21 December 2014

Dubious accomplishments and unearned fame

     I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

     Even as a kid, if someone taunted me with "I'm better than you are.", I shrugged it off with a 'eh, whatever'.

    So I've never been involved in competitive sports. I just don't see the point of grownups chasing after a ball. Individual sports, i.e. downhill skiing, or running marathons, or just about anything done on the back of a horse, yes, I get that. I do understand the desire to improve one's own score, or performance, etc. I do understand competing against one's self, against the body you were born with.

    I find it reprehensible that football/baseball/basketball players get paid MILLIONS of dollars to run about in tight fitting(in the case of football players only) (ooh la la.....!) uniforms, chasing a ball, and thousands of scientists who actually provide a service to the betterment of humanity get nothing.

    Most of that is because men rule the world. They really do. There's a T shirt out there that said, "Imagine a world without men. A bunch of fat, happy women and no crime."

   That's unfair, because I adore men, I prefer their company, and I''m married to one whom I love to a distraction. But it is also only fair that I do say it, because men are the competitors. They love their sports. They are the hunters, the chasers, the aggressors, the CEO's who think it's just fine and dandy that women are paid much less than men for the same job. Men start wars. They die in them, but millions of women and children die, too.

   But I digress. No matter if I like it or not, professional gladiators get paid millions. I must admit, too, that when I watch a pro football game, when a team is hot, it's because they're working as a team, and stars who excel at what they do. Football is a lot like war, and I understand the tactics, the strategy, and I do like to see a team coalesce and work as one unit. But actually play football? I once was forced into a game of touch football. Someone very stupidly threw the ball at me. I knew I was supposed to catch it and then run with it for the end zone. However, I caught the ball with my nose.  That's the last time I tried THAT shit.

    It's the lower tier of 'competitor' that I just do not get. These are the folks...and again, it's usually men...who are obviously not NFL material, so try to make their fame and fortune with more esoteric, weird shit. By which I mean, things like 'hot dog eating contests'.  Or any 'competition' where the idea is to consume a certain amount or number of food items in a very short amount of time. These folks practise for this. The contest itself pits numbers of  men with a plate piled high with the item, (let's keep with hot dogs) and the man with the stop watch. Ready, set, go-and the competitors start gobbling as fast as they can. Some even have helpers, shoving the food into the man's mouth. Just the idea of watching such a display of what can only be termed competitive gluttony makes me ill. The time period is fairly short and the winner stands in glory, face and hair full of food particles, joyously proclaiming his feat. He's eaten sixty hot dogs in two minutes flat. Woo hoo. The rule is, too, that he must keep it down. No fair going and upchucking afterwards.

    I don't get this. What, precisely, have they accomplished? The demonstration that they can ingest an obscene number of hot dogs without chewing? That they can keep that many hot dogs in their stomach? Pfft. The Native Americans, in the 1800's, were known to being able to eat five pounds of meat in a sitting. But they, one, lived a life where they didn't routinely eat every single day,  two, had chased down and killed the bison themselves, three, weren't racing the clock, and four, didn't boast about their abilities or choose the one who could eat the most as their leader. Food was a means of survival, not a way of gaining notoriety or status.

     Then there are folks who are even lower on the achievement scale. Their claims to fame are vague and vacuous.

     Right now, it's Christmas season, meaning the TV is replete with ads for stuff you don't need to present as Christmas gifts. One of those is the perennial "clapper'. This is a little gadget that you attach to a lamp and then, clap twice and the lamp turns on or off.  You only see this gadget for sale at this time of year. I don't have one, but have seen one in action, and okay, it works, but...big deal. The thing that perplexes me is this year, it's being advertised by a rather fatuous looking fellow who appears as if he's a used vacuum cleaner salesman in real life. He's not manly or masculine. He's obviously not an athlete.  He's dressed in a suit and tie. His claim to fame is, quote  Man's Name, "World Class Clapper" "721 claps per minute". The ad starts with him clapping at a high rate of speed, and then he shows  you that YOU don't need to be a World Class Clapper, no, you only need to clap twice to turn on a lamp.

    Seriously?? I mean, REALLY? There's a contest for being able to clap? Does one actually win something? How does one time that sort of thing? Or count the number of claps? Or, to be brutally honest, why? Did he wake up one day and think, I can't run, I'm too short for basketball, I'd be squished by a linebacker, I think I'll work to become the fastest clapper in the world."

    I bet my boots he's single. And has been for a very long time. (maybe even lives with his mommy). Can you imagine going on a date with the guy? "Hi, I'm a nurse, what do you do for a living?" "Well, I practise clapping." Or worse, "Dad, this is my fiance. He's a world class clapper."
If, girls, you do bring home someone of this sort, be prepared-you're going to have to work two jobs just to keep yourselves fed. I know of no realm of work, I have never seen a help wanted ad looking for someone who can clap that fast. Or at all.

    There's even lower a level of asinine accomplishments.When I was a kid, 'variety shows' were standard 'family fare' on the television. Usually shown on Saturday and Sunday nights, these shows were hangovers from the vaudeville shows of the 30's and 40's. Usually hosted by a washed up and aging former Catskills singer/stand up comedian, a variety show had just that: a variety of acts. Usually there was a 'big dance number', with lots of girls dancing in gaudy costumes; a singer; a comedian or comedy act; and almost always, something from the circus days. This last often consisted of a man or woman doing a magic act (cutting a pretty girl in half), or juggling torches or knives, or (and this I always thought was weird)-a guy spinning plates on sticks. Not just one stick, many sticks. He'd run frenetically back and forth across the stage, balancing dozens of spinning plates on sticks. The act was always accompanied by a fast paced tune that is running in my head as I speak and I've not the faintest idea who composed it.

    Even as a kid, I was less than impressed. I just didn't see the point.  I didn't find it interesting, or amazing, nor did I feel any aspiration to do the guy on the stage one better. I never thought, I can do that. And I wondered, did this guy really take himself seriously? Did he plan out his day: 8 AM. Spin plates. 9 AM sweep up plates. 10 AM. Spin plates. Noon: eat. (on paper plates, I'm betting).

   But apparently, to this day, there are people who DO. In fact, it's gotten worse. These days, You Tube has taken the place of the Sunday night variety show, with even less monetary reward for what are supremely stupid stunts. It's become "Hey, hold my beer and watch this" Night on the Internet. I've seen videos of a guy who stuck a lighted Roman candle firework in his asshole. Guys attempting to jump their quads over burning firepits. One guy had himself videoed with a live tarantula and a snake erupting from his mouth.  (if he comes down with a good case of salmonella, he can only blame himself.)
     There was something just recently in the news about a man who was in a live cockroach eating contest. Oh, no, I am NOT making this up. I don't remotely have that type of imagination. The winner ate an unremembered number of live cockroaches. Just the idea of touching a cockroach makes me retch. This guy ate them alive.
And died. Yup. He vomited up the cockroaches, choked on them and died.


    Which won him the most dubious accomplishment of all: a Darwin Award.

    Winning a Darwin's Award is a true accomplishment. Most Awards are posthumous. You usually only win one by doing something so fundamentally stupid, so incredibly ridiculous,  that you die in the process. You've cleansed the gene pool of your own volition.

    That, in my mind, is an accomplishment of the best sort.

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