Lamenting loss of competition for its own sake

November 7, 2012 

Georgia Military College won the public school boys division of the GHSA Class A state cross country meet on Saturday in Macon. Congratulations to the Bulldogs, whose top five runners completed the 5-K in an average of 18:53.64.

That’s an impressive feat, and nothing you’re about to read is designed to denigrate the accomplishment. Indeed, the school’s top individual, Will Archer, finished third overall with a time of 18:15.22 -- a good three minutes shy of the time it takes me to get out of bed in the morning.

But the fact of the matter is that GMC’s performance would have placed it 15th in the private school division. Athens Academy won that with an average time of 17:12.16.

Remember the GHSA’s public-private row? Several small public schools banded together and threatened to withdraw from the association if the GHSA didn’t offer some redress for the perceived “unfairness” in a system that allowed competition between public and private schools. They demanded a level playing field. In response, the GHSA -- a member organization -- created split championships in Class A.

It was good news for the Trophy and Award industry, but it did little to reinforce the ideals of competition for competition’s sake. For all sports other than football -- in which there is a risk of injury -- six GHSA classifications is three too many to begin with. Splitting the Class A championships further diluted the significance of any state championship.

And for cross country? What sport could offer more of a level playing field? You get a group of five athletes together and you run. May the best team win. In the GHSA Class A cross country meet, the best team did win. But so too did the 15th.

Thanks for participating. Here’s your trophy.

50th birthday redux

Good news! I marked my 50th birthday in proper fashion. I’m sure you’re all relieved.

Shortly after submitting the column describing my disappointment at the lack of fanfare surrounding the anniversary of my birth, I hit on an idea. (And, unlike many of the ideas I’d formulated over the prior half century, I actually followed through.)

I woke early on the morning of Oct. 18 and drove to Tybee Island. Once there, I made my way to the beach and spit in the Atlantic Ocean.

That’s a thing, right? I thought it was, at least. Something about bravely acknowledging the smallness of my human existence in the context of the universe. Just to be sure, I Googled it. Turns out, it’s a version of draw poker.

Anyhow, I took a few pictures then went to a diner for breakfast. I even filed a football advance from my booth, which struck me as cool and ultra-modern. Then I drove home.

Heading west on Interstate 16, I thought, “This really COULD be a thing.” My kids will think me awesome. Tales of the trek will be passed from generation to generation. No doubt, several of my ancestors spit in the Atlantic on the boat from Ireland.

You old Irishman! Paddy Deighan, I found you.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net

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