Competition

huskies sledding

    I am not one much for competition.

    The statement is positively un-American but there it is. I have said it; I own it and now everybody knows. Still, it makes me a tad uncomfortable. But why should that be? Maybe because competition to be the best, to have everyone KNOW I am the best, is ingrained in my upbringing since I was in diapers. ‘Competition has it’s good points.’ I’ve heard it said. ‘Competition makes us all better. It makes us strive to be the best.’

   Pooh on being the best.

   I was reminded this weekend of why I chose this rather unpopular path. The local dog sled club held races in my hometown this weekend and I, along with members of my AKC kennel club, volunteered to be the ‘crossing guards’ at various points where racers and roads intersected.

   It was wonderful. As I watched the mushers speed by, I noticed an odd thing. The attitude of the musher was echoed in the team. A focused musher had a focused team. The dog’s eyes did not stray from the trail, and neither did the eyes of the sled rider. They had an agenda, to win. That is not necessarily bad, but when the driving desire to win obscures other treasures, it becomes unpleasant to watch and certainly unpleasant to be near. I could feel it in the dogs, a consuming need to not fail. And in order not to fail, they had to win. They had no time to see the beauty of the trail. It was merely a composite of obstacles to be defeated. On a glorious winter day, the musher could not see the sun shining brightly against the snow; it was noted only because it affected the speed with which the sled could be pulled. Yes, it could also affect the dogs, their comfort not as much an issue in his mind as how well they could pull and would they tire. The team was driven. The musher and the dogs worked together, but they were not one.

   Near the back of the pack was a young lady musher, I could hear her laughter from down the trail. Her team was not moving very fast, at least not in comparison to some of the others that had crossed my section of road. Her dogs were panting but all the tails were wagging. Heads bobbed here and there, ears forward as they looked up to make eye contact with us. Their musher was a person who knew joy. She was in it right then as she passed. ‘Come on kids! Come on my lovelies!’ she cooed as they trotted past. Her smile as bright and wide as the ones worn by her team. Her competition was non-existent, the stopwatch, far away. She only felt the sun and the sled on the trail as her ‘lovelies’ pulled simply because they wanted to run with her; she heard only the breathing of her dogs in that grand moment. They were one…and there was nothing else.

   For one team the day was bliss. An extraordinary experience shared by many hearts, beating as one.

   For another it was a day of angst. The pressure of success was abated only by the fear of failure; the constant ticking of the ever present stopwatch bang, bang, banging in their heads until they could see or hear nothing else. Only completion remained.

   Oh, wait a minute. What were the good points?

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