True Competitors, True Athletes Know Athletic Competition Erases all Prejudice
Every so often I wade into the online battlefield of Twitter and find myself under fire against charges of racism, sexism, and transphobia. I think Colin Kaepernick was a middling quarterback and is either a woefully ignorant person or a devious hack who holds hypocritical positions and mischaracterizes quotations. Therefore I am racist. I think men have an inherent biological advantage over women–even the best women in their respective sports–when it comes to athletic competition. Therefore I am sexist. I also think it is wrong to elevate the status of transgendered women over that of biological women in the name of social justice because it leads to athletic injustice. Therefore I am transphobic.
As with most things found online, these accusations are utterly stupid and not worth defending; defending any ad hominem is worthless. Where I am most concerned–and the thing that baffles me the most–is how people even construct these attacks. I cannot comprehend the vast majority of these arguments. The question I always proffer is simple; did you at any point in your life play a sport or engage in athletic competition? Invariably the answer is “no.” Which leads me to a philosophy I have held since I was roughly 13-years-old; athletic competition is the answer to ending all prejudice.
The goal of any true competitor is to win. They should not care about anything else.
Whether it is a pimply-faced child picking teams on the blacktop or Red Auerbach trying to construct the best roster for an NBA championship, a true competitor just wants to win. Everything else is secondary. When it comes to the question of race in sports, history is replete with myopic team-builders who thought race was the most important factor. Red Auerbach proved the uselessness of this when it came to the NBA. Don Haskins’ gigantic middle finger to race-baiters did the same for the NCAA. Even Hitler took a note or two when he saw Jesse Owens trash his Nazi Party at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 with the help of true mensch Luz Long (even if a couple of Jews got screwed in the process).
Those who care about race more than winning will eventually lose. The question of any true athletic competition is, “can this person help me win?” Every other question in the face of the athletic competition will help you lose.
This spills over into the realm of sexism in sports. If you had 10 average men and 10 average women to choose from to create a basketball team, you would be in idiot to choose the 10 women. The same is true for literally any sport under the sun. This is not a sexist comment. It is the unforgiving reality. But every competitor knows there are tiers of athletes. One of the most sobering moments in an athlete’s life comes when they are confronted with a foe that is objectively better. It sucks.
Sometimes it is on the basketball court and you are defending somebody perfectly and you cannot do a damn thing to stop them. Other times it is in a sprint and you know your body just does not move anywhere near as fast as your opponent. For me, it was the sound of a teammate taking swings in a batting tunnel; the thunderclap that resonated around the field house with each swing of the bat killed a portion of my soul that day. This is a fact every athlete shares; “somebody will always be better than you” (unless you are Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, or Jim Thorpe).
But here is the secret most non-athletes do not realize. Ready for it? You are not a true athlete, you are not a true competitor, if you do NOT find that person better than you. A true competitor never wants to be the big fish in a small pond. They cannot settle. It is the goal of every true athlete to keep pushing until they meet a competitor better than they are. Because athletic competition teaches you many things, one of the most important being, “what will you do when you face someone better than you?” Are you going to roll over and die, or are you going to work your butt off and keep banging your head against the wall in the minuscule hope you can breakthrough?
However, sports can be sad and cruel; against some opponents, you will never breakthrough. I.e. of course men are better than women in sports. Just as some men are better than other men. There is no shame in that. None whatsoever. And anybody who thinks it is a shame is either: (1) a non-athlete or (2) delusional.
Athletic competition–along with joining the military–is the best way to learn and appreciate our differences. This is where the world and our culture is faltering; something has been lost recently where the appreciation of differences is something to be shunned. Differences are what make the world awesome and enjoyable. Eating the same meal every day would suck. Everyone listening to the same music would be intolerable. Everybody believing the same thing would lead to catastrophe (hello Socialism/Communism).
Sport is one of the last true bastions that teach an appreciation of differences, and how those differences can improve the greater community. Five-5’9 point guards would get slaughtered in almost every basketball game. You need differences in talents to win. Who cares if the 7’6 guy is from Senegal and the 5’6 guy is a blindingly fast guard from Appalachia? If the 5’6 guy has handle and can throw a lob, he is on the same team as the giant.
Black, White, Cuban, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Man, Woman, Straight, Gay, Trans, who the hell cares? If you are asking that question, you never played a sport. Play sports. Learn we are all different, and learn the most important question of all; can you play? If you care about anything else, you are a bad person, I do not want you on my team, and you are going to lose in the game of life.