Sunday, February 19, 2006
The joy of competition
At the first Blues Party she threw, we broke out the Jenga, and about 8 of us played. Another friend of mine (one of the 8 playing) is a pretty competitive player, as am I. It happened to work out so I was in front of him in the rotation for pulling Jenga pieces out of the tower. And so, of course, my entire goal was to make him lose. [I love that Jenga doesn't have a winner...it only has a loser. It just seems so weird since most every other game has a distinct winner.]
And the 2 of us just ripped into each other during that game. You never thought Jenga could be so cutthroat competitive, huh? Never heard trash talk over the table due to a Jenga game? Well, you've obviously never played with us. It makes the game that much more interesting. And Jenga is a favorite of mine. My brother and I grew up playing the game and practicing taking out the impossible pieces. So my Jenga hands are steady as they come. My friend is the same way...makes bold moves, takes pieces that are difficult to get out with the intention of making the tower more difficult for the next person to manipulate without toppling it. I didn't end up making him lose, but it was fun to make the tower precarious enough to almost make him lose every time the rotation came around to us. Everyone else in the circle kept getting more and more agitated because of the insanity that my friend and I were pulling to try and make each other lose. It was an intense game.
So, the point of this background story:
At the Blues Party last night, my friend and I broke out the Jenga again. And everyone else declined to play. (Well, the first time we played, one girl, who hadn't been at the first Blues Party, joined us and lost almost immediately...) So we went head-to-head. Just the two of us, playing a very intense game of Jenga. Trash talk reached a new level between us. And the gasps and tension from the audience around us made everything even more fun! And, guess who won? Oh, that'd be me. It was awesome! And, if you'll permit me a few bragging rights: I made a great that shot him the losing blow. I kept getting lucky and grabbing the side pieces that came out smoothly and easily. But I eventually picked one that just wasn't having it, and did not want to come out. Now, we'd been playing for awhile, so the bottom was four levels of single middle pieces stacked up, followed by a lot of other holes toward the bottom. [He and I very rarely, if ever, take middle pieces. Makes the game more interesting, and more challenging.]
I honestly thought I might lose for a second, as I began trying to get the piece out of the tower. The piece I chose was high up on the tower, so I didn't have the leverage of the tower's weight to counteract the pressure I had to use to get the piece out. Everyone around us was sure I was going to lose also. And the tower shifted a lot! But, as I jimmied the piece out, I could feel the shifts of the tower, and knew I could get the tower to stay up. [That's really what Jenga's all about: feeling the nuances of change in the weight placement and balance of the tower. If you pay attention to those nuances, you can be sure that 9 times out of 10 you can keep the tower up just by making sure you shift the tower into a balanced position again.] So, I copped a smug look mixed with the concentration face, and slowly took the piece out, slightly moved the tower to make sure it'd stay up, and plunked the piece on top of the tower. [Wild applause and gasps of surprise from a crowd that seconds before had been so pessimistic about my chances of winning the game.] The tower had shifted enough from my jimmying and wiggling to get that piece out, so that one more touch would make it topple. And sure enough, my friend went for a piece, and the tower came tumbling down. It was awesome.
Now, like I said before, I'm a very competitive person. So, winning (which is only possible in Jenga when you play with just 2 people, like the game I just talked about) always comes with gloating rights. And I really enjoy being in company of people who are as insanely competitive as I am, because then I can cash in on the gloating rights. It was awesome, as I said before. Later on, when I saw my friend again, I apologized for my somewhat excessive gloating display over the Jenga game, because to most people, that can be over-the-top and offensive even. But he just smiled and said, "No you're not." "You're right, I'm really not," said I. And then he chuckled and said, "Besides, I'd have done the same thing if I won..."
And that's what I love. I love people who are as into the competition as I am. People that will trash talk over a board or card game and then shrug it all off after the game is over. And it's hard to find people like that. I've realized that as I've gotten older. Many people can't take the heat. [Not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily, the intense heat of competition isn't for everyone.]
My friend and I are hard-core board game competitors. Most of our other friends decline to play one-on-one games with us because we get so into it, and we get into the strategy behind the game. Othello is another game at which he and I face off. Some people may say that that's a fault, something bad about both of us...evidenced by the fact that people don't want to play with us. And, I guess you could see it that way. But, the way I see it, everyone has to be able to have fun while they're playing a game. And I have more fun with a little trash talk during a game. He and I grew up in hard-core competitive game-playing families. So, true fun in a board game, for both of us, comes from the competitive nature of the game. Now, obviously, I'm not always that intense. You have to tone in down for others that aren't as into the competition. And I can still have fun at a more relaxed game. But my energy and excitement in any game is always more charged and fueled much more by that spark of competitive spirit from the other players against me.