“Now be careful, R2.”
R2-D2’s hologram monster destroys Chewbacca’s with a body slam.
“He made a fair move. Whining about it won’t help you,” C-3PO notes to the disgruntled Wookie.
Amidst the growls of dissatisfaction from the bettered party, Han Solo comments from the cockpit that it’s not wise to upset a Wookie. C-3PO defends the honor of the droids, however Solo’s remarks about arms being ripped out of sockets changes the tone among the robot tandem.
“I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookie win.”
Star Wars was, and still is, a major part of my life. I quote and reference it daily. Now if I can just peak into my own Jedi intuition, I bet you are asking yourself; what’s this have to do with sports?
Flashback to Memorial Day weekend….
It is a hot, mid-80s Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining in Schnecksville, PA and I am at my girlfriend’s house with her family for the weekend. After arriving on Friday, the main event of the weekend is about to take place. The holiday’s most important moment is being primed and readied. Courtney has talked this climax up, being sure to notify me that I cannot possibly be ready for what’s about to come.
And what terror dome am I getting set to do battle in?
You know…the game featuring two black barrels with one small slit in each. The activity that has been on the rise among yard game and tailgating contests, surpassing that of horseshoes and bean-bag tossing. You know what game I am talking about.
Leading up to this weekend, my girlfriend had touted her talents in this strenuous athletic activity. Court claimed that she and her brother were an unstoppable duo that ruled over the Miller family Kan Jam dynamic since it was first introduced into their summer lexicon.
Now this is where I should note that Courtney was a collegiate student-athlete. She played softball at Iona College and graduated just two years ago. Courtney is no slouch when it comes to physical activity and it also goes without saying then that she is competitive. Very. Much. So.
Now the prelude is over and the stage is set. Warm-ups are complete and the ground rules cemented. We take our sides: Courtney and her brother, Dylan, versus myself and their father, Doug. Seated in the shaded patio as the peanut gallery is Courtney’s mom, Gina, with the three watchful family dogs.
Fast-forward to the decisive game of the best-of-three series. Tied at one apiece, I toss the yellow Frisbee the regulation 30 feet and Doug simply taps it toward the black *always a little too small* bin. The Frisbee nicks it, and the decision is final. David has taken down Goliath. The new guy has taken down the staunch veteran. I mean it if you ask me, it’s basically Patriots over the Rams in 2001 all over again.
Now, as a competitive person myself, I mayyyyy have done a slight pump of the fist and mayyyyy have had too much of a grin on my face. I cannot confirm or deny. Regardless, I digress.
The customary hand shake and good sportsmanship takes place. “Good game” remarks are made as we walk back toward the house. I can’t help but notice Courtney is walking a bit in front of me and with pace, but I think nothing of it. Gina picks her head up from petting the pups and looks at me asking a simple question:
I simply state, “Your husband and I won.”
Folks, the SHOCK on her face was palpable. “You didn’t let her win?? You always let the girlfriend win!”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how Star Wars and sports can be combined into the same Venn diagram. Me and R2-D2 have the same trait of wanting to win, no-matter whom the opponent is and regardless of if they’ll rip your arms off or give you shady glares for an unspecific amount of time.
The question of “Did you let him/her/them win?” has surrounded me throughout my life. It’s close inquisitive relatives are “Did you take it easy on them?” or “Was there a mercy rule?”
I used to take heed the “You better take it easy” notes dictated to me by my parents and coaches. However, as I have grown up, that tendency towards leniency has dwindled. I am not saying that my way is the correct way. In fact, I fully admit that my “hardo” tendencies are not always welcomed. I am mature enough to know when to tone down the “W-I-N, WIN, WIN, WIN” mentality. Like against children for example!
But not against the girlfriend. I chose not to take it easy. And I stand by that. I know Courtney and I know that if I wasn’t my true self, she would notice and be perturbed. My stance on the “let the girlfriend win” mentality is that it depends on whom you are dating. In past relationships when I was with less athletic partners, I would not have been diving and lunging to get every possible Kan Jam point.
But that is the reason I am dating Courtney now. She is competitive. She is feisty. And she hates to lose. Those are all traits I admire and love.
But now is the time to land this more personal story into the broader sporting landing strip.
I HATE when individuals, teams, broadcasters, personalities, talking heads, and fans hate on a team trying to do all it can to excel at their best. A competitor is a competitor. They want to win. And guess what, a competitor usually wants to win by the largest margin possible. INCREDIBLE, RIGHT?
I stand by the mindset of “It is your job to stop me. If you can’t, that’s too bad.”
And this is where I come out as a snob to those who hate a certain successful professional sports organization. This mindset was established within me due to the New England Patriots. More specifically, when Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck dominated the Arizona Cardinals, 47-7, in a snowy and frigid Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2008. It was utter domination, and I loved every single second of it.
Now before everyone goes “Well OF COURSE you like this mentality, Jonathan. You are a fan of the freaking Patriots!”, I’d like to remind everyone that the Patriots have been on their own losing end of this spectrum. Let me remind you of the 2014 drubbing loss against Kansas City, the 2009 Wild Card round debacle versus Baltimore, and the infamous September 21, 2008 smothering against the Wildcat running Miami Dolphins!
Now I will step off my Lombardi Trophy soap box.
If you are playing a sport or activity, your objective is to win. You can have fun while engaging in said exercise, but the end goal is victory. This can be applied to the simplest card game like Goldfish, or the truly confusing sport of polo. I really have no idea how that game is played. Regardless, it is more fun to win!
Now as with almost all things, there is a spectrum to competition. You won’t find me trying to bunt to break up a no-hitter in a backyard wiffle ball game, but say in a minor league baseball game, that is totally fair game!
Now I could go on the whole (insert snobby get-off-my-lawn voice): “Kids these days have it easy and with everyone getting a participation trophy, competition isn’t the same as what it used to be” argument. The thing is, I am not going to be able to solve that generational debate any time soon. I stand on a side, which you can probably guess, but it’s something that I compare to politics: you pretend to hear the arguments, but you’ll never be convinced otherwise.
My only argument here is that it is always okay to want to win. You can’t have two number ones, that makes 11. Or sometimes it makes a window. And we all know that second place is the number one place for losers.
Whether or not you think I serve the light or have a Sidious mindset (you see what I did Star Wars fans???), that is the way I am.
Beat me at my best, then I will give you all the props. I will gladly bow down at go full Wayne and Garth’s Alice Cooper “I’m not not-worthy.”
Using a classic cross-fade with Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein” acting as the anchoring fulcrum, we are back in Schecksville, PA. (Can you tell I think about movie and formatting a little too much?)
The Miller family and I walked into the kitchen and I referenced: “Let the Wookie win.” To my utter dismay, they aren’t Star Wars fans so they didn’t get it (and we’ll work on that), but this small moment reminded me of the macro internal debate I’ve had since a young age. I am who I am, and while I can go up and down the competitive spectrum, there will always be a subtle tilt toward the “W-I-N, WIN, WIN, WIN” flank.
Now, it says something that after 20 minutes of decompression, my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to work out with her in the basement. Nothing relieves the pain of defeat like the banging-and-clanging of dumbbells. Courtney may also have liked to remind me that Iona strength and conditioning coach Kelly Shaver gave her more muscles than I’ll ever maintain.
While talking with her through the sets and reps, I couldn’t help but think a simple thought: It’s a good thing I am more of the cardio type because the next time Courtney wants to have a small little competition, I’ll be quoting the great Admiral Ackbar….
“It’s a trap!”