Be thankful you weren't at 63rd Street Billiards last night to witness my return to semi-competitive pool. The scene you would have witnessed was a bad one—one of those awful displays of human fallibility that suddenly makes hanging from a noose seem the reasonable, even proper, thing to do. There is nothing quite so discouraging as seeing a human being consumed so fully by his basest male primate instincts over something as inane as hitting balls into pockets with sticks; but even if we can chalk my chest-beating displays and frothing, red-faced tantrums up to simple machinations of the hypothalamus and amygdala, we shouldn't be so quick to forgive such petulant outbursts. From me or anyone else. (And I make this assertion in the face of emerging research that seriously calls into question whether we have any free will at all.)
Losing is emasculating.
Your standard male incurs quite a severe depletion of testosterone after being bested in competition. His shoulders sag; his chest bows inward; in all likelihood, he begins to emit chemical signals that warn potential mates away from him, the faint scent of which funnels their attention toward the more worthy triumphant alpha victor who—in contrast to the schmuck he just battered—is running on a plasmatic testosterone high. His shoulders push backward, puffing out his chest, and he gallivants around exuding a musk designed to ramp up the hormonal engines in all of the surrounding females.
Sure, I haven't played in a pool league since 2003. Sure, it's probably been three or four years since I played regularly. And yes, this was the first game I'd played in maybe two months, a previous one coming six months before that.
So what? I'm reminded of something about excuses and assholes.
Frankly, there is no excuse for dropping five games in row, no matter how highly rated your opponent is—especially when you only have to win two games to his five in order to take the match according to the league handicap, and especially when he gift-wraps two of those games only to watch gleefully as you choke on open shot after open shot.
Competition is the yardstick by which I measure my manhood. (I'm being partially facetious.) My ego gorges itself upon stacking up wins in whatever activity, and the damn thing is never sated, a malfunction that probably stands as the major impediment to my ever dabbling in Buddhism, though I don't imagine I would ever want to anyway. (Qi? Really?) It's all very juvenile and petty and utterly sad in the way that human males tend to be, I know. But the tendency establishes itself almost automatically, as I have never believed in Playing For Fun. The very idea is anathema to me, the concept lacking any sort of internal logic, which is not to say that people should lose gracelessly or act like rabid wolverines. Do what I say, not what I do. The thing that makes competition enjoyable, though, is just that: competition.
Why would I want to beat someone who isn't doing their best?
Playing For Fun invariably leads to in-game laziness. It's boring, and nothing is at stake. Every result from every game that has ever been played for fun is marked down as null on the Great Ledger, which, I fear, is nothing more than a glut of soporific contests, all of them cheap and dull and lifeless. The thing should be wiped clean, and we should all resolve to play like we fucking mean it.
But no one's keeping score, you say. We're just having fun, right?
I'm keeping score. And I'm losing. And that makes me mad.