I’m a second child in my family, so I have a great sympathy for runners-up. When I see someone picked as “the Best,” I often wonder. “Who came in next?”
Birth order may not be entirely responsible, but this attitude has had a big influence on my life. In fact, when I’m sampling restaurant specials or buying books by famous authors, I usually try the number one thing on the list, but inevitably I default to something less renowned, a personal favorite, i.e. someone else’s second choice.
This tendency may work to my benefit as a writer and editor where you have to know a little about a lot and you always find the best stuff by digging past the “official” story. But, fact is, I’ve just never been all that concerned with winning. As long as I’m doing things I enjoy and can score a spot somewhere within an acceptable range, I’m happy.
I like to tell people about the only competitive prize ribbon I ever took home in my youth. I won it for the wheelbarrow race in an elementary school field day event. Even that was not an exclusive award since I was only half the team — my buddy Dick Porter, a good athlete and all-around nice guy, had agreed to partner with me.
Oh, and we came in second. Probably my fault.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate quality and I spend a lot of my time making choices about what’s best on behalf of this magazine and for the benefit of readers. I get great help from friends and experts across the state* and I think we do a superlative job. It’s fair (IMHO) to say that we produce the best list of bests in New Hampshire, but even this is a bit like a wheelbarrow race where the glory must be shared.
The irony of my situation is all the more glaring in a state that prides itself in being “First in the Nation” (at least every four years) and has a stack of superlatives to its credit ranging from longest candy counter (Chutters in Littleton) to windiest spot on the planet (Mt. Washington, of course) to the nation’s cleanest beach (Hampton —who knew?).
Maybe my “second child” point of view is my advantage. Being number one is really just setting the bar. What’s truly fascinating to me is what happens below the bar: Who’s next and what’s coming down the pike? Fortunately, there are always new contenders and challengers for the top position. It’s that lively ferment within the Granite State culture that keeps things interesting.
So, strange as it may be in a magazine devoted to the Best of NH, I’d like to dedicate this page to the second-place finishers of the world. And in the spirit of competition let me offer them this word of encouragement.
There’s always next year.
* By the way, if you think you know what’s best, or even what’s second best in your neck of the Granite State, I’m always looking for new members of what I affectionately call my “Legion of Super Advisers.” Most of these folks are deeply involved in their own communities and provide me with counsel on a number of issues each year, culminating with the editor’s picks for Best of NH. Drop me a line with your credentials and I’ll be in touch.