We are just days away from the grandest spectacle in American sports, and above all else, the participants in Super Bowl XLVIII will serve as living testaments of hard work, dedication, and camaraderie. However — aside from a conference championship — you don’t get a trophy for just making it. At the conclusion of sixty minutes, there will only be one winner.
As a society, we have begun to tread a dangerous threshold of celebrating losing; and there is nothing, at all, celebratory about losing.
Vince Lombardi — you know, the man in which the Super Bowl trophy is named after — once stated that, “If you can accept losing, you can’t win.”
Professional sporting leagues set the standard for which their subordinate levels emulate, and we are pacifying them in the worst way. I am all for the advocation of good sportsmanship, and maintaining the integrity of sport; but what are we really teaching our youth with “participant awards,” as a society? Don’t worry about winning, lad. You’ll get a medal either way.
One of the primary issues is that, somewhere along the way, negative connotations have been placed where they don’t belong. Take for instance the mission of professional leagues to extinguish in-game celebrations (“demonstration,” according to some). America’s No Fun League — aka the NFL — has been hellbent on eliminating nearly every touchdown celebration possible, for fear that celebration “shows up” the opponent. I would take the time to list a few of the NFL’s banned end zone celebrations, but my MacBook is allergic to bullshit.
And David’s stern boot camp of an NBA isn’t far behind, as I’m not sure players are even allowed to dribble between their legs anymore. You know, for fear of showing up the opponent. Reiterating, these oppressive rules trickle down to the nonprofessional levels. I was recently watching a college basketball game between Michigan State and Indiana, and an Indiana player — a freshman, I believe — was assessed a technical foul following his slam dunk. With zero affiliation to either program, I was livid.
Athletes put tireless work into their craft, that when it translates into success in their respective sport the natural reaction for most is to exert emotion. Yet we’re labeling this behavior as deviant.
There are coaches at the high school level being fired because their teams are throwing the ball — with a large lead — in the fourth quarter, or beating opposing teams by 100. Now, the latter may sound a bit jarring, I admit, but what message would be sent if a coach said, “Hey, don’t give your all in this one because they’re not that good.” It’s a stalemate for the coach, because if their team takes that message into the following game and loses, the coach — and players, too — will take the heat for the team “not playing hard the whole game.”
Nonetheless, to revisit the Lombardi fountain of knowledge, the gridiron Shakespeare also once proclaimed that, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
Do we really want to teach our youth the habit of losing?