Is treasure hunt a game or a sport?
An interesting question raised by GM Vincent Woo when I met him for the first time last year. He co-clerked an unofficial hunt together with GM VK Chong. We hunters had just clocked in at the finish station and were waiting for the results. He said the answer can be both, depending on the circumstances. In his opinion, when the hunt is for the purpose of "having fun" and not really for the winning (such as the hunt we had that day), then it is more of a game. When it's about winning—and ultimately the fight for the prizes—then it is more of a sport; or something to that effect (GM Vincent, if you are reading this, please correct me if I am wrong).
To a certain extent, I agree with GM Vincent. However, that suggestion raises 2 important questions. Firstly, how many people agree with his opinion?; and secondly, where do we draw the line between game and sport?
As far as I am concerned, whenever I hunt, regardless of whether it's official or unofficial, I will try my best to win that hunt—although perhaps I won't go as far as stripping down to my underwear like Dato' Ramesh. But on the other hand, I will also be all out to have fun. In fact, if I can help it, I will try to have equal amount of both! In such a case, am I playing a game, or a sport, or both?
I have spoken to a fair number of treasure hunters, both the regulars and newbies. And I am more interested in the answers given by the newbies or not-so-regular hunters. They almost all said that they're only hunting to have fun on a weekend. In fact, many of the regular hunters gave me that answer too. Yet, in spite of "having had a lot of fun" throughout the hunt—which the newbies readily admitted—they still complained that they're going home empty-handed. Therefore, although they refused to admit it, in fact they wanted very much to win too! That's why I don't really buy that famous line: "I am hunting just to have fun", because that is not exactly true. Winning still means a lot to all teams. And after a while, if they still can't achieve the podium finish, some of them will give up altogether. Then new teams will come onto the scene, and the whole cycle will repeat itself. This is of course speaking from the general point of view.
The regular hunters—I mean those really serious ones—are generally all out to win, although they're also having fun while pursuing the top prizes. Unfortunately, only some of them win frequently. They're the cream of the masters—the best of the best. The rest don't win hunts very frequently, yet they continue hunting for the challenge and for the fun of it. It is in this sense that I am more inclined to believe that they really mean it when they say they want to have fun. For if they're not having fun, I fail to see why they'd continue hunting.
So in my opinion, all teams want badly to win hunts, and all want to have fun too. I don't believe that only the stronger teams want to win—that they no longer have fun if they don't win anything in the end.
The not-so-serious hunters want so much to win, but they're not willing to work for it. They forget that those master hunters have put in years of hard work; experienced failures upon failures; disappointments upon disappointments; paid for hunts upon hunts and ended up with nothing to bring home; they persevered, they invested in huge collections of dictionaries, laptops and state-of-the-art gadgets for hunting. They don't win hunts by accidents; they win because they deserve it!
Yet the new hunters want the winnings too. And so in this beloved Boleh-Land of ours, hunt organisers throw in games; often ridiculous ones, and increasingly more of them too. Coconut bowling, paper aeroplanes, dart-throwing, guessing number of grapes—you name it—plenty of those. Standards are kept low; and even if tough questions are included, they're very few and carry much lesser points. All these for the sake of, hopefully, giving the new hunters some opportunities to measure up to the masters. Yet at the end of the day, the masters, the best of the best, still always prevail.
In almost everything else in this Boleh-Land, we see the same thing happening. When I was in upper secondary school, no calculators were allowed. These days all the kids have calculators—even in exams. Yes, I know we're trying to achieve the so-called "developed nation" status by 2020. I guess it would look good on paper if a big majority of our citizens have at least SPM qualification. But what is the value of those SPM certificates?
During the Rotarian District Assembly last week, we invited a Sabahan national swimmer, Alex Lim to share his experience. He's without doubt one of the best swimmers we've had in Malaysia. He said something which struck me as very significant. I just wished some of the new hunters were there to listen to what he had to say.
His daily routine includes training which starts at 5:00 am in the morning for 3 hours; then followed by another 3-hour session in the afternoon. He said when he swim against the other world class swimmers, his main target is to break his own frontier—that his main focus is to beat his own time. He said even if he loses a race, but if he breaks his best time, he's very happy. On the other hand, even if he wins gold but fails to improve on his time, he won't be very happy. And that, folks, was from an Olympic-bound swimmer. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifices to become a champion!
I am not a master hunter; and I am also relatively new to this game/sport (I have 11 hunts under my belt so far). Therefore I am not speaking to the new hunters in a capacity of a master talking down to the lowly-rated rivals; rather I am speaking to my peers. Let us all rise to the challenge and fight—I mean really fight without handicaps. I am sure the win—when we eventually achieve it—will be much sweeter if it's not because we were lucky to have guessed the correct number of grapes or the coconut somehow rolled in a straight line on our throw.