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Competition for the most toys

How useful is competition? Competition is the engine that drives free enterprise. It pushes trap makers to make better mousetraps, auto makers to make better cars, retailers to carry better merchandise and all of business to deliver products at lower prices and provide better service than its competitors. In almost any business, competition pushes us to try harder and improve to catch up, get ahead or stay ahead.

But competition does other things. You've heard the expression, "whoever dies with the most toys wins." That may sound silly, but you know it's going on out there. In the toy competition there are many events, just like a track meet.

One event is the snowmobile toy competition. Snowmobiles continue to get bigger, better, faster and more expensive and you can't ride them wearing jeans, parkas and overshoes. Snowmobiles are wonderful outdoor recreation vehicles, great for tourism and a boost to the economy, but unless you own a ranch and use a sled to round up your cattle, they're toys. But if yours is the biggest, baddest and fastest, the other guys can only drool in envy, because you win.

If all terrain vehicles (ATV's) are your toys, the whole competition works about the same as the snowmobile event. But you can't really be seriously competitive unless you have the biggest and best of both and have to rent a storage space somewhere with room for everything. If you grew up as long ago as I did, you will recall that in the old days there weren't any rental storage spaces. None. And that's because nobody had more than they could put in a house in a one-stall garage.

If you really want to compete, get into the bigger boat competition. A guy drove down the street yesterday pulling a boat that I'm sure could sleep a half dozen family members. But if you go to some marina where they're launching lots of boats, you'll see them bigger and bigger and bigger. And unless they're commercial fishermen, those boats are toys. More storage needed -- bigger storage. You're winning.

Then there's the world of competition to see who can acquire the most high-tech toys. What I know about this world is only what I can see from the outside looking in through the window. If you have bought a new and better camera, a new and better cell phone, a new and better I-pod, a new and better computer or one device that performs all of those functions, you are collecting some impressive toys. Yes I understand, all those functions are not toy functions -- how can any self-respecting modern person carry an instrument that plays less than 5,000 songs? That's not a luxury, that's a necessity. But stay alert, high-tech instruments get obsolete in a hurry so you wouldn't want to get caught with last year's gadget would you? You lose.

Competition in sports is another thing. One of my favorites is track and field. The beauty of the sport is in its simplicity. What could be more basic that eight guys lining up to see who can run 100 yards the fastest, or a quarter mile, or two dozen competitors running half a mile, a mile or two miles? They all run faster because they're competing against the others. But before that they trained and conditioned themselves. They became healthier and stronger because of competition. And what could be more basic than to see who can jump the highest over a bar or throw a 12-pound steel ball the farthest? Guys and gals compete. It's clean, healthy competition -- minimal equipment, minimal expense, no toys and no storage space necessary. If you finish last in the two-mile run you can always get the biggest boat later.