Thursday, January 26, 2006

greeting competitors on the race course

originally written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 01-26-06

Having talked last time about how to greet your fellow Trojans on the race course, our attention now turns on how to greet your competitors.

Generally, we all want to be committed to the spirit of good sportsmanship, and endeavor to share the triathlon experience and everything it means to our lives with the people we meet on race day. In addition, the university itself maintains a Trojan Spirit Code (see the lobby of the Lyons Center) on sports etiquette and our representation of the Trojan community. That, and as decent human beings we want to be able to treat our competition as people at the end of the day.

Having said that, you should be warned that you will likely (in fact, very likely) encounter at least one person on race day who does not follow the athlete’s code. You know these people: the really obnoxious ones who give you attitude in response to your morning hello, who won’t follow the pass rule on the bike, who push you in the back on the run, who steal your GU and unrack your bike onto the ground in the transition area. They’re the people who stick a finger in your face and dump a pile of verbal trash on your lap. The ones who’ll cut you off and follow your car home.

Your initial temptation may be to give them the patented Sunny Garcia head-butt (see: There’s also the temptation to react and retaliate in kind. And every once in a while, in extremely provocative cases, there’s the very real temptation of escalating the confrontation and bringing down the hammer.

While such thoughts may filter through your mind, you should take a moment to understand that there are far better options available to you. You do not have to be a passive victim of another person’s poor behavior, but you can exercise actions better than unmitigated violence. Keep in mind these jackasses are doing it because they’re insecure, are trying to take you off their game, and are just plain idiots.

Against violations of race rules, you can always contact race officials, who are more than happy to monitor and punish infractions. Against opposing teams, for serious misbehavior, there has been precedent for communication to the opposing school and coaching staff. And of course, there’s always the simple brush-off and decision to ignore the other bastard—because, after all, it’s 1) ice cold cool, 2) the classy thing to do against fools, and 3) a rule that referees only see the retaliation (yours), but never see the initial act (theirs).

You should also remember that there’s also the classic acts of competitive ire. There’s the good, old-fashioned, home-grown, street-based trash talkin’—the kind your homeboys down the block fed you when you were young (see:, and also reference

And there’s the fundamental, eternal, reliable middle finger—believe it or not, it’s thousands of years old, even known to ancient Romans as the digitus impudicus (see:, and also reference

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