Why are we obsessed with winning? We all know that if the score is kept, then one team will win and one will lose. And unless you’re the high schooler playing among middle schoolers, you’ll probably lose half the time you play. No sane society would put so much emphasis on the outcome, and make the difference in emotions felt after, so drastic. Winning is fun, and it feels better than losing; but isn’t that a fake high?
In sports we learn about celebrating the controllable factors. We feel good when we improve, or play a smart, disciplined game- and we allow ourselves to feel good, because we know we controlled that part that went well. We enjoy these moments differently than we enjoy a one in a million play working out in our favor. Because we know we didn’t really control what happened, we know we can’t take all the credit; we know luck had a say in the outcome.
We always here the phrase ‘luck’ in sports- “Ah, he was so lucky today.” Or “She got all the luck.” When we’re talking about someone who we think played above their normal skill level, calling them ‘lucky’ makes us feel better because we don’t give our opponent all the credit for actually beating us. If we give some of his credit to ‘luck’ then we can give some of our blame to ‘bad luck.’
We know that we can’t control whether or not we win or lose; think about great players that get stuck on bad teams, or days when you play great and your opponent just plays better. Sport is about celebrating and perfecting the things we can control-our techniques, our strategies, our fighting spirit.
Does no one want to hear or see what professional athletes do on a daily basis? Do we not want to show the realities of their lives because the reality is not as sexy as the idea? If we think they are worth celebrating, surely they are not only worth celebrating based off an uncontrollable event. Say there is some skill to winning; there absolutely is, and that is probably the most valuable skill an athlete can have. But there are plenty of other skills athletes must posses that are valuable, and worth celebrating, in their own right.
This is not a plea to make all athletes be treated equally; Lebron is going to win the battle for our attention over Xavier Rathan-Mayes every time. I don’t expect winners and losers to ever be treated equally, but I think they can both be celebrated. There really is no reason to react so differently after the score has been decided when we all know the outcome is out of anyone’s total control.I’d rather hear the story of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, if he can teach me something, than a story on Lebron winning another game. What if they both work equally hard and are equally focused? Imagine they’re not created equal; Lebron has talents and physical attributes not many other people have ever had. Lebron should be the greatest of all time, he’s built for it. But Rathan-Mayes’ life and career can inspire us in different ways than Lebron’s pursuit of greatness can. I called winning a fake high, and I say that because it’s really just excessive reaction to an uncontrollable event. It doesn’t make any sense; it’s self-indulgence. We really put stock in how we perform in the areas we can control. Did we engage? Did we do our best to improve? If we do, the outcome really becomes an afterthought, and should be treated as such by everyone in the sports world.