My dad wrote this post, and it seemed fitting to publish it the week March Madness begins. I get my competitive nature and love of sports from my dad, who coached at and was the athletic director of my high school (not at the same time), and who always advocated the importance of good sportsmanship, not only on the part of the players but also the fans. Here he writes about his own struggles with losing gracefully, or what he refers to as his demon. -Sarah
Losing . . . My Demon
“Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure.” -Knute Rockne
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” –Grantland Rice
While almost all of us would prefer to have our friends and family associate us with Grantland Rice’s quote, many of us (including me) instead play like we believe in Knute Rockne’s philosophy.
All of my life I have been known as someone who loves to compete. But I’m not sure that this is true. Perhaps, more accurately, I love to win. I am, more often than not, a poor loser. I don’t want to be and I try not to be. But far too often, I am.
It’s not always this way. When playing a game – any game – I really do enjoy the interaction with the other people involved. It is a great way to get to know someone better. And a game, any game, is supposed to be fun.
I’m sure that many of those who I have competed against have not (yet) seen my “dark side.” There are certainly times when I not only keep it hidden, but it doesn’t even attempt to make an appearance. And I love interjecting humor into the competition whenever possible. I think that, for the most part, I have a good sense of humor. And then everyone seems to have a lot of fun.
But unfortunately, the people that I love and care about the most – my family and dearest friends – have probably experienced “the demon” far too often. And, as a result, the fun seems to sneak out the back door.
The demon can take many different forms. Sometimes it’s frustration or anger, like when I attacked my best friend, Steve, for changing the channel on the TV when I was watching the Vikings play, or when I didn’t give my friend Terry a ride home from a ballgame because he questioned my integrity. Perhaps it comes out as a lack of compassion or empathy, like when I gave my daughter Libby the Queen of Spades multiple times in a row during one of her earliest experiences of playing Hearts. Or it could be in the form of pouting, which my wife, Connie, too often experiences when we’re playing cribbage. Occasionally it’s sarcasm, when I try to diminish the efforts of my opponent. Regardless, it quickly takes the fun out of what is meant to be a fun activity.
So here’s my sincere desire for 2015. Maybe I should make it my prayer before I begin any form of competition:
- Help me to strive to put more fun into playing rather than taking it out.
- Make me the kind of teammate that helps everyone on the team play better.
- Remind me that my opponent wants and deserves to win as much as I do.
- Put my pride in the backseat – or better yet the trunk – and good sportsmanship in the driver’s seat.
- Focus my attitude on these two quotes:
“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.” -Pele
“When you win, say nothing, when you lose, say less.” -Paul Brown
I still want to win. But I want to lose . . . the demon. What time does the game start?