LEWISTON — For Francesco Duina, something clicked when he saw Michael Jordan moments after he won his fifth NBA championship.
“Confetti was still falling,” Duina said of the scene on the court. “Jordan was still sweating.” A camera zoomed in on the basketball star, who held up six fingers.
Jordan's message: “I'm not resting, yet. I want a sixth championship.”
“Something struck me right there and then,” Duina said. “I said, 'When is enough enough? What must one do in order to quell that desire?'”
Thirteen years later, the Bates College associate professor has authored “Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession.”
The 237-page book published by Princeton University Press is an analysis of competition in modern society, including politics, money, sports and entertainment.
“It's everywhere,” said Duina, who teaches the nation's only college class on the sociology of competition.
“I want people to think about why they compete,” he said.
Duina was introduced to American notions of winning at 14, when he moved to Glenview, Ill., from his childhood home in Italy.
Right away, he was taken aback by the intensity of competition, whether he was playing tennis or trombone.
“I couldn't quite make sense of it,” said Duina, now a fit 41-year-old. He, too, could be competitive but he was baffled by the cost. “It was less about having fun and more about beating the town over.”
“They used to make us drill at 6 in the morning to win marching band competitions,” he said. “You know, I'd want to play the trombone.”
The experience stuck.
He figures his boyhood in Europe may have made him more aware of America's competitive approach.
“I think that positioned me a little differently,” he said. Duina tapped his drive and ambition, schooled as a sociologist at the University of Chicago and Harvard University.
In 2007, he began working on “Winning,” his fourth book.
“My goal was to figure out what the language of competition is all about,” he said. About 90 percent of the book is analysis, looking at winning in politics, business, sports and elsewhere, he said.
He compared European, North American and Asian societies and he broke down different ways of winning, comparing the consistent winners to the ones who won only occasionally and to the steady losers.
“I think it comes with serious implications,” he said. Competition and winning can lead people to great accomplishments, but not everyone can be above average.
“Anxiety can be a great motivator," he said. “But if the trophy's there, you're always going to have failures.”
Find your ambition elsewhere, Duina says. Winning isn't all it's cracked up to be.
“It's best to ask, 'What do you want?'” Duina said.
Maybe that's a win, or maybe it's something else, said the father of two. After a soccer game, he'll ask his 6-year-old, “Did you get out of it what you wanted?”
“I think what's important is not winning, it's to realize what you want and actually getting it,” he said. “And you can be a beast about it.”
Duina himself recently fulfilled a long-term goal.
“I did a triathlon and I did it alone with a friend in a pool without competition,” he said. For him, completing the physical test was more important than his time or beating someone else.
“I am a person with goals and I go after my goals with determination,” Duina said.
The professor is not immune to disappointment, however. He figures he'll be watching his book sales as carefully as any author.
“Of course, I hate not to get the things I want,” he said.