Larry Clark

Larry Clark

I think competition is one of the most ancient obsessions among humans.

I can run faster than you. My horse is faster than yours. I can outshoot you in marbles. I can throw a heavy rock better than you. I can beat you eating. My fish is bigger than yours. Yes, but can you do this! Challenges abound daily.

We have invented all sorts of sports: Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, curling, rowing, shooting, volleyball, volley cannon fire, sailing, so many kinds of running and swimming they’re hard to keep separate, frog jumping, fence jumping, sledding, spitting watermelon seeds and kick the can.

If something can be thrown, kicked, hit, mashed, or propelled in any manner, we have games for it. Then there are sedentary games of skill (and shill).

Auto racing coincided with the introduction of cars. As Dale Earnhardt said, “Drop the rag and let’s go.” If we invent something, somebody will make a competition out of it. Bet my robot can lick your robot, or my drone is better than yours.

A friend once lamented that her son would watch anything if it resembled sports. “Why he even watches curling and ice hockey.” Wait a minute, missy, now you’re getting personal. I played “St. Louis March” really loud recently, just like I said I would.

But I didn’t play “O Canada.”

I was surfing when I landed on the World Archery Championships in The Netherlands. Brady Ellison, U.S. Olympic archer, was in the final match. I hid the TV remote until it was over.

Ellison is an Olympic medalist, but hasn’t won gold. He ended up in a tie-breaking shootout. His final shot was dead center, and he won his first international gold medal. Hooray for Brady! Hooray for the USA!

There’s more than one reason to be a fan. I know you know what I mean.

The archers used tricked-out, cam-driven, recurve bows that are far cries from days of yore when that longbow-toting Locksley lad was considered unbeatable. Ellison is looking forward to the 2020 Olympics. I’ll be watching.

Archery is one of many competitive sports that come from work and war, but I think foot-racing is a pragmatic challenge that arose from self-preservation. See, I don’t have to outrun that bear. I just have to outrun you.

Some games we invent simply because we’re looking for something fun, like hopscotch or solitaire. I was never any good at hopscotch, but I like solitaire. It’s a game you play against yourself. The clock does not comprehend favoritism or sympathy.

On games, I can just imagine two good ol’ boys in a field when one says, “See that hole way over yonder? Take this little round rock and see if you can hit it.”

“What? You want me to throw the rock and hit the hole?”

“No. Take my walking stick and see if you can whack the rock and hit it in the hole.”

“At long last, have you gone daft?”

“I did it in five whacks. But cluck, cluck little chicken. I can understand if you’re not up to a challenge.”

“Gimme that stick.”

Some games seem to come from someone who doesn’t have enough to do (and I’m not saying hitting a rock with a stick is one of them). But consider all us folks, male and female, who have enough to do.

Then consider how much energy we spend on getting our work done so we can go play games. Or watch other people play games.

Don’t apologize. Competition is an irresistible human obsession. It’s the same everywhere. Drop the rag and let’s go.

Larry Clark is a News Herald correspondent who can be reached at

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