Everyone's a Winner

What a nice weekend. The youngest had his first rec league soccer game, and we traveled with the oldest for his select tournament. All told they had 7 goals in 3 games, but more importantly both worked their socks off. Technology helped avert a massive tragedy at one of the events. I was tempted to give the one-finger salute to the guy that scheduled one of our games to coincide with the ‘Bama/TAMU kickoff. No such unpleasantness was necessary, however,  thanks to the CBS Sports mobile app (which I wholehearted endorse). I don’t know quite what to think about the ‘Bama game. Part of me thinks that we were clearly the better team; the other part thinks we snuck away with the biscuit. In any event, a road win against a nationally ranked SEC team is no mean feat.  When my boys play hard and ‘Bama wins, the weather is milder, the air is fresher, the toilet paper is softer, and life just seems a little sweeter. 

Goal of the Weekend #1a- Cracking free kick from outside the box,
over the wall and into the top corner.
Goal of the Weekend #1b- Craftily shredding the defense.

The only drama of the weekend was the result of a Sunday morning board game. As I was having my coffee and preparing to write this piece, I heard the unmistakable sounds of two brothers fighting. As you might expect, they came to me to adjudicate the conflict. I delivered a fantastic (if I may say so myself) fatherly soliloquy on “the game”. I told them that one of the reasons I love for them to play unsupervised games and sports is that it teaches life lessons about how to get along with other people. In this case, while the apparent goal of each of the boys was to win (which pits them against each other), the broader underlying goal is to play the game and have fun (which is a common goal). So I made the case that they ultimately have a common goal and it is in both of their interests to work together to achieve that peacefully.

Since I was on a roll, I moved on to the importance of being able to win or lose with class and dignity (admittedly, this is one I’m still working on myself). My point was that in sports, games, and life there are winners and losers. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you draw. It was then that the little one piped up and said “In my school, everybody wins”. My first impulse was to respond, “Well, your school is full of shit”. Of course I didn’t actually say that, but I did explain that in “real life” there is such a thing as losing. Sometimes losing matters and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you can control it, sometimes you can’t. You can, however, control how you respond to those situations and how you move on from them. I didn’t get the impression that they were totally convinced. In this case, however, experience is the best teacher and as long they keep playing it will eventually sink in.

In looking at the blank page, trying to figure out what to write this week, I couldn’t shake our little Team Rushing pow-wow. It occurs to me that from an urban design perspective Chattanooga is an excellent example of how “the game” is played. If you look at major projects in the community over the past thirty years, it becomes clear that the game has been played in two ways. The first is the traditional model of winner/loser and the second we will call WTW.

The winner/loser model was primarily practiced in 8 of the last 9 years. In this model, two opposing “teams” are created and they fight it out until one emerges victorious by vanquishing their foe. Battles are fierce, and when complete there is a winner and there is loser. The results of this model are projects that are often one-dimensional or controversial because they represent the interests of one constituency as opposed to the broader community. (I was going to list the projects and the players, but I’ve decided not to pick those scabs.) Suffice it to say that this model is inferior because the projects tend to benefit only certain constituencies, and the playing of the game strains relationships and pushes the community into isolated philosophical camps.

Our other game model, the WTW, is fundamentally different. One of Chattanooga’s greats is fond of saying that “working together works”. He’s dead right. Our great successes have come not when pitting ourselves against one another, but in recognizing our common interests. When considering the overall picture for a community, picking sides and duking it out until there is a winner and loser is the lowest form of the game. The biggest benefit is derived when the players recognize their common goals and are smart enough work for those ahead of selfish, singular concerns. In this model, we get projects that benefit a large segment of the community, everybody gets to win, and the capacity for the community to accomplish greater projects grows and is reinforced with each successive process. 

Upon further reflection, while the little one’s school might be full of shit, maybe it’s not that full of it. While there are times when the community just needs a win (like this, and this), we have been a shining example that the game can played in a different way.

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