How Sturdy is the Ladder?

If you go to the University of Michigan, there’s a good chance that you are a fairly competitive person- competitive with yourself and in most environments that you are voluntarily or involuntarily placed in. To get here, you had to build a resume… and it “looked good” to have high rankings through classes, clubs, and sports. Basically… you succeeded by trying your best. Many people put excess pressure on themselves to have that top ranking. Unfortunately, I fell victim to my own psyche, as I let the seriousness of play overshadow its aspect of freedom. In my sophomore year of high school, I let the pressures of a title influence my way of play.

Marcos de Niza High School’s “Padre” mascot

When I was a freshman, I was ranked #3 on the “Lady Padres Tennis Team”…. yes, our mascot was a padre, and no, I cannot explain to you why we were represented by a priest. Anyways! The only two girls above me on the ladder were graduating. Therefore, my coach expected that I was going to play the #1 spot for the following year. As the sophomore season rolled along, it was time to defend my spot against the other girls on the team. As an engagement of equal opportunity, it was only fair that others could challenge me for that victorious #1 spot. Victorious, yeah? I soon found out that my definition of victory was blurred.

So, the day of the challenge match eventually came. Olivia was a senior, ranked #5 in the previous year. Being respectable friends, we waltzed onto the court, beginning the seemingly ultimate test of skill, determination, and of course… athletic superiority. We battled neck and neck… “Two, love”…. “Two, two”…. “Four, two”…. “Four, four”… you see where I’m going with this? Well, to end this shortly, Olivia won by a final score of eleven to nine. I couldn’t believe that I had given up my title in this singular match.  To be honest, I was devastated. I stressed myself out so much during the match, that I could not even enjoy my strongest passion in life. In fact, I interfered with Huizinga’s idea of play, because my seriousness took away every sense of satisfaction that tennis once gave me. That spot meant so much to me. Sure, it would look good on a college application to be #1, but what did this mean for me as a tennis player? I interpreted this ranking as a blow to my skills.

What does it truly mean to reach the top of the ladder?

Not only was I manipulating the balance between play’s seriousness and enjoyment, but my coach’s sorting method did not prove worthy of Menand’s first theory. When we gathered for our banquet at the end of the year, eating out body masses in cookies and chips, the tables started to turn. No, not literally… we didn’t eat THAT much! All right, let’s continue. Coach Boyles starts her typical speech about the great season that we had until BOOM- I was thrown for a loop. In the least bit of sounding cocky, but merely relating my next statement to the purpose of this post, I received the Most Valuable Player award. All along, I was under the impression that #1 meant that you already WERE the best- AKA the most valuable player. Olivia and I were both contributing players to the team- but how do you genuinely distinct between the best of the best? We each brought different skills to our game. My coach’s system to determine rank proved to be corrupt and immeasurable of our talent. So, how DO you measure talent? My experience challenged Menand’s first theory, demonstrating that it can take as long as the course of four years in college to separate the good from the better. This sorting mechanism is most effective through the key factor of time.

My personal case in point exemplifies that sorting human beings into a hierarchical stature is problematic. Many people climb this ladder, believing that it will reassure them of their capabilities over others. In the essence of the matter, the system frankly removes the human being from the initial purpose to play the game. Under the ideas of Huizinga, I did not engage in a liberating sense of play, but rather I glued my thoughts together. Order creates a distinction of capability in order to run the structure in its most advantageous form. That’s when play represents itself best- when it contributes to the greater whole of the team. Did you experience an event that broke down the meaning of a title, a ranking, or even a grade?

Our psyche can manipulate the way we choose to play the game


One comment

  1. bkriegsm · October 9, 2014

    It is unfortunate that play becomes so serious that it turns into a lifestyle and a way of life. A lot of the time, play seems to become so intense and serious that it turns into more of a cut throat means of proving oneself and making money, rather than a means of achieving a healthy, natural, personal, Magic Circle. I think that when this happens, it breaks the Magic Circle, if one ever existed. If personal gains are to be made by being the best in a particular sport either monetarily, or beating other people and promoting oneself, then the activity being participated in cannot be defined as play. Some professional sports players will train their entire life just for the money. However, some do it for their own satisfaction and for the love of the game and of the Magic circle. Derek Jeter for example, claimed before his retirement that He played baseball because he loves the game. He had personal gains other than beating other people, and making a ton of money that propelled him to play. Jeter claims that he genuinely loves the sport of baseball. Of course in Jeter’s case there are benefits to playing, but the preservation of his personal Magic Circle lies in that the self-promotion and monetary gains were not his motivation.


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