Aug. 28, 2014
I hate losing.
I’ve done my share.
Two teams I played with and loved to death this year lost in the final and semi final of their leagues. Overall, not bad at all.
But I still hate losing.
Mostly because I love winning, it matters to me, and I enjoy keeping score. Matters very little what game I’m playing, actually, or who I’m playing against.
A little background…
I never won a tournament with my first club team.
We were AWFUL. Our uniforms were awful, our defense was porous and our offense couldn’t have scored if they’d been standing in a whorehouse with a fist full of hundred dollar bills (which would have been disturbing on many levels since we were like 9).
I was the goalkeeper. So I caught the brunt of this awfulness. Even at that age, I was so not okay with “just going out there and having a good time.” I knew what that meant, and most of the time it was pain. (Side note: Coaches, it’s all fun and games teaching a center back the Maradona until they trip over the ball and somebody… *cough cough* me….takes a ball to the face in penance.)
We lost game after game. And then tournament after tournament. To give you an idea, my dad used to tell me that the reason our team name was the Stampede was because we got Stampeded on…
So when I tried out for and made my first summer select team, I was really happy because we were actually pretty good!
First, we lost a tournament up Montreal. I think they must do the age brackets differently up there, because one team had a girl that looked to me like two girls stacked on top of one another. I don’t want to talk about what happened next, but let’s just say I don’t remember much of it…
Finally, we went to a tournament up in Danbury CT and WE WON. Apparently, that is not something that ten year olds can handle up in Connecticut because instead of being given a trophy and a pat on the back I was handed a participation medal and told not to make anyone feel bad.
Again, I was so not into this concept (I’ve since come around a little bit). I’d done my share of losing. I’d gotten kicked in places no one should ever be kicked. I’d gone to all the practices my club offered – including the ones that weren’t for my team. And at that moment I was covered in dirt and blood, and I felt like the least they could do was give me a stupid plastic trophy.
I realize now it wasn’t about the trophy. I’d won the victories that really mattered (blah, blah...something about character building...blah blah) and was a better player and person for it. But I’ll tell you right now, if winning hadn't mattered to me, I would have done maybe an extra practice or two and refused to dive on the ground in that tournament cause it was just rocks and dirt (I’m not stupid, ya know). We would have come in second or third and I would have laughed about it along with my friends as we all went to get some ice cream.
That image is so not the story of my life. (Believe me I wish it were.)
Instead, I went home and threw that stupid participation medal so far in the back of my closet that I didn’t find it again until we moved out of the house.
Before you go thinking that I’m a soccer-holic maniac, remember, it wasn’t only soccer that I was insanely competitive at (so really, if anything, I’m just a maniac). If I’m doing it, I probably want to win. Even if I pretend like I don’t cause it’s socially unacceptable to taunt your cousins across the dinner table at Christmas.
To this day, what I consider to be one of my greatest victories EVER took place in my seventh grade history class.
We were having a mock trial to determine who burned down the Reichstag in 1933. There were three “defendants,” the Nazi Party, the Communist Party and a pyromaniac (don’t ask, I have no idea how that arrangement made sense). It does make perfect sense, though, that I would be assigned to stand up and say that some random guy burned it down because he “liked fire.” -_-
Nonetheless, I got to work on my case, putting in more time, thought, and energy than anyone should ever put into this topic.
And I’m going to go ahead and claim – please challenge me if you feel I am out of line – that I gave the most impassioned speech ever given claiming that a pyromaniac, and only a pyromaniac, acting alone, and out of the sheer love of seeing something burn, burnt down the Reichstag.
Did I get an A on that assignment? I don’t remember. Probably. What kind of a teacher sees the second coming of Atticus Finch give a life-altering closing argument in passionate prosecution of a rampant pyromaniac and gives her a B? But I wasn’t looking for an A, I was looking for total and unquestioned victory. (In case you were wondering, the vote was 2-1 in my favor despite unconfirmed reports of gerrymandering by the seventh grade boy contingent.)
Looking back, I put a ton of effort into the stupidest stuff. I pulled all-nighters in 8th grade (I know excellent parenting). I played goalkeeper on a gym floor without pads and my left elbow has never been the same.
I’ve cried a lot and really hard over losing. When my club team lost at regionals when I was 16 I spent a week in the same pajamas doing yoga videos. I consider it progress that I only spent 24 hours under a blanket on the couch after we lost in the ACC tournament in 2012.
Part of me wishes I weren’t like that. I wish I’d enjoyed some moments more. I wish I could go back and tell myself “this moment will mean nothing to you when you look back. Let it go.”
But in a larger sense, all the lessons I’ve learned in my life have been learned in the pursuit of something I cared way too much about (stupid or not). I know the outcome is not the most important part. I know how to handle losing (believe me I’ve done a ton). But I like keeping score. And I hate to lose.
Does that mean I’m that girl who comes home from pick up with third degree turf burns? Yeah. Was sliding on AstroTurf to try and stop that goal stupid? Yes. Did I look like an idiot when the player cut it back and scored anyway? Yes. But was it worth it? Eh. Who knows…
All I know is that the day I don’t slide is also the day I know I won’t want to play at all anymore.