I should have known Monopoly was a bad idea before we had even rolled the dice to determine the playing order. I had been excited to play against my three other roommates ever since I had moved in and noticed the game in the coat closet.
But the spirit of the game quickly turned from fun to fierce once we all started snatching up properties and I could tell one roommate in particular seemed aggressive and determined to beat me. As we rolled the dice and moved our pieces through each of the four corners, it hit me that not only did he already have more properties than any of us, but he didn't see this as a fun and relaxed game night, rather an opportunity to defeat the rest of us.
The only problem with his attitude was that mine was the exact same.
It wasn’t an equally playing competitive level, though. The other two seemed more preoccupied with Kobe scoring a 3-point shot on TV than the fact that our other roommate had just purchased the second of three red properties so early on in the game.
The first night of Monopoly made me realize the very essence of competition in our lives has been on the steady decline since grade school. Our high school days were marked by class rankings, debate tournaments, varsity sports teams, and games in Spanish class. Then the decline emerged in college as some of our only primary opportunities of competition were beer pong and not stuttering on European cities during the categories part of a game of Kings.
Since graduating college, the lack of competitive opportunities and the desire to find them can often make for humiliating and embarrassing moments; like the time when the girl on the treadmill next to me stormed off after catching me continuously increasing my pace, directly following hers. Me, ensuring I was always running slightly faster. (Side note: “I beat you,” is perhaps, not the best opening line at the gym).
Honestly though, what’s the point of mindlessly running on the treadmill when you can earn the reward of feeling you’ve just conquered the defeat of your unknowing neighbor to the right?So the next night, while sitting on the couch recounting my Monopoly money and waiting for the others to return from work, I passed the show, True Life: I’m competitive with my friends. I didn’t particularly care to watch at first, yet was simultaneously intrigued.
How idiotic and crazy were these people that had felt the need to turn a fun night at Dave & Busters into a fierce and aggressive competition. For a millisecond I had tried to relate the documentary to my own life, but quickly dismissed it as absurd.
We never did get a chance to finish the game as things came up, but perhaps it was for the best.
A few weeks later, I ran a 4-mile race with five of my coworkers for a charity in Central Park. We all started at the same time, but the ending was a different story. I was almost positive I beat four of the others and maybe lost to only one. With thousands of participants, the results were vague, and I was determined to find out.
While all eating breakfast nearby directly afterwards, I compulsively refreshed the results website on my Blackberry that would list each person's race time.
The times were finally posted and I blurted out my official time, while beginning to type in the other coworker’s names into my phone. I had learned from the MTV documentary to not be competitive with my friends. But these were coworkers.
A department manager who had met up with us at the diner, and that I had just cut off, looked at me wondering if I was seriously intensely figuring out everyone’s times and placing each of us in order.
I quickly noticed this and switched gears to play it off, “I mean it’s not like it really matters though,” I said defensively as I then inquired how the pancakes tasted. I couldn’t rub the manager the wrong way. After all, performance reviews were coming up, and the competition was on.