Take your competitive nature off my pong table, please
By Alex Hodes, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, October 25, 2007
By Alex Hodes
The Dartmouth Staff
Dartmouth students are inherently competitive. After all, we had to beat out thousands of others to get here in the first place. And that's a good thing. But what happens when competition gets the best of us? What happens when we take things too far?
Sometimes, just for the rush, I'll fight a thoroughly worthless argument in class just to elicit a reaction for no other reason than the fact that I want to get the best of someone. Now, while some might call that a character flaw, I look at it as a strength. Competitive people need outlets in which to relieve themselves; otherwise that competitive fury would destroy them from within. Fortunately, Dartmouth has an abundance of outlets available to its students. Whether it be in the classroom, on the field, or in the basement, Dartmouth students will find no shortage of venues to reaffirm their dominance over others.
Sadly, too many of us resort to the pong table to satisfy our competitive needs. Now, you might argue that we resort to the pong table to satisfy our alcoholic needs, but chugging beers -- or other alcoholic alternatives -- would accomplish that goal much more efficiently. We play pong to socialize, but we don't need pong to do that either. Socialization through pong is an excuse, and a weak excuse at that. You think you need pong to talk to people of the opposite sex? Well, good luck succeeding in the real world. Dating is a lost art at Dartmouth, but that is far too complicated an issue to fully delve into in this column. The real reason we keep returning to the tables, sometimes holding table for hours on end, is to reach a level of elite pong status that we can flaunt around campus as if others are actually supposed to be impressed by it. I've walked into my frat basement before only to see it filled with freshman guys practicing spin serves over games of two-cup with water. Worse than that, I've watched people sit in the corner of the basement waiting for hours to get on table. How is that a productive evening?
Let me take you back then to a recent experience. After playing pong with a girl far too young for me, and losing by a half, she proceeded to slam her paddle into the wall in anger and knock the cup off the table. I had seen this behavior before, but from a freshman girl? I must admit, I was somewhat floored. Yet when she demanded a rematch from our opponents, who promptly declined, she then challenged me to a game of one-on-one. Of course, I wasn't about to say no, but subsequently became bored out of my mind after taking a multi-cup lead in our match. So what did I do next? I thought it'd be fun to see her reaction when she won. With each of her hits, she defiantly slammed her paddle on the table, as if she were making some kind of statement. And when she won, she reacted as if she had just won Olympic gold.
"Did you let me win?" she later inquired. Well, I didn't do the best job of lying, so once again, she demanded we play. And play we did, only this time, I beat her more handily than the Rockies did the rest of the National League. And yes, I really felt like a man beating down on a girl three years my junior in a drinking game. Is this really how any of us would want to be seen? Why live and die with your pong performance when there are much more meaningful pursuits to be had?
My advice: Venture beyond the pong table. Don't want to stray too far from the alcohol? There are other drinking games to be played, and I'm not just talking about the classic, "drink the beer." You can satisfy your competitive needs elsewhere.
Play an intramural sport (or take P.E.!). Hustle people in the Collis pool hall. Go bowling in White River Junction. Your options are many. As for me, I'll be working on my post-strike pose. Apparently there is a Hodes-only bowling league in Kansas City, and you never know where life may take you. Don't make winning Masters your ultimate goal. And don't let your competitive urges get the best of you.
Three for ship?