Friday, August 31, 2012

Where in San Diego is Smorg?

Where is Smorg?
Hint: I'm on a newly opened bridge (2012. No graffiti on the thing yet) within the San Diego city limit.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thinking about things while watching the London Olympic Game

Like many other sport fans I've been spending a lot of time indoor glued to the tv set since the London Olympics started last week. Not that I have any Olympic aspiration, mind you, but it is fun and mostly inspiring watching all sorts of summer sports being played at such amazingly high level.

US Olympic Training Ctr in Chula Vista, CA.
I suppose what drives many athletes and many fans watching these games is the competition and the competitive spirit. But obviously, competitiveness means different things to different people. Is it a cultural differences thing? Some people are driven to beat everyone else, while others are driven to be the best that they can be (even if they don't beat anyone). The two surely aren't the same...

Take the recent badminton scandal where players from the Chinese, South Korean, and Indonesian teams got disqualified for trying to throw their matches in order to avoid having to play a better team in their next round. I don't know if I would call that 'cheating', but it definitely is unsportsmanlike. They were trying to beat the other teams by gaining unearned advantage in the drawing rather than trying to play their best in every game. It is 'the ends justify the means' rather than 'it isn't about winning or losing but how you play the game', sort of thing.

No matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game that reflects who you really are.
I've read some rationalizations that blame this gaming of the system on the system itself, but this surely is problematic. Should we only do the right thing when it benefits us or when we know we can't get away with not doing so, rather than just because it is right? Gaming the system may win an athlete a coveted medal, but, aside from the financial and social advantages gained from 'winning', does it really feel right to win - knowing that the win was obtained in a questionable manner?

Having spent a bit of my developing years in different cultures, I'm afraid that question would produce different answers, too... Some cultures actually do think it a virtue to outfox others even if the outfoxing violates the spirit of fair play. 'The ends justifies the means (do whatever it takes to get the win, regardless of fairness)' or 'how you play the game matters more than what result you get'. For myself, I'd throw my lot in with the latter. Focusing on winning or losing makes one's happiness dependent on others' performance. Focusing on how one plays the game is a lot more self-contained. Natural ability is largely a matter of luck. Personal integrity, on the other hand, is an earned quality, and one that nobody else can ever take from you without your consent. Having both is ideal, but if I could only have one, I'd go for the latter every time.

PS: Since the Olympics vibes on the web seems dominated by the notion of Asian athletes' bending of the rule, I don't think those badminton players did any worse than what the Great Britain track cyclist did in intentionally crashing in order for his team to get to restart (and not have to suffer from being slow taking off the first time). Unethical is unethical regardless of nationality or skin color, and to have the temerity to go around talking about it as if he had done something clever... Ugh! Hindes and his likes could learn something about sportsmanship from Victoria Pendelton and Jess Varnish, GB's women's team sprinters who got relegated out of medal contention for a marginal and unintended rule violation. Everyone goofs every now and then, but it takes character to own up to it without excuses.