September 8, 2009

Losing as Life Experience: Sucking It Up

Print More

I hate losing. I hate it more than almost anything — more than the Yankees, more than losing to the Yankees, more than prelims and swine flu and the redesigned Ivy Room. I don’t like losing in Monopoly, I don’t like losing in poker, I didn’t like losing in high school and I don’t like losing in their current equivalent, the amalgamation of collegiate “athletics” known as intramural sports.
As I sit here tonight at the computer, the sickly glow of the monitor screen highlights the streaks of newly-dried sweat streaking the bridge of my nose and pooled in my hair. My shoulders ache and streaks of brown and green extend down from my knees. (Clearly, I have not yet showered. Damn you, Daily Sun!) The season opener for our intramural soccer team has come and gone. Final tally: 9-2. Suffice it to say, we lost the match.
Fifteen-plus years of competitive athletics has taught me many things. I have learned the value of sportsmanship, the pure adrenaline rush of victory and the physical pain of defeat. I have learned that you should probably avoid cursing at referees, that a twisted ankle feels very differently from a broken one and that whatever you do, when wearing breakaway warm-ups, do not forget to check that you are in fact wearing your shorts underneath before stripping them off dramatically at midfield.
But all of those years have never erased that sting that comes from losing. And we didn’t just lose this game. We got spanked. We were Rihanna to their Chris Brown. The mercy rule was called in, for God’s sake.
Ouch. I mean, OUCH!
All right, I’m done whining now.
As I sat brooding about the loss later that night — when I probably should have been concentrating on other things, like, say, my thesis prospectus (sorry, Professor Lennon!) — it hit me that perhaps losing that game was the best thing that could have happened to my overachieving Ivy League butt (you’re welcome, Munier).
I would just like to preface this statement with the point that while I hate losing, I don’t classify myself as a “sore loser,” mainly because I take my frustration out on myself, and not on my teammates or the other team. Think Edward Norton’s character from Fight Club, who likes beating up on himself.
We Cornellians like to think of ourselves as the “down-to-earth Ivy.” Partly, this attitude gives everyone who was in fact rejected from Harvard and Yale an excuse for picking the Big Red, as in “Oh, yeah, I would never have actually gone to Harvard (subtext, had I been accepted).
But just because we weren’t part of that top eight percent doesn’t mean we can’t be just as pretentious, just as overly ambitious and just as Type-A as your most obnoxious Yalie.
Enter the intramural match. (By now I hope you’ve all caught on to one of my main column strategies, as in sports as a metaphor for life. I know, unique). My team was overmatched from the start. We had no subs, most of us were playing in sneakers and at least one of my teammates didn’t seem to have ever played the game before. In contrast, our opponents seemed to understand at least the basic fundamentals of the game, they had remembered their cleats and they had a sideline full of subs ready to run us into the ground.
Needless to say, the match was very enjoyable for me.
One highlight for me was when our goalie unwittingly kicked a dribbling shot back into the onrushing striker, practically deflecting the ball back into the net, or perhaps when a member of the opposing team, having apparently sized us up immediately as unworthy of a full forty minutes of competition, asked the referee just how many they had to score to induce the mercy rule — after their second goal (just FYI, it’s a “seven-point differential”).
That was pretty rude, actually. Hey, disproportionately-muscled short guy, I heard you, as you were standing three feet away from me at the time. You could have at least feigned some respect.
Anyways, while my pride most definitely took a beating, the moral of this story is that I will be back on the pitch next week. The chances of us winning are honestly pretty slim — dismal, really — but there are worse things in life, really. At least, so I’ve been told. I guess I’ll think of this season as my introduction to the “real world,” since, let’s be honest, I should be prepared to lose, a lot, after I graduate. (What’s that you say? I graduate in May?!)
Optimistic? Not exactly. Realistic? Most definitely.
Oh, wait, I just thought of something worse: I could be that disproportionately-muscled short guy.