A Winning Note

hand imprint of a high five

Winning isn't everything, but it beats anything in second place. - William C. Bryant

At 0:00 seconds, when the whistle finally blew, bedlam on an ordinary school lacrosse field in New Jersey ensued. One side of the field erupted in deafening screams as jubilant high school girls ran to each other, jumping up and down and hugging each other with unabashed enthusiasm. Lacrosse sticks sailed high in the air like proud graduation caps. In the stands, ecstatic parents high-fived and celebrated in kind.

The other side of the field was considerably more somber. The losing team trudged slowly to their home sideline and watched painfully as the winning opponents openly celebrated the sunny side of defeat without reservation.

It’s not important to win, it's important to make the other guy lose. - Unknown

In the end, the winning team did what they had to do to win. It wasn’t dramatic, it wasn’t elegant, it was not pretty. It was not a buzzer beating shot zinged to the back of the net. No, my daughter's high school lacrosse team, hanging onto the slimmest of leads, played unusually flawless keep-away for the last two and a half minutes of the game thereby removing any possible chance for their opponent to steal the game.

The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting. - Walt Disney

By their victory celebration, you would have thought that they had taken title to a state championship. But their exuberance was not that of a championship team, it was that of a team who after thirteen losses, had finally discovered what it felt like to win.

It was the end of the season. Until this game, my daughter’s lacrosse team had not won a single match.

And the somber girls on the lower end of the score? Well they were excessively dejected because they had just lost to the worst team in the conference.

I lost to a fighter who was better than me everywhere. - Kostya Tszyu

Sometimes losing is inevitable. Sometimes our opponents are just that much better. My daughter’s lacrosse team lost some games to very superior opponents. But they also lost squeakers to well-matched competitors. Over the course of their season it is safe to say they played well and lost.

However, it is also safe to say that they played poorly and lost.

Such is the nature of a losing a lot.

About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you are fighting temptation. - Tom Wilson

Let’s be honest. Losing sucks. You can wrap it in the quotable and syrupy rhetoric of head-held-high dignity, hard-fought fair play, or never-give-up effort, but in the end, it still feels like someone ran over your center while it was still inside of you.

You can be a gracious winner or a gracious loser. I don’t know anyone who prefers the later.

Winning provides happiness, losing provides wisdom. - Proverb

And this is exactly the sort of syrupy, Hallmark Card, Dadism my daughter would expect me to serve up to provide some sort of comfort after each successive loss. But I would never insult the insight gained through suffering so many losses with such gag inducing platitudes.

Frankly, I don’t think it's possible to mine much wisdom losing every game you ever play. When you are young and are becoming acquainted with disappointment on a first name basis, wisdom is nothing more than mold cultivating in a petri dish for later use when it is not needed as much.

Sometime after the sting has gone. Sometime after a single mark has been tallied in the win column to show what happiness is all about.

Yeah! We finally won! - My daughter

I suffer from the delusion that I need to explain anything at all. That I need to frame a one-game winning streak within the context of so many losses. That I need to offer some guidance and experience. When in reality, as a parent, all I need to do is extend my very heart-felt congratulations on a spectacular win and share in the joy of victory.

Maybe with some ice cream.

Because these young lacrosse women don’t need any context. They have a special bond and they enjoy playing the game together. And outside my own misguided perception of their disappointment lies the reality that after every game, regardless of the outcome, they walked off the field smiling.

Any witty advice on winning and losing beyond this is just a bunch of useless quotes from someone else’s playbook of life.

My whole life is about winning. I don't lose often. I almost never lose. - Donald Trump

Too cocky.

I'm in competition with myself and I'm losing. - Roger Waters

Too demoralizing.

Competition is a sin. - John D. Rockefeller

Too underhanded.

Win or lose, we go shopping after. - Imelda Marcos

There we go!