By Larry Mullenix
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Early December. It's raining. The flag football players are soaked to the bone, tired and straining to keep the intensity up. Although they are losing by 24 points with time running out, the Free Agents refuse to quit. They have been in the freezing rain at the University of Arizona's Wildcat Field for two hours now and they know defeat is inevitable, but they continue to dive to the muddied ground and claw for the flag.
Because they love to compete. That's why they are out there fighting against other students to win an intramural flag football game. The only tangible prize is a T-shirt. In fact, they are playing for the love of competition. And they are not alone.
Competition is a rite on college campuses. It is the reason that students participate in intramurals and club sports such as hockey and rugby. It is why video game parlors are so popular.
Competition is essential to many aspects of campus life, students say. However, peoples' competitive drive is especially piqued by sports. Tamra d'Estree, a UA social psychology professor, says this is because sports are structured to give only one team or individual a reward for achievement.
"Sports breed competition in those who participate because of the framework of the situation," d'Estree says. "They (sports) tell the participants that only one group, whether that be an individual or a team, can gain the thing that both want most, to win. In order to attain the goal you must be willing and able to take the risk and compete."
The innate drive to compete is most evident when there are no obvious motives for taking the risks or making the sacrifices. This is why some people believe intramurals and club sports Ä which offer no scholarships, chance for advancement or future paydays Ä show the heart of true competitors.
"When you dive into the mud to try to pull the flags off of the person who has been beating you all game, you are not doing it for the glory, you're doing it for the competition involved," says Bryan O'Neal, captain of the Free Agents.
Leo Golembiewski, head coach of the UA club hockey team known as the Icecats, agrees.
"Satisfaction in the idea that you played the game as best you could for no other reason than the fact that you love the game," he says, "is why clubs and intramurals are good signs of college competition."
The Icecats, who recently finished their season in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, are a team whose players will end their careers in the desert. Nevertheless, they play with such intensity and spirit that their games draw crowds of 5,000 or more who pay up to $7 apiece for tickets to see the competition on Friday and Saturday nights.
"I compete with myself when I am preparing my kids to go out and play the game," Golembiewski says. "Competition is really the idea that you are going to compete to be the best you can be at whatever it is."
Golembiewski adds that competition is everywhere in academics, relationships and the workplace.
"The competitive spirit is the spirit of man," he says.
"Competition in sports is truly just a struggle to do better than your opponent," she says. "In that sense, competition can be in any realm that you wish to apply it to."
Rugby is another avenue that many people are involved in at the UA Ä and in Tucson in general Ä and has much the same competitive attributes as do the Icecats.
This sport pits two opposing squads of 15 men or women against each other for 80 minutes of running, kicking and most often, hitting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, parks in Tucson are full of hundreds of men and women, most of whom are former UA students who are training for future matches as members of local rugby teams such as Old
Pueblo and the Tucson Magpies, as well as Arizona men's and women's rugby teams.
Colin Campbell, who plays for Old Pueblo, says that competition is the only reward.
"Rugby players aren't people who play just to be involved with the scene," he says. "Rugby is too demanding for that. Rugby players play for the competition. I personally go out to compete in the sport, whether that competition is internal or against the team we are facing."
Those are just a few of the types of organized forms of competition on campus that allow the average students to play in a competitive environment.
Video games enable those who choose not to get sweaty or injured to strap on a helmet and high step into the end zone, grab the ball and drive to the hole or skate past the blue-line and slap a shot at the net. These and other competitive games are not only found in students' rooms but in the Student Union, bars and some movie theaters.
Business senior Hector Martinez, who often plays the John Madden Football video game on his Sega Genesis, says these games bring out the true competitive nature of many people.
"I know people who won't participate in athletic events because they don't want to fail, but if you get them into a video game environment, they will argue every point, touchdown and play," Martinez says. "That is just as much a sign of the true competitive spirit as any real event. Competition is trying to be the best at what you are doing, plain and simple."
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