Jeremy Hardy thinks… about competition

'Did sibling rivalry make you happy? Would you like to be treated by a more competitive doctor?'

October 31, 2012 · 2 min read

Competition is not healthy. I enjoyed the summer’s sport as much as the next lazy asthmatic. I felt proud of my city, the drama was exhilarating and many athletes had an endearing humility or cheekily-harmless hubris. And it must have been irksome to racists. Mo ran so well that hardly a soul in the land questioned his nationality. It’s only right he should run for the country in which he lives: America. I jest.

But watching the long-distance running, I started to wish each athlete had run separately, unaware of how others had run. All the ‘intelligent’ and ‘talented’ stuff seemed to involve messing up the opponents, deliberately tiring them, making them run at a pace they didn’t like, getting in front to slow the race down, holding back to let others burn themselves out. It’s quite cynical, and realising that is like the moment you realise boxing is genuinely fighting.

I’m being too serious; sport isn’t important. That’s the joy of it. People can be competitive because nothing much is at stake. And competitiveness is not the whole story. Courage, dedication and the pursuit of excellence are involved and all have value in other areas of life. But competition doesn’t, so why inculcate kids with it?

Did sibling rivalry make you happy? Would you like to be treated by a more competitive doctor? Would the roads be safer with more jostling for position? Do you want hypermarkets to win the battle with local shops? Do you want your kids fattened on competitively-farmed fried chicken? Do you want the sky full of cheap flights and greenhouse gases? Do you want elections determined by a tiny margin of difference among the runners and the amount of money spent on them? Does it matter that this isn’t the best column you’ve ever read?


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