I had no idea that highly competitive, super serious tag was a thing.
And what a thing it is...
I want to play this game, which should come as no surprise to people who know me well.
I like competition. I thrive on competition.
My favorite form of storytelling is the slam. Stand on a stage and tell a story so a team of judges can determine if my performance was best. In fact, if given the choice between being paid to perform in a beautiful, thousand-seat theater or tossing my name into a tote bag at the back of a bookstore with the hopes of maybe competing in front of 200 people for free, I'd take the latter almost every time.
My favorite card game is poker. Match wits against an opponent with actual cash on the line.
If competitive yoga was a thing, I suspect that I'd be a full blown yogi by now.
When I was living in Brockton, MA in the 1990's, I competed in an underground arm wrestling league. Though I was not close to being the best arm wrestler on the circuit, I was only beaten once in my two year career. I wasn't always able to pin my opponent (in fact, I rarely pinned an opponent), but I became famous for always managing to wrestle to a draw.
I couldn't stand to lose.
And although I am a winning storyteller and poker player, I don't need to be good in order to enjoy the competition. I am a terrible golfer who routinely plays with excellent golfers. It is rare that I do not finish in last place in my foursome, but I return to the golf course again and again, ready to compete each time.
I can't imagine not keeping score, and I refuse to play with a handicap. If I can't win straight-up, then I don't get to win.
In college, I would try to not only score the highest on tests, but I would also tried to finish the test first, viewing speed as a positive attribute and knowing that if I finished quickly enough, I might demoralize my fellow students and bend the curve in my direction.
Terrible, I know. This didn't mean that I would help my fellow students study or offer strategies and tips to be successful. Just like in poker or storytelling, I'm happy to help my competitors perform better through instruction, advice, and counsel.
Hell, I'm publishing a book containing many of my storytelling secrets. You should preorder it immediately, by the way.
But when it comes time to actually compete, I'll do anything short of cheating to win, and if that means finding a way to demoralize an opponent, I'll do it. I want to win every time.
My mother told me time and time again as a child that "Everything is not a competition," but with two siblings and two step-siblings, it was fairly simple to turn almost anything into a competition.
Climbing. Running. Eating. Biking. Rock throwing. Sledding. Handstands. Pushups.
I even turned seemingly benign activities like shoe tying, drawing, dishwashing, and splitting wood into competitions.
I would compete against my brothers to see if I could fall asleep faster than them.
In school, I worked like hell to be the fastest reader in class. The most accurate mathematician. The most fluent speaker of French. The best pole vaulter.
One could argue that I was turning everything into a competition in a desperate attempt to get the attention that I so desperately wanted but so rarely received. In a world where no one was ever looking in my direction, I was just trying to find a way to turn the heads of my parents and my teachers.
Others might argue that I'm just a competitive jerk. That may also be true.
But what I also know is that I read exceptionally fast, and that was an enormous asset when I finally made it to college as an English major.
I can fall asleep almost instantly.
I paid for our honeymoon through poker winnings.
My success at The Moth has led to opportunities to speak, perform, and teach around the world. It helped me land a book deal. It resulted in the launch of Speak Up. It changed my life in incredible ways that may have never happened had I not been so hell bent on winning story slams and perfecting my craft.
And even though I almost never win on the golf course, some of my best and most favorite memories with my friends have taken place while trying to get that little, white ball in that terrible, little hole. I've even written a memoir about a summer of golf that will someday find its way to bookstore shelves.
So perhaps I'll find my way to a competitive tag tournament someday - hopefully just as intense as the tag on the video but perhaps with people a little less like superheroes and a little more like ordinary human beings.