Let’s be honest. We worship winning.
Whether we say it out loud or not, we agree with Vince Lombardi when he famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. Winning is the only thing.”
Out of worship of winning has come the attitude – “Win at all costs.” Pay whatever it takes to win – whatever it takes to achieve the goal, to arrive at the prize, to win – pay it, with the assumption that it is worth it.
Pat Conroy stands in the face of that attitude and speaks honestly and forthrightly about the value of winning and losing. In his book My Losing Season, he says:
“Winning is wonderful in every aspect, but the darker music of loss resonates on deeper, richer planes…Winning makes you think you’ll always get the girl, land the job, deposit the million dollar check, win the promotion, and grow accustomed to a life of answered prayers.
Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted, but clear-eyed in its understand that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass. My acquaintance with loss has sustained me during the stormy passages of my life when the pink slips came through the door, when the checks bounced at the bank, when I told my small children I was leaving their mother, when the despair caught up with me, when the dreams of suicide began feeling like love songs of release. It sustained me when my mother lay dying of leukemia, when my sister heard the ruthless voices inside here, and when my brother Tom sailed out into the starry night in Columbia, South Carolina, sailed from a fourteen-story building and plunged screaming to his death, binding all of his family into his nightmare forever. Though I learned some things from the games we won that year, I learned much, much more from loss.”
Would that we agreed with Conroy as we play, coach, or watch, if we really valued losing as equally as we do winning or, if I listen to Conroy’s experience, to value losing even more.
Think how this would change our sports culture!