Whoever Said, “It’s Not Whether You Win Or Lose That Counts”, Probably Lost. (Martina Navratilova)
As I sit down to write this blog, my Cleveland Browns have just won their first football game of the season, after posting a hapless record of 0 wins and 14 losses. There is a longstanding maxim in the National Football League, that “on any given Sunday, one team can win and another can lose.” It takes a very special skill set to be able to lose every single Sunday. Oddly enough, I am not shamefully embarrassed by my team’s performance- or lack of- on the playing field. Not only have I resigned myself to lower my expectations, I have actually learnt to embrace the cult of losing.
There is losing, and then there is being a loser. Losing a very close race is a much harder pill to swallow than losing by a landslide. Ask Hillary if it is really a consolation to be reminded daily that she won the popular vote in this past election. Bobby Unser, the celebrated racing car driver, once quipped that: “Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.” According to a report cited in Scientific America, bronze medal winners in the Olympics are generally happier than silver medalists. Those who win the silver medal are tormented by “what could have been….” They feel that they lost out to only one person; whereas, the bronze medalists are so proud to have beaten all those other athletes below them. When your record is 0 &14, just showing up is an accomplishment.
If you are going to lose, you are better off doing so with some panache. You don’t have to be a history buff to remember George McGovern or Walter Mondale. Both presidential candidates managed to pull off the ignominious feat of winning only one state in their bids for the presidency. For goodness sake, McGovern couldn’t even carry his own home state of South Dakota. Yet, had they both not lost so spectacularly, would they be little more than a footnote in our collective memory?
For so many of us, losing seems to be a prerequisite to winning. One cannot truly appreciate the top if one has never hit rock bottom. Thomas Edison was famously chided by some of his teachers for being “too stupid to learn anything.” Fortunately, such helpful words of encouragement did not deter the famous inventor who would eventually accumulate 1093 different patents. Toyota Motors was not too keen on hiring Soichiro Honda as an engineer who tried to sell them on a new idea for improving their automobile’s engine. Undaunted, the unemployed mechanic decided to start his own business, the Honda Motor Company, which now boasts revenues of over 100 billion dollars annually.
Closer to home, I still suffer palpitations recalling those anxious days before Lori and I opened our bakery back in the 90s. We had bet the entire farm on our naïve venture to introduce butter and fresh cream to the staid, conventional market of Jerusalem. A certain well-meaning professional gave us one month before we would have to close up shop. We managed to beat the odds by staying open for 15 years, but not without our fair share of setbacks. In business, the prospect of losing everything can be a wonderful tool for motivation. Maybe that is why I feel more at ease siding with life’s underdogs. George has always been my favourite Beatle, the one whose talents were overshadowed by the other two guys. He was not the headline grabber of the group, which is rather unfortunate; perhaps if he had been a bit more assertive we would have heard more of his music on the albums.
And then there is Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners. An everyman loser if there ever was one, Ralph was the consummate dreamer. No matter how many of his get-rich schemes ended in spectacular failure, he kept on persevering. And, of course, we keep on rooting for him because if just one time he catches a lucky break, then maybe there is hope for the rest of us schnooks. True, the Cleveland Browns may never go on to win the Super Bowl, but then again, the day that Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president his odds of winning were listed at 150/1………