Friday, September 30, 2011
Anything Except First Place Is...
I had a high school classmate that was a runner of the mile. And he won. Everything. He was a regional champion. It was rumored that his father said he would buy him a car if he broke the 4-minute mile. I often saw him running. He was always training.
I attended virtually no sports competitions in high school, but on one occasion I stopped in briefly for a track meet. My classmate had won his event, of course, but our team's win was in doubt. I tried to console him by telling him that it looked good for a third place in a cross-country running event and there was hope. He looked at me and said, "Anything except first place is shit." Harsh words. The mantra of the overachiever. But I understood, because this was the attitude I encountered growing up.
I met the group of girls in the photo in front of the Skirball Center at New York University. They had just completed a hip hop dance competition, Blaze the Stage. They had LOST and were not pleased. They were from Florida. I asked how they got here, where they stayed, and who paid. They had flown to New York City, booked a hotel, and paid for it all themselves - not a cheap proposition for these girls.
They were angry and told me they felt that the competition was RIGGED. I tried to get more details on the event, perhaps even to see a video of these girls and the winners to judge for myself. I was unable to find videos for 2011 or confirm the details of the dance competition, even after calling the organization.
For many, the American dream goes something like: work hard, excel in your home town, come to New York City, audition at Radio City, be chosen to be a Rockette, and cry for joy with makeup running down your face. But there is also the classic shattered dream: work hard, excel in your home town, come to New York City, audition, not be chosen, and cry while removing your makeup alone in the dressing room or sit in the street outside the NYU Skirball Center.
There are many coveted positions, professions, and competitions in New York City. There are many competitors, and often, only one will be chosen. Often, the level of talent can come as a shock to the newly arrived. I don't know if these girls knew what they were up against, particularly a hip hop dance event in New York. With all due respect, I do not think that the event was rigged. Unless you mean by rigged that some win and others lose. Or, that only one wins and all the others lose.
I'm glad my high school classmate was not around to console them. They did not need salt rubbed in their wounds by being told that anything except first place is...
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