Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Winning and Losing

Well, here we are during the intermission of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Capitals are down 3 games to none. Barring a miracle, we are going to lose the series.

Sports are a funny thing. Whether you are a fan or a player, you have to deal with the phenomenon of winning and losing. Hopefully, you get to win sometimes. But everyone, sooner or later, has to deal with losing.

It's a strange experience. You enter into the game and become completely engaged in the its dynamics. Your mind, your will, and your senses are all engaged in the task of doing what is necessary to win, or (in that bizarre state of being a "fan"--which is short for "fanatic") in rooting for your team to win.

So what happens if you win?

You make hi fives, you celebrate, maybe you have a party. Ticker tape parade. WooHoo! You feel great for a week. But eventually, you go back to work or wherever and, well, everything is the same. Except now you're a winner, which means you have something to live up to the next time around.

And what happens when you lose?

We may be about to experience the grim phenomenon of losing. Are you old enough to remember the old show, "ABC Wide World of Sports"? Long before your basic cable package had a half dozen 24/7 sports' stations, everything was compressed into one Saturday afternoon. There was the "thrill" of victory. But there was the agony of defeat.


That deep pit in the stomach. Cloud in the brain. Frustration. You want to kick something or throw something. When I was a kid, I would throw my transistor radio across the room when my team lost (who remembers transistor radios?). It can sometimes last for a whole day. Or several days. Especially if your team gets knocked out of the playoffs and you still have to keep hearing about the STUPID SPORT.

The Capitals just lost. It's all over.

In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown, "Rats!"

What will we do now? No more Caps' season. It's over. All our hopes, since October, all dashed. No more gathering around the T.V.--me, Mommy, and John Paul--to watch the skating, the shooting, the scoring. Sure, there's baseball (which, of course, is the best game), but still, Mommy doesn't like baseball.... We're back to two again. Shucks.

So the gloom is there in the background. But it will fade gradually, or even quickly if there are other pressing concerns, as there often are in life. But losing is tough. It leaves a scar. And it's worse if you get beaten year after year.

They say that losing builds character. In that case, my son is going to be a saint. We are (broadly speaking) in the Washington D.C. metro area. The Capitals are our only winner, in any way, shape, or form. The Wizards are a joke, the Redskins are pathetic, but nothing beats the team we're stuck with in the only sport that really matters: Baseball. The Washington Nationals are amazingly awful. I have followed baseball since 1969 (that's nineteen sixty nine) and in the past few years they have fielded some of the worst teams that have ever disgraced a major league ballpark. Perhaps I exaggerate. But it's been a pretty sorry crowd.

I can't speak for this year yet. Maybe they will be better this year. It's always hard to tell in April. That's what I've said every year. But every year they find new and one almost feels like saying "creative" ways of losing. The Nationals have made bad baseball into a kind of art form. Seriously.

So we have a summer of losing to look forward to...punctuated by the occasional win. A "curly W" is always a nice surprise; one is never expecting it, so it comes like a burst of sunshine out of the clouds. O my, it seems we've bumbled our way into winning!

I hope I'm eating these words in September. I'm strange in that I rather enjoy rooting for a loser, and the Nationals provide constant opportunities to express my wit, my chiding, and to otherwise give perhaps too much free reign to my sense of humor. But I'd trade it all in for a winner. It's only a shadow of glory, but still, in the end, even when we play, we play to win.