Our first rival usually shows up as soon as we are old enough to socialize with other kids. Almost always, you can bet that a girl is involved.
As we grow older and ascend the educational hierarchy, we form rivals in just about everything: there’s the quiet boy in Chemistry that has a 97 average, making my excellent 95 average seem wanting. There is the girl in English class that has every single answer to every single question and seems to have read every single book in existence.
Then it starts on the playground.
Dodgeball, kickball, tetherball, in my worldview, losing at anything was the absolute worst thing you could ever do. Not that I would ever cheat, I just hated losing way more than I enjoyed winning.
I expected to win.
Since we lived such a peripatetic existence as a military family, I had too many high schools to keep track of who our rivals were.
To me, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I wanted to beat everybody including our school rival, so be it.
I never had a rival for a girlfriend, because I did not waste my time on other peoples’ girlfriends (that would come later).
Speaking of rivals, my fourth-place Manchester United Red Devils face off against second-place Manchester City on January 12th. A month ago, I would tell you that there is no way in hell the Reds can stay with the formidable City attack including wunderkind Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish, and Phil Foden.
But that arrogant little bald guy of a manager is actually starting to show improvement in the squad, and it is too early to dream of silverware, but I like our chances in the FA Cup.
The ultimate oxymoron.
He lives a dream life, winning trophies and world glory with Maddogg-like good looks, and in his waning years of productive play, he will make 75 million dollars a year.
Nice gig if you can get it.
There are even rivals in business. Hell, anywhere there is a stratification based on accomplishment, there is competition.
My dear soulmate Karen, aka the Domestic Despot, was not blessed with one competitive bone in her body.
For a brief spell when we were living in Tucson, Arizona, she got into basketball, but I think that had more to do with the ice cold buckets of Coronas we put down during the games at our favorite bar.
We both got into the Phoenix Coyotes National Hockey League games, and they really have the best marketing for their events. I never grew up playing or watching hockey except the Olympic Games.
My biggest sports rival was a big, mean man-child of a football player for a British team.
His name, and I don’t think it was a nickname, was Tank.
He was built like one, and he was the fiercest member on a team that played with an obvious hatred for Americans.
Me, in particular.
I was the league’s leading scorer averaging close to two goals per game, but they were the only team to hold me without a point.
Sometimes rivals suck.