As an Aussie, I am still basking in the glow of the first Australian to win The Masters. His name is Adam Scott. The Masters is a golf tournament regarded by many professionals as the pinnacle of achievement. One would have to understand the history of sport in Australia to grasp the significance of this to the nation. Aussies love their sport no matter what form it takes. Even the Prime Minister stopped what she was doing to send a message of congratulations.
As is our custom, my grandson and I were virtually glued to the TV. Now 16, on the varsity golf team at his high school, he is a lover of the game. Being half Australian and half American, he had several favorites from both countries for who he was rooting (Australians say “barracking.”). However, nationhood aside, this particular event provided lessons so critical for keeping the concept of winning and competition in perspective.
There was a special moment that provided an extraordinary example of sportsmanship. It happened on the second and what would be the last hole of the playoff. Both players, Scott and the Argentinean, Angel Cabrera, had hit perfect drives, leaving them clear shots to the green. Cabrera hit his second shot first and landed the ball perfectly, giving him a chance for a birdie. Scott matched him with a shot that was even fractionally closer to the hole.
Then magic happened. A moment when one says: “This is what it needs to be about.” Cabrera witnessing Scott’s own wonderful effort turned around and gave Scott a thumbs-up. Scott seeing that generous gesture replied in kind. Not only a touch of class, but also millions of people around the world were witnessing two competitors acknowledging that each was bringing out the very best in each other.
Loving your competitor is not a concept to which organizations give much thought. However, the US automobile industry is not producing the safest, creative and most reliable cars in their history because of their own motivations, it is because of the competition from Japan, Korea, Europe and other nations. Steve Jobs was spurred on by the genius of Bill Gates. General Mills has Kellogg’s. McDonalds has Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway and many other fast food franchises. And, of course, LeBron has Kobe!
Many business experts use “war” as a metaphor for the strategies needed to compete in a global economy. The evidence is clear that the world is tired of war and continuing that symbolism no longer serves what the vast majority of people want to create: global peace and prosperity.
When the purpose of competition is understood: to bring out the best, to produce excellence, to create better products and services, it brings to light a distinction worthy of our deepest reflection – the desire to win versus the desire to destroy. We begin to understand that without our competitors we would have no incentive to raise our standards and reach our potential.
Everyone wants to win, but reality says someone has to be second. Don’t believe the myth that second place doesn’t matter. Both Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera have won many golf tournaments, but they have also come in second many times. Each experience, however, was a building block for their fortitude, character and resilience.
And we sports lovers are the beneficiaries. For on this rainy, spring, Sunday afternoon, we witnessed an extraordinary spectacle: two tough competitors inspiring each other to a standard of excellence that was breathtaking.
Now that is how the Game of Life should be played.
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