C is for Cooperation, and Competition

I don’t mind losing, but I DO like to win.

Anyone who knows me casually will likely come to the conclusion that I am a rather cooperative guy, and that would be true. I got a Masters degree in Library Science, a very cooperative field, at a school, not necessarily coincidently, dominated by women students. Whereas, a decade earlier, I had dropped out of a Masters program in Public Administration, where the students were far more competitive, and not so incidentally, far more male.

The classic example: when I would be in the library trying to find a resource in the PA program, and couldn’t find it, there was a good chance that someone else had, and had hidden it to make it more difficult for others; really zero-sum. Whereas the library folks were more of a “high tide lifts all boats” people, that by helping others, one was helping oneself, and the profession.

My cooperativeness, however, ends when it comes to playing games: board games such as SCRABBLE, or especially backgammon. In card games such as hearts and bid whist, I can be a bit ruthless.

I think it’s a function of the fact that my paternal grandmother, who taught me the card game canasta. Once I understood the fundamentals of the game, she played me as though I were an adult. So when I did defeat her, it wasn’t a gimme. Likewise with my great aunt Deanna, with whom I played 500 rummy and Scrabble; my parents, with whom I played pinochle; and my paternal grandfather, with whom I played gin rummy. I sensed they all believed that letting me win would not serve me well. I play my good friend Mary in backgammon these days, and I never attack her position without statistical good cause, but to the untrained observer, it seems to be mean; I never play to be mean. I don’t mind losing, but I DO like to win.

There’s a card game called casino, where one of the objectives is to get the aces. There are four cards on the table, and each player has four cards in hand. My college girlfriend was playing me, and there’s an ace on the table. She went first, the ace remained, so I picked it up on my next turn. But I quickly discovered she had an ace IN HER HAND, with which she could have picked up the ace on the board. “Why didn’t you pick up the ace?” “I wanted you to have it.” I was really ticked off; love was one thing, but one does NOT throw the game.

When I play The Daughter in Sorry or Connect Four board games, I play her the same way, mostly because she has legitimately beaten me, quite often in fact. Whereas she hasn’t figured out the strategy in checkers yet, and I will point out why she oughtn’t to make a particular move. And most unfortunately for me, she really hasn’t gravitated to card games, except for UNO; she beat me twice just last week.

Here’s a great cartoon about cooperation.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

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