Today, Tasmanian MTB rider Ben Mather won one of our oldest stage races, four brutal, muddy days in Tasmania’s wilderness: Wildside and his Facebook update caught our eye – ‘OMG,’ he wrote ‘I just won Wildside!’.
It’s exuberant, and it runs contrary to a trend that I’ve noticed over the last few years, and one that, if not outright disappointing, leaves me feeling flat… It’s become pretty customary, for the benefit of friends, sponsors, and supporters, to post a social media update after an event to let people know how you’ve gone. These posts usually follow the same template.
Something like this:
It was a great day out at this event at that place. Great track and the organisers did a good job. The weather was a. kind b. nasty, and we coped with it in this fashion. These competitors were there and as some of them were my friends/teammates, so I will name them individually, compliment them on their efforts, and report their results. This other person was unlucky and got a flat tyre. I was thankful to take the win. The drive home was uneventful and I can’t wait to do it again next year. Now I will mention a quirky happening for your interest and thank my generous sponsors. I await your likes and comments.
What. Wait. Did you? Did you win?
What’s the news here? What do you think people care about? Your modesty? I care about your joy.
I am a staunch supporter of volunteers and hard-working organisers who, often unacknowledged, fight for our events and perform the alchemy that turns dirt into golden memories. These people should be acknowledged and thanked. But, surely there’s something more spontaneous, something electric, something you feel here, too.
YOU WON. Own it*. ‘To win’ is a faithful, sturdy verb that can be traced at least to the Old English ‘winnan’, which means to work, fight, or bear. I wonder where this trend away from its direct use came from and why it’s become so prevalent… Is it that, in the age of 10-second sound bites, media training, and ‘personal brands’, we’re following the lead of over-groomed professional sports people and droning on, on message, in line, and by the book?
Or is it a manifestation of our native tall poppy syndrome? Are we afraid we’ll be branded arrogant, or ungrateful, or unlikeable? Is that it? Or are we just paralysed by our sheer conspicuousness on social media, such that we’re incapable of expressing joy; of authenticity?
I’ve seen social media referred to as ‘success theatre’. Our Facebook and Twitter pages a stage for performing selected moments of our curated lives. But really, people. This is mountain biking. We are not finding a cure for cancer. Do we take ourselves that seriously that we have to pretend we aren’t ecstatic, just coolly, professionally satisfied?
Apart from my undefeated Scrabble record. I don’t break tape, climb up on the top step, or pop champagne very often, but if I ever do again, I will not take, bring back, find, or trip over the win. I will use the verb. I will win.
Congratulations Ben Mather and Rowena Fry for winning Wildside.
*Own is an anagram of won!