Losing…My Demon

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

soccer hands by woodleywonderworks https://flic.kr/p/5nWv3K

Photo Credit: soccer hands by woodleywonderworks, Flickr

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?


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7 responses to “Losing…My Demon”

  1. littlegardener23 says :

    fantastic. What a great dad thinker. I play a sport 3 times a week and a loss affects my mood all day. I feel like a loser and think I ought to quit. I fight the demon for a good 12 hours. After a win, I feel confident and impenetrable. There is a statistic that states the domestic abuse rates go up in Wisconsin when the Packers lose. I feel that my change in mood and overall outlook are on that continuum. Thanks to your dad for a thought-provoking piece.

    • Sarah in Small Doses says :

      Thanks Little Gardener! My dad will be happy to hear this. I agree, it’s easy to get caught up in a loss, and I don’t doubt that domestic abuse goes up (nationwide) after sports losses. I’m sure we can all benefit from changing our focus to having fun instead of winning no matter what.

  2. Gil's Growlers says :

    I have been a friend of Dave’s since high school. I have personally witnessed all that he has talked about in this article, and can confirm that these troubling interactions with others have actually occurred . Believe me, there have been MANY more such anecdotes as well.

    Imagine his tortured existence as a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan alone! However, since I have always been a Green Bay Packers fan myself, observing his behavior in this regard has generally brought ME great delight and satisfaction.

    I am glad for him that he is finally evolving. He tells me that he is maturing now. Is this really possible?

    • Sarah in Small Doses says :

      We’re all works in progress, but I think being able to write about a character trait you’re not proud of shows maturity, and his expressed desire and intention to be better is a good step. I’m sure it has been hard for him to be a Vikings fan, especially in Wisconsin, but I can attest to the fact that he’s mellowed. I think he’s pretty great. 🙂

      • Gil's Growlers says :

        I agree with all of your comments, Sarah. My original response was entirely tongue-in-cheek. Your father and I remain very good friends to this day. Even despite his former “Demon”! Lol.

  3. Sarah in Small Doses says :

    Oh, I know they were meant tongue-in-cheek. I’m sure my dad thought your comments were hilarious, and I appreciated the humor as well.

  4. Michael Turner says :

    I think his son also deals with this same ‘demon’ (among many others). Schadenfreude. Taking an almost sadistic and self-righteous air when I or ‘my team’ or ‘my guy’ triumphs in competition, and turning into a bitter, ornery hater when the opposite occurs. It is hard to restrain yelling and ranting at the TV or bemoaning a ‘flagrant injustice’ that (in my opinion) transpires within the competitive arena, and to bring the people around me into deaingl with these behaviors and emotions. I too have to be reminded that others may have worked much harder or be much more deserving of victory than myself. Win or lose, I hope it is a good, clean, fun, fair, and entertaining competition, and that I would possess humility, graciousness, and courage in my role. I remember my dad trying his best to not let a tough loss affect his attitude toward the people around him and life in general, and I have enjoyed learning how to compete from him.

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