C is for Cooperation, and Competition

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 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 discover 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

38 thoughts on “C is for Cooperation, and Competition”

  1. Cooperation is one word I like very much in this competitive world. Working together is far more satisfying than trying to overtrump others.
    Thanks for your comment on the Queen’s abdication. You said that you are from a former Dutch town in the States.Which one is it?


  2. Great post. And I can so closely relate! I also find myself not only being cooperative, but preferring to work with others on projects than alone. I LOVE the give and take of constructive brain-storming. BUT at games, I too am more competitive. And like you – while my mom always played Scrabble competitively, I once caught my grandmother cheating so I could win, and that just never sat well with me…

    Anyway, great post!

    Have a great week and all the best!


  3. Good post Roger. I enjoy scrabble but not with people who are so competitive they take forever deciding on a word or the reverse would be timed scrabble when the time is too short.


  4. I learned to play canasta from my folks too. they played as if I was an adult and it was a great way to learn about winning and loosing.
    Games are good to keep the brain juices flowing, says me suffering from senior moments!


  5. I’ve had to do the same with grandchildren and board games. I remember Jon was about 7 and was losing terribly at Sorry, and tearing up, I told him because I was way ahead, didn’t mean I would win… in fact, I very well could lose if he would keep playing…he was relentless, so we traded and sure enough…he started to lose again.. now we stick with what we get, and he’s learned some good lessons. Good post Roger.


  6. Cool post! I tend towards being a bit competitive, too, but my man isn’t into board games or cards so I don’t get to play much these days.

    abcw team


  7. Great post! My mom was a Media Tech in Library Science and my best friend is a retired school Librarian. You are all as a rule good people.
    I am also willing to take a part and cooperate most of the time but as you say about yourself…I am the same way about board games.
    Scrabble is a game of power for my daughter and I and we checked after 6 months of daily games on our phones we are running at 50/50…the perfect challenge!


  8. I’m a scrabble person – and have been so most of my life! Just love the challenge of words! My enjoyment of card games fluctuates! But cooperation and sharing is a healthy kind of competition!


  9. I have come to realize that some people are more competitive than others. Me, not so much. And trying to convey that to teenage stepkids is rather a disaster.


  10. Great post. I love competition and games. I love Scrabble, but I play by my inlaw’s rules (e.g. multipliers count in any word, not just the first word used). Discovered there are actually several forms of checkers in college (e.g. “flying kings rule”).

    For interesting competition vs. cooperation dynamics, try Chinese checkers as an adult versus an adult. Really fascinating.


  11. I’m competitive in business, but lack the ‘ol killer instinct with cards. What does that say about me? Sounds like The Daughter has excellent Uno skills. It’s only a matter of time before you gravitate her to cards…perhaps Crazy Eights would be a good introduction?


  12. You certainly have a full repertoire of card games. My stepson is the most competitive person I know, but he takes it in good part when we tease him about it.


  13. Roger, I love your story of the library. I find it abhorrent that any student would HIDE a resource simply out of competitiveness; however, after reading your Scrabble style, it does make one think, “Why was he such a faithful library love and such a shark in the Backgammon pool?!”

    I was taught by my mother to be a gracious winner and a gracious loser as well; that cheating is verboten; and that, above all, the fun is in the playing, not who wins. So when I play Scrabble online with my Mensa-genius best friend John (we grew up on the same street), I consider getting within 100 points of him a triumph! And man, he used to be a sore loser when I DID win, but age has mellowed him, I guess. I love all games (we used to play a version of Canasta my Grandma Blanche invented: Double deck, black threes tossed in garbage, highest “lay” is 180, and you need a forklift to hold your cards at the later stages!), and for my money, it’s in the playing.

    Having said that, maybe sometime a little Lexulous? I don’t play Words With Friends; I find the email version more relaxing. Want to play, click “email” and find me as GameAmy. Get it? (wink) Peace, Amy


    1. Amy – I think it’s a duality that many of us have. I would always try to be be nice in real life. I don’t cheat in games; it’s not just ethics, it’s “what would be the fun in THAT?”


  14. I enjoy good competition, but I quickly loose interest when I am playing a game with someone who is so competitive it takes the fun out of it! I used to play canasta with my grandmother, it was great fun…I haven’t thought about that in years!!!


  15. My grandma taught chess and played chess with us without easing up on us one bit. I always lost in under 3 minutes and have never really been able to enjoy the game, though a part of me understands some people’s love of it. My mom and sister and I have a cooperative/competitive way of playing games. We cooperate until one or more of my brothers get mean and overly competitive, then we band together and teach that brother a lesson. 😀

    Fun post, Roger.


  16. i love the library and i love library folks. they are all, yes, so helpful and cooperative. we’re not big on board games but i can understand you being competitive in that area. visiting late for ABC Wednesday. 🙂


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