Roger Marolt: Bitter rivals make better friends
Blatant, petty competitiveness reminds us that our differences are what make life interesting.
I wish there was more rivalry between Snowmass Village and Aspen. Having it out for Aspen would give us something unproductive to do. Unfortunately, it makes too much business sense to work together. Instead of “The Power of Four,” it would be ”The Big Bad Winter Wolf” out here versus “The Three Little Gucci Pigs” there. As it is, we must work together to beat Vail in Ski Magazine’s annual resort rankings.
Kevin Conner was my biggest childhood rival. We were sports nuts. I lived in the Snowbunny neighborhood and he lived in the West End, before it was THE West End. Our grandparents and fathers grew up together, so we had no choice but to be best friends — but we didn’t let that get in the way of having a good time. We challenged each other in everything, from skiing to skipping stones. We would fight and yell and call each other despicable things. It led to great mutual love and respect, albeit expressed subtly for fear of ruining a good thing.
One great thing we did was form our own baseball teams. Mine was the Snowbunny Sluggers and his was the West End Snot Faces, as far as I recall. They had the numbers, as more kids lived in town than our subdivision then, but we had more real ballplayers. We had the Clapper boys, five baseball fanatics, and they had the Conner boys, which amounted to just three.
Significantly, there were vacant lots in both neighborhoods to play on. Theirs was a multi-purpose facility that also accommodated BMX bicycle racing. Not that our field couldn’t have been that, too, but we considered riding those tiny bikes a weird thing. Maybe we should have tried it before making fun of it, but whatever.
A lot of good things came out of that rivalry. Foremost, we learned to despise each other for no good reason, which kept things shallow. It was just something to make our games — which included fights and trashcan jumping — more interesting. The Conners eventually moved out to Snowbunny, and then the Sluggers became the local New York Yankees of sandlot baseball.
The dominance carried over into every other competition we could invent. We crushed the West Enders in everything except BMX bicycle racing, which we didn’t care about anyway, and so the rivalry died and all the joy with it. It seems that was about the time second homeowners started gobbling up real estate in the West End. They probably felt it was finally safe.
Those were the days. Out of a longing for that, or maybe just due to a serious personality flaw, I have formed an adult rivalry with fellow columnist, Lo Semple, of the cross town newspaper, The Aspen Daily Snooze. Yes, there is a rivalry there, too, between the brother and sister Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun and the new paper in town that will never make it because a town the size of Aspen simply ain’t big enough for two daily newspapers, never mind the nearly 50-year experiment of coexistence.
Lo and I are rivals in print. My columns are printed here on Wednesdays and in The Times on Friday. I like that. If you don’t think they are any good at first, you will after you read his on Saturday. While he usually scores well in the Best of Aspen popularity contest, I am, obviously, more critically acclaimed.
But that matters little in the grand scheme of things. In real life, we are bigger rivals in skiing, where mountain people establish authentic self-worth. Even in this we each have our own distinct followings. I admit there is room in this world for those skiers who lazily lean into their turns and flap their arms like wounded geese in between. By example, Lo inarguably appeals to the disciples of this style. I prefer skiing correctly and there is a place for skiers who strive for this, too. The differences are what make moguls oddly shaped wonders in constant flux, providing variety and new challenges on every run.
I like rivalries because they don’t just allow for differences — they thrive on them. A rivalry flourishes with varied perspectives. It values and nourishes them. It encourages them. Blatant, petty competitiveness reminds us that our differences are what make life interesting. I loved my rival, Kevin, like a brother. And, truth be told, Lo is getting there, too. Support your local rivalries. The spread of sanity depends on it.
Roger Marolt hopes that one day our major political parties will become rivals again. As blind enemies, things just aren’t working. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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