Superbowl: A Contest of Cooperation

The Superbowl may be our collective super symbol of competition — the teams, the TV ads, the fight for the best seat on the couch or in the sports bar. But the contest is less about which team competes better and much more about which team cooperates most seamlessly in action.

It’s a contest of cooperation.

All sports are a contest of cooperation, just watch any weekend warrior pick up team. They’re a mess. Without the hours of daily drills, technique refinement and creating the instinctive cooperation of an effective team, every pick-up play is a guess, or at best a quick plan that falls apart a few seconds into a play.

Even individual sports are really all about the internal efficiency and cooperation within a person’s body/mind system. One small glitch in a body or mindsset can make the difference between a medal and last place.

It’s not just sports. Microsoft and Apple may lock horns in the marketplace, but without the massive internal cooperation to create great products and bring them to the market, there would be no competition. Just ask Gateway. Remember them? Competition may be the show horse that drives innovation, but cooperation is the workhorse that creates it and brings it to market.

Military endeavors are also mostly preparation and practice in order to show up to a battle with the coordination needed to survive and succeed.

Doubt this? Take a hard look at the huge amount of time, money, energy and effort dedicated to the cooperation needed to compete effectively. Compare that to the time and energy devoted to the visible competition. Getting the picture?

It’s so clear, yet we focus most of our time, energy, and let’s face it — money — on competition.

There’s a reason for that. Competition is just plain sexy when you compare it to the humdrum of cooperation.

Competition juices the nervous system with cortisol and adrenaline. It makes you feel vibrantly alive as your brain narrows its focus to winning the single contest at hand, whether it is a pick-up game, an argument with your partner, or the job you desire. Competition can feel so juicy — and give such a surge of energy — that we come back to it again and again. Cooperation feels tedious in comparison.

Cooperation is the unending hum of nature and the ongoing metabolic processes required by the body. It is the coordination required to get milk and corn into the nachos & chips you eat on game day. It is our collective agreement to mostly abide by traffic laws so that everyone can get to the stadium in a timely way. It’s the repetitive path of mastery, so you can compete when you pit your mastery against another’s. Without cooperation, competition is anarchy — and not the good kind.

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Cooperation is the underlying harmony of life. It is the foundation of a healthy body, a healthy family, a healthy society. Too much competition deteriorates a body with chronic stress, sours the underlying love in a family, and corrupts the foundation and basic functioning of a society.

So, enjoy the competition of the Superbowl, I know I will. And also, between plays, try to notice and appreciate the cooperation and harmony that makes the Superbowl — and the rest of your life — possible.