Dad: (watching USA vs. South Korea volleyball) Beat them! Humiliate them! Hold them to a maximum of zero points!
Me: I’m not really sure that’s the Olympic spirit.
Competitiveness runs in my family the same way gold medals run in the Phelps household. This is largely a byproduct of my dad. He is a man who once refused to let my sister’s best friend into the house because we are a Lakers home and the poor schmuck showed up wearing a Spurs jersey. For anyone who thinks this was just a joke – he had to watch the entire game from our backyard, through the patio screen. When he crossed my dad’s path 10 years later, my father’s first comment was “You’re the one who tried to wear a Tim Duncan jersey in my home, right?” Sports are his one true love.
Unfortunately for my dad, neither of his daughters excelled in the actual playing of sports, so the only thing we took away from his repeated attempts to make us more athletic was a fierce and undying level of competition, not at all equivalent to our actual skill level.
To my dad’s credit, he did come to every single one of my dance competitions to cheer me on. If I wasn’t going to make a layup anytime in my life, damned if I didn’t nail that double pirouette. And rather than pull an Abby Lee a la Dance Moms, if I didn’t get first place in a competition, he always turned a blind eye when I would peel off the 2nd place sticker off the trophy and reveal the 1st that was etched into the fake marble underneath.
Luckily for us, we grew up in a city with amazing sports teams, so we just channeled all of that zeal of a champion into screaming along with our dad while watching the Lakers, the Dodgers and sometimes Indian cricket (the cricket match was a one-time thing – as my dad says, any sport that stops to take a tea break isn’t really a sport).
My mother did not care for this so much. While she did love the Lakers, she was also the one who had to explain to the police on our doorstep that all the yelling, in multiple languages mind you, wasn’t any kind of domestic disturbance, Derek Fisher had just hit a game-winning 3 pointer with 0.4 seconds left to go, and her husband and children had officially gone insane. In retrospect, our neighbors probably didn’t care so much for us either.
Given my lack of hand-eye coordination but my robust love of also yelling at the TV, my dad quickly adopted me as the daughter he watched sports with (even though my sister to this day knows far more about basketball than I do, and I sometimes forget what the 5 on-court positions are). We watch basketball, we fight over college football, we often text about the ridiculous things Charles Barkley says. There was no prouder moment in his life than the time I called him to tell him the cops were called to my apartment after I yelled too loudly when the Lakers won the championships in 2009. His student had just become the teacher.
Due to the fact that sports have off-seasons, I’ve had to channel my aggression in other arenas with varying degrees of success. I annihilated my roommate in Wii bowling, but banned Jeopardy in our apartment after he beat me every single episode (yes, we kept score). I played intramural rugby for two years after losing a bet (over the Lakers, naturally), and my coach told me that even though I had the worst technical skills he’d ever seen, he’d never seen someone tackle girls twice their size with more gusto or fire. I’d like to believe that this love of competition that was instilled in me from a young age has even made me better at my job (in all reality, it probably just has made my coworkers hate me).
I usually only take up things I’m good at (because what’s the point of competition if you’re going to lose?), but I recently decided that playing co-ed softball would be a good idea. I quickly learned that the only thing I was worse at than fielding or batting was sportsmanship. Not only did I embarrass myself in left field (in front of the most attractive guy I’ve ever met), my batting looked like I was playing blindfolded. After I cried in the dugout over how bad I was, I figured the only person who could commiserate with my frustration was obviously my dad.
“Beej, I think you might be too competitive.”