Win Some, Lose Some, Sports Will Make You Worrisome.

The once great sportswriter Grantland Rice penned:

         "For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
         He writes - not that you won or lost - but how you played the Game."

I wrote the majority of a blog post last night and, when I woke up this morning to finish editing it, I discovered Blogger didn't save my draft. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. The "my computer ate my file," problem, that was so prevalent in the late 90s but which is almost obsolete now...(except, apparently to my current students).  

It's all for the better. The blog wasn't that good. It was some long, sad, diatribe about the my Oregon Ducks losing a big game. Big deal. Nobody cares about sports blogging, and besides,  I wrote the exact article last year when it happened to the same Stanford Cardinals (hardly anyone read it then).

It's funny what winning or losing will do to somebody.

Lately I've been playing a lot of Candy Crush (I know, how generic and 2012 of me)...but I guess I like challenges. So when I beat the game on the iPad (it only had 400 levels at that point), I was somewhat disgruntled to learn that the Facebook version had an addition 100 levels. Really? As if the first 400 weren't hard enough?  Oh well, I like challenges. So I logged onto my wife's Facebook account and annoyed her friends with my progression and requests and finally conquered the stupid game.

500 levels of mastery. I pwned that game.  (The Royal Interwebs Geek Gaming Etymology Decreers {RIGGED}: "uh, technically, your usage of pwned, or ownage, of a simple strategy game like Candy Crush, does not fit the specified parameters of the word's designed usage. Thank you for playing, but do not pass GO, do not collect $200").  Regardless of what relevant gamers think, beating the game is an accomplishment.

Funny how I don't feel like a winner. If anything, I feel more like a loser for spending so much time trying to master a game nobody cares about anymore.

It's ironic how the idea of winning a trophy, getting first place, always seemed like it would be some life-validating achievement, and yet it feels so empty. I played on so many losing teams in my youth that being on top of the world, like Leo DiCaprio, even for a few moments before crashing and sinking to the bottom of the sea, seemed like a worthy trade off.  

I mean, Leo did make it with Kate Winslet just hours before he froze to death in the frigid sea. Realistically Kate won, because Leo played chivalrous and allowed her to float on top of the plank. The things guys will do for love (or nookie). I wonder what goes through a male preying mantis' head before his mate devours him?

What if winning is actually losing. Definitely Charlie Sheen's idea of winning isn't plausible. Sure, some people out there think that doing blow and getting it on with random girls who had no daddy love seems life-affirming, but most of us call it sad. Sheen isn't winning, he's losing to addiction.

If this is winning, I'm fine with being a loser.  
Or maybe I'm superimposing my idea of success on Mr. Sheen. Maybe I find his lifestyle of deplorable debaucherous acts to be unfitting for a father of five children. I mean, Mr. Sheen is dating a porn star, and he just became a grandpa! (Maybe this is a dream to some Gen Xers and Boomers...maybe he is winning).

This whole article was predicated on the idea of my Ducks losing a big game. Ten years ago, this wouldn't mean much. We Duck fans were happy with a 9-3 season. A bowl game after Christmas was a big deal. We Eugenites were proud to be ranked in the top 25 at the end of the year as there are 120 different division 1 schools (that's top twenty percentile!). We are a metropolitan area of about 200,000 people. We don't deserve to be relevant on the national stage.

But fast forward ten years of unbelievable success (even without a title), and suddenly losing ONE game feels like being the biggest loser. Not going to the National Championship game is failure. Bandwagon fans are selling their flashy Duck gear on eBay. The Ducks have become an internet sports troll's favorite punching bag.

You can't win for losing. You can't win when your losing. Success breeds expectations. And success is fleeting. So why are we so in love with winning?  Why do we create unrealistic expectations and devote aspects of our identity in teams and players that we have no connection to?

Because we want to be winners. We want the euphoria of knowing that we are elite (even if we are only spectators to that greatness).  Those of us who aren't bandwagon fans (and true Oregon fans know our historic ineptitude) know how hard it is to achieve greatness or the almost inconceivable: perfection. And we know how close we were once again.

But maybe perfection and winning isn't the goal. Maybe some of us, like Charlie Sheen, have lost sight of what winning actually is?  Maybe Grantland Rice had a better idea in the stanza before the oft quoted one:
"You'll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,
Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,
Let Courage call the signals as you keep on coming back."
How we played the game in the midst of turmoil and defeat defines who we are. In the movie Ender's Game, after being used and exploited to win a simulated war, Ender, in the midst of celebration, sees through the motives and perception of the people, and during the celebration breaks down emotionally.  ColonelGraff claims that winning is “all that matters.” No, Ender retorts, it’s not: “The way we win matters.”  

I'm not talking about sports, I never was. I always wanted a trophy, yet when I finally got one, I realized it is just cheap plastic. What I really wanted, what I really needed was affirmation of the One Great Scorer saying: "I don't care about the achievements, accolades, or trophies...but I do approve of the way you played the game."


  1. Hi, I found your blog via moonshine. Glad I did! You write well and I love, love, love finding moral lessons in the small stuff. You did a great job sussing it all out. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks so much. I try not to get too preachy...but I too, like a good moral lesson.

  2. So true! And timely with the Incognito mess too. Why can't people play nice?

    1. Yeah, I thought about bringing in the Incognito mess, but I wanted to see it settle itself down. ESPN likes to dramatize these situations, so I'll wait for the truth to out...

  3. The fact that football and morality are tags for this post struck me as very funny.

    Sometimes you lose the game but you win at life.

    P.S. I can make you a trophy for that, and it will be waaaay more of a conversation piece than anything that comes from the sports store, or trophy store - or wherever football awards come from.


    1. Yeah, tagging my work is almost as difficult as writing the piece. I think I'm still rebelling against thesis statements. I want to write about multiple topics and have a moral.

  4. We like winning, because winning feels good, gives us a temporary high, and gives us bragging rights. Yet, as you said, obsession with winning is taking it a step in the wrong direction. All good things in moderation, and all that jazz.

    1. True. It's been so long since I could brag I don't know what it's like. Although the high school I teach at has a team that is in the playoffs (we are historically bad), and if they win out...we'll have bragging rights for a long time.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree that how we win matters. I've been on so many losing soccer teams, but that didn't matter - I cared how I played. And that made it much more enjoyable.

    1. All I've ever experienced was losing when it came to sports until recently. Sometimes I have a good attitude, others...not so much, but I'm much better now than I was when I was eight. Losing, then, was the end of the world (which seemed to happen quite frequently).

  6. "I don't care about the achievements, accolades, or trophies...but I do approve of the way you played the game." How true. The trophies are nice, but how we get them is far more important.