the bar for squats and feel proud of my strength.

And I would never pick up on the irony that in each of those situations, I was proud of my win. I had shown up to win, and I was happy when I did. It wasn't until I actually heard myself say (to a chocolate martini), "I will win this," that I realized that I had become a metaphor.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I really wanted it to be about love for the game, about being a good example, and about sending a message about the rewards of hard work. And in a way, it was. I just hadn't considered that those things counted as winning.

I know that the wins they talk about on SportsCenter require someone else to lose (and have more dollar signs attached to them), but I've decided to believe that the real win to be celebrated is the one that happens on a more personal level.

I'll see my special treadmill later on, and you know I'll show up to win. I hope you have a win today, too.


EDP said...

I think you have both: You love to work out, but you also work out with a purpose. You aren't there to amble; you're there to get results! Maybe one feeds the other. Plus, we know you aren't really a take-it-easy kind of gal. :-)

Michael said...

Very impressive summation of the Sports Center "mystique". I think the secret to their success (and it is really displayed in the commercials) is they do not take themselves or the sports too seriously.

I used to feel the same way about "winning" when I was in youth sports as a coach, umpire, league official etc. But as long as you are keeping score, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose-the key is to win or lose with equanimity. Do not celebrate too much or despair too deeply.

It would be hard to imagine someone working as hard as you do at the gym to think you are slacking off-you are winning just by trying.