When Competition Clouds Judgement

Competition is present in all of our lives, almost all of the time. We all compete whether we like to or not, for better grades on curved tests, for instance. When is it that we can no longer trust ourselves to make the correct, moral and decent judgments that, as human beings, we need to make in order for our lives to be as satisfying as possible?
This past Friday, April 22, Songfest took place. It is an amazing show put on by the Greeks of UCI to raise money for Camp Footprints, an organization that helps children with disabilities and those from underprivileged homes. This year was the 25th production of Greek Songfest, and it was as successful as ever. But Songfest is, after all, a competition, and people can get a little bit crazy when they are competing for something. Most of the pairings of fraternities and sororities had been practicing for months in order to make their show as perfect as humanly possible. During the week leading up to Songfest, there were numerous rehearsals at the Bren Events Center (where the competition was held) and for the first time other fraternities and sororities got to see their competition.
Competition can bring out the worst in people, but also the best. Those who win competitions are usually those who have been dedicating themselves to whatever it is they are competing in, and are not just there for winning. When you look at those who win championships, trophies or almost anything that is competitive, it is the people who have dedicated their lives to their crafts that win.
My point isn’t that competition is bad; in fact, in many cases it brings out the best in people. But in some people, this competition can make them evil, make them forget about their morals, make them forget about why they started competing in the first place, and it was this that I witnessed backstage during rehearsals at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday, April 20.
On Wednesday, one pairing, who will remain anonymous, was going through their show, and afterward, an authority figure talked to them about the suggestive choreography and what was deemed as inappropriate language involved in their show.
For those of you who don’t know, Songfest is an intricate and highly organized event, and scripts must be turned in weeks in advance. This group was informed Wednesday night, 48 hours before they were to perform their act on stage, that many parts needed to be changed.
The group had performed the show twice on Monday and Tuesday, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that they found out that changes had to be made. Apparently, what happened was that other groups felt intimidated by the performance of this group and went to the supervisors, saying that the suggestive choreography and ‘vulgar’ language would offend family members coming to the show. The shocker? This group wasn’t even going to be judged. They weren’t eligible to win!
You may say that the offense taken may have been legitimate, the language or choreography truly would offend someone. But, they had the script for weeks and saw the choreography on at least four occasions and nothing had been done.
Competition can do some crazy things to people. None of us like to get upstaged, nobody likes to lose, but sometimes you just need to tip your hat to those who, on that night, were better performers, those who may have put just a little bit more heart into their performances. To the group who couldn’t win, and couldn’t even perform their show the way they wanted, I apologize on behalf of common decency; and to those who complained, I pity the fact that you couldn’t see past the competition, past your pride, to be able to allow a group who had nothing to win to put their heart and soul into a performance to raise some money for some kids.

Alex Chazen is a first-year political science major. You can contact him at achazen@uci.edu.