For those of us that were fortunate enough to play sports growing up, we were able to experience the joys of victory and the agony of defeat. Although sports are quite a bit different than everyday life, some of the lessons learned through sports can be translated to other areas of life: namely, how to accept failure/losing.
Boys and girls, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a perfect example of how NOT to lose.
Andrew Bynum’s Cheap Shot
Winners and Losers
In every sporting event, there is a winner and a loser. When you expand this over the course of a season, ultimately there is only one winner (League Champion) and 30 losers (give or take a few depending on the sport). At the end of the day, just about every team and player needs to learn how to lose with class. As we saw with Andrew Bynum’s cheap shot (and to a lesser extent Lamar Kardashian’s cheap foul), the Laker’s were clearly frustrated. Who could blame them? They were the defending NBA champs and were on a lot of people’s list to win it all again this year. But then they lost their first two games at home and a third on the road. When it came time to step up and at least make it an interesting series, they fell flat on their faces. As the Mavericks continued to score at will, frustration clearly set in. You could see it in Kobe’s face, Philip’s eyes, Lamar’s shoulder and Bynum’s elbow.
Staying Cool When Down Big
Growing up, I played every sport imaginable, and as a result, I have been on both sides of blowouts. I’ve been in baseball games where we were up by 16 after the first inning, I’ve been in basketball games where the opposing team beat us by 100. But in every contest, our coaches implored us to keep cool. It’s easy to get frustrated when your team is down big. It’s easy to take a little more offense to every bump and foul as the game wears on, but you CANNOT lose your cool. Say what you want about Kobe, but that guy is a classy competitor. He works hard from opening tip to final buzzer, regardless of whether his team is down by 30 or up by 30. As mad as he was yesterday, he never let it turn into a cheap shot. I guarantee you he cared more about losing that game than Bynum and Lamar combined, but he shook hands after the contest (even with Mark Cuban) and congratulated the Mavericks on a well-played series.
Winning with Class
In professional sports, one of the biggest arguments revolves around the idea of “running up the score.” The Patriots are accused of it constantly, often throwing deep passes late in the game when holding a comfortable lead. In baseball, benches will clear if the losing team feels that the opponent is running up the score on them. Basketball is much the same. But in professional sports, where do you draw the line? This isn’t a little league game where children’s feelings are at stake – this is professional sports. Athletes are paid millions to play hard from start to finish (would your boss be happy if you started giving less than 100% at around 2 in the afternoon?). There is a sense of professionalism that comes from knowing when to tone things down a bit, but that doesn’t mean that you stop playing hard. If your team is up by 30 points, you still have to run your plays, execute properly, and score points. Maybe you will think twice about shooting the ball early in the shot clock or throwing alley-oops, but you still need to play the game. When you are winning, your objective should be to quietly execute the plays that got you this far. No showboating, no excessive cheering, just execution. After the game, you can cheer all you want, but during the game, it is classless to try and humiliate the opponent. Sometimes, winning with class can be harder than losing.
Champions are famous because they know how to win, but I have yet to meet a true champion who didn’t know how to handle losing, as well.