Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thinking About the Losers

For every person or team who stand on that awards platform and receive gold medals, there are scores of other persons who feel as though they have failed. Human nature is not to be content with just having made it to such an elite competition; instead a person must win to really go down in history. And winning gold is way ahead of silver and bronze.

This whole concept of failure is even more difficult when it’s a team event. Today’s Post reported on the women’s gymnastics event, casting the team captain Alicia Sacramone’s two falls as the reason why the US didn’t win the gold. Another article mentioned that if the US men’s 400 free relay had lost, the third swimmer Cullen Jones (who happened to be African American) would have been held responsible because he lost the lead.

I can vividly remember when my 12-year-old son was swimming in an Eastern Zones meet, he DQ’ed the relay by taking off early. He became the scapegoat, even though a relay start is a shared responsibility between the person coming into the wall and the one taking off.

For each of these persons who has pictured him/herself receiving the award for victory, the bitter knowledge that the medal hangs around someone else’s neck is a reminder that it’s too late this time. For many it will be their only chance.

I love to see the smiles on the faces of the winners. But somehow my heart is more with those who don’t realize their dreams. I feel even sorrier for them if it was a team event and they somehow disappointed their team. I hope we as a country can focus on supporting ALL of the athletes who are working so hard, regardless of whether they win or lose.


Blogger Steve said...

I agree completely -- it's hard not to feel for those who don't win. At the same time, I think there's a psychology built into sportsmanship that you give it your absolute best shot, and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. In other words, I like to think these folks have competed enough that they're prepared to occasionally lose -- so perhaps it's not as devastating as we think. (Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- They are trained to win, despite the old adage, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." I have lived with an athlete who would beat himself up when he didn't live up to his own standards! They all know someone has to lose, but never willingly agree to be that someone.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Lemmonex said...

I agree with Barbara...though sportsmanship is important everyone ALWAYS strives to win. If they didn't want to win, they woud not compete.

My heart broke for the female gymnasts this am as Meredith Viera listed all the ways they "messed up" that cost them the gold.

Meanwhile, I tripped on the walk to work this am...

10:44 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

For the rest of their lives, these people will be introduced as: "Former Olympian, X". As long as they don't end up on The World of Sports opening reel, it becomes part of their history, but hardly historic. Can you name anyone from the the relay in the Olympics eight years ago? In the heat of moment, everything seems so.... Olympic, but really, it's a rare athlete that causes talk in December.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Lemmonex -- I can almost not watch as those girls fly down that runway to do their 20-second event that can just as easily end in agony as victory. Their faces show such a mixture of determination and fear.

Meanwhile we mortals continue to trip on the uneven sidewalks...

11:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- You are so correct. I probably couldn't name more than half a dozen former Olympians. But unfortunately the ones I would name would be those who had collected multiple Gold medals.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I always think about the losers. I think that's part of the reason I'm not very competitive. That and I'm completely uncoordinated. But the "losers" at the Olympics are still winners in my book. They are amazing.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I totally agree!

3:25 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

At the risk of being a thread hijacker, what I thought about when watching the women's gymnastics was that the Chinese girls were taken from their homes (with their parents' acquiescence, apparently, but under tremendous duress, no doubt) and placed in government-run gymnastics facilities for the rest of their childhood and teen years. They see their parents once a year. The Chinese government thinks it's more important to win gold medals in the Olympics than to have healthy functioning families. I'm sure the Chinese people are wonderful, but their government is sick sick sick.

Oh, that and the American girl gymnasts' hair, all blond except for one, all in the same ponytail. Kind of weird too.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MC -- I could not agree more about the absurdity of determining a child's future at age 3 and of depriving that child from ever getting to be a child with a normal family life.

Did you notice the difference in the overall appearance of the 2 gymnastics teams? The Chinese girls looked so incredibly young, with 5 of them weighing under 80 pounds. They smiled only when they had done a successful routine. They appeared like robots. Whereas the American girls, even though they did all have identical blond ponytails, looked their age and seemed to have a spirit that permitted normal interaction and expression. It almost made them seem more human to experience failure, not that I'd want to wish that on anyone.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Chinese culture is very different than American culture. The way the Chinese athletes behave makes perfect sense within their culture, just as American athletes behave very much like Americans. I don't think our culture is "normal" - it's just what we're used to.

Also have to agree with Steve - that being an athlete requires a kind of sportsmanship you and I may not understand.

It's not possible for us to know the thoughts and reactions of olympic athletes. I assume there's a lot of variety in their reactions, depending on the individuals themselves and the cultures they come from.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- No competitive athlete likes to lose. It is a painful experience, especially when it involves a team. Some athletes are demonstrably more upset than others, but it has to be difficult as you read about yourself in negative terms the next day in the world's press.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I'm sure no athlete likes to lose, but consider that India got their FIRST gold medal this week... it's a honor just to go and be there.

1:02 AM  

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