Feeling very thankful for winning and losing
It’s been an exciting few weeks of sport, as we’ve had the opportunity to witness some amazing victories and some equally stunning defeats. During this Thanksgiving holiday week, I submit that we should be thankful for both ends of the winning continuum. This past weekend, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup field did battle at Homestead, Florida, with four drivers in the hunt for the series championship. Perhaps the one who wanted it the most was Carl Edwards, who had been denied his first title in 2011 when he finished tied with Tony Stewart and was declared runner-up based on tie-breaker criteria. Fast-forward five years. Edwards had fought his way into the second spot in the field when the caution flag flew with just ten laps to go. Running ahead of the other three Chase competitors, Edwards blocked Joey Logano’s effort to pass him on the restart. The result was a fiery, multi-car crash, with Edwards barreling into a wall and out of championship contention. We’ve seen similar scenarios time and time again; the drivers involved in a dust-up race to the media to tell their side of the story first, often blaming their rivals, and sometimes throwing helmets along with their temper tantrums. But Edwards did none of the above. He calmly walked away from his mangled car and back to pit road. He climbed into the Logano pit and shook the rival crew chief’s hand. He then answered all of the tough questions from the media, taking a fair share of the responsibility for his own fate. Logano did the same, echoing Edwards’ explanation that both drivers did what they had to do in pursuit of a championship; that it was just “good, hard racing.” Losing is hard, obviously much harder than winning; it’s uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing; and the greater the loss, the more difficult it is to rise above it. But it is in those moments of defeat, in response to disappointment, when one’s true character is revealed. Carl Edwards lost a race, and lost the championship, but gained the respect of his competitors and millions of race fans. And that is what sport is all about. For every winning moment, there is someone on the other end. For every thrill of victory there is an agony of defeat. One of the most important things we can teach young athletes is how to handle losing, and how to respond to failure. Because if we learn from our losses and rebound from our disappointments, we have not failed after all. In an era of participation trophies and a prevailing everybody-wins climate, it’s important to remember the value of falling short. It gives us something to work for, to improve upon, and most importantly, to learn from. Winning is wonderful, but we can be thankful for the losses we overcome in life as well.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.