Saturday, November 28, 2015

Do Athletes Really Want to Win?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Like most ski racing fans, you have read stories on other sites about ski racers. The titles are along the lines of, "Racer A wants to win," "Racer B wants to improve," or "Racer C wants to have a successful season." It seems like these headlines are stating the obvious. Of course a professional athlete wants to win, improve, or have a good season, right? Not so fast! Our intrepid research team went to work investigating if it's really true that athletes want to win. We ended up talking with our famous Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers and part of the team who looked into this matter. Let's find out what he has to say.
BB: What did you find out? Do all athletes really want to win or improve?
Answer Man: The short answer is that of course athletes want to win. That is why they do what they do.
BB: That makes sense. But you must have found exceptions.
Answer Man: We did. For example, American football and basketball teams who are doing poorly don't really want to win. The worse they do, the better chance they have of getting the first draft choice.
BB: We're not really talking about teams though. Our readers want to know how this applies to ski racing.
Answer Man: Right. As you know, everyone wants to do their best in a race.
BB: That is true. But there can only be one winner, except when two or more people tie.
Answer Man: You have obviously never been around youth sports teams in the States. Everyone who participates, from the best to the worst, gets a trophy. It doesn't matter if you spend all of your time sitting on the bench watching the games. You still get a trophy.
BB: The World Cup is not a Stateside junior baseball league where everyone is a winner. There are racers who never qualify for points, yet they keep coming back week after week to race with no realistic shot of winning---
Answer Man: Never say never! Carlo Janka was second place in a World Cup race where he had start number 65. Nobody thought that he could win and he almost pulled it off. Tina Maze also won a race with a number in the 50s. Carlo and Tina are role models for those who start at the back of the pack. They give hope to those who are the last to compete. Also, the people who consistently finish last race because they enjoy it.
BB: So they know that they have an almost zero chance of winning but still come back for more defeat race after race?
Answer Man: Right.
BB: Are you saying that they are professional masochists?
Answer Man: Not at all. Recreational runners participate in marathons even though they know they won't win. They do it to prove that they can run a long distance and also to get a finisher's medal.
BB: Because every finisher gets a medal, whether he wins or comes in last.
Answer Man: Exactly!
BB: On to another subject. Is Lindsey Vonn a lesbian?
Answer Man: What does that have to do with our investigation into whether athletes really want to win?
BB: Nothing. But I'm the one asking the questions, and you're supposed to answer them. That is why you are the Answer Man and I am the intrepid reporter.
Answer Man: No, she is not a lesbian that I know of.
BB: But in a recent interview, she said that she was finished with men. Doesn't that imply that she is a lesbian?
Answer Man: Not at all. She just wants to focus on winning races and romance would get in the way. Think of winning races as her dogs fighting over a Frisbee and romance as her hand.
BB: But if she races against men, which she wants to do, doesn't that also make people think that she could be a lesbian?
Answer Man: No, I would actually think the opposite. She wants to be around men and not other women. If she were a lesbian, she would never want to race against men because she would have to interact with them.
BB: Back to the original question about whether athletes really want to win. What about those who are past their peak and are being passed up by younger racers?
Answer Man: That is a good point. But even the older racers who are past their peak, like Ivica Kostelic, can still beat 99.9% of the population. Think about someone like Patrik Jaerbyn. He was world class into his 40s. Patrick also could have beaten anyone who challenged him.
BB: Okay. What about hobby racers who want to compete at the Olympics? Vinne "The Shark" Razzovelli and his gang of Mafia enforcers went to Sochi with no chance of winning. The same goes for Thai violinist Vanessa Mae.
Answer Man: There you go again with that negative attitude! Who says that they have no chance of winning? They may not win the race, but they could win other awards. And those hobby racers got to compete at the Olympics, which is something that we mere mortals have never done.
BB: What other awards did Vanessa Mae and Vinne win?
Answer Man: Vanessa Mae got a certificate from the Last Place Finishers Club. Vinnie got a special commendation along with the other Freedonians for their work on the security team. They might not have won their races and gold medals, but they still won something.
BB: But did they really want to win those awards instead of a gold medal?
Answer Man: They can't give everyone a gold medal at the Olympics. Otherwise it would be meaningless. They looked happy enough when they got those awards.
BB: What about an athlete who is over 65 and his best days are long behind him? He can't possibly want to win the race.
Answer Man: Au contraire! There are marathon runners in their 90s who want to win in their age categories, and they do.
BB: That is because they are the only ones in their age category! Let's try and stick to ski racers and not 97-year-old marathon runners.
Answer Man: I bet you won't be able to run a marathon when you are 97.
BB: Neither will you. So there! (short pause). OK, let's see what we have found out. Most athletes want to win, except those in youth sports or on lousy American football or basketball teams.
Answer Man: That is correct.
BB: And hobby skiers at the Olympics know they won't win a gold medal, but they still want to win a special award.
Answer Man: Right again.
BB: Old people want to win in their age categories because they know they won't win the race.
Answer Man: That's not necessarily true. They could win at the Senior Olympics.
BB: But ski racers want to win, even those who are past their prime.
Answer Man: Yes. Remember, the old retired legends could still whip our butts on a ski slope. They may not win against ski racers in their prime, but they want to win against anyone else.
BB: Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. Now ski racing fans can look beyond those "ski racer wants to win" headlines. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters want to win all the Intrepid Journalist awards.

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