It is NOT only a game

“Competition: what activity, task or game brings out your competitive streak?”

Apparently, it was the American sportswriter Grantland Rice (no, me neither) who coined the phrase “He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.”

With all due respect: bollocks. I am far more in agreement with the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

In most games, the definition of winning – the whole point of it, according to the rules – is to outscore the opposition. What matters, depending on your particular sport, is scoring the most goals, the most points, the most runs. The rest is detail.

Even in encounters where I don’t have any particular allegiance to one side or the other, I want to see one side (usually either Liverpool or whoever Manchester United are playing) win. After all, you have to presume that that’s what both teams are trying to do and they surely deserve some respect for that.

My own days of participating in competitive team games are long gone, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t have a competitive streak.

It’s just that nowadays it’s largely sublimated into testing myself, from a seated position, against the participants in TV quiz shows.

It’s downright self-affirming to outscore some clever clogs on the general knowledge section of Mastermind. And I almost did a lap of honour of the sofa when I got 10 on a specialist subject round on the Grateful Dead – even if the actual participant got 12.

Of course, the ultimate high is a pointless answer in the final round of Pointless. Look how much money I could have won.

None of this is to say, however, that I haven’t been known to take the occasional metaphorical dive in, say, a kickabout with my own children or grandchildren. There’s no shame in that at all. Indeed, it is perfectly justifiable if it helps to foster their own competitive streak by stopping them from getting discouraged.

Although I did recently lose a game of chess to my six-year old grandson when I didn’t mean to. Still haven’t got over that.

Now, underarm please, Jeremy…

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