Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I read a sports news story today about a teenage girl who was booed by fans at an Indianapolis vs. San Diego playoff game last week when she went on the field to accept an award. The girl, Anna Grant, of Stratham N.H., is a diehard New England Patriots fan. The Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts' longtime rival--and the San Diego Chargers opponent in next Sunday's playoff game. She was wearing a Patriots jersey when she went out on the field to accept the award.

And she was booed.

The story goes on to say that Patriots' owner, Robert Kraft, has invited Anna and her to the playoff game on Sunday, as guests of honor. Anna will be on the field at kickoff (and will, I'm sure, receive an ovation from the crowd).

Kraft said, "Why should a champion be booed? She won an intensive competition. She's supposed to be honored."

Anna said, when she was asked how she felt about being booed: "It didn't bother me at all...I was kinda waiting for it." And who wouldn't? It surprises me, frankly, that this is news. I live in California, home of the Oakland Raiders. And while I've never been to a football game, and know very little about it, I'm told that if you show up at the Raiders stadium in some other teams' apparel (particularly if that team is one of their rivals), you'll be booed. Or worse. In fact, I've heard of clothing being torn off, food and beer thrown, and people even beaten and injured.

The point is, I always thought that it was a way of life: show up at a game in rival team apparel, you're booed (for the record, I'm not advocating harming fan's of rival teams at all). Kraft made an interesting comment. He said that, "Jealousy and envy come in the more you win and people say, 'Give someone else a chance and let someone else do it'."

I certainly HOPE that sentiment isn't what prompted the boo's at last weeks game. But if it is, I'm curious: how long until we begin to regulate the number of wins a professional sport team can have before they HAVE to lose? We do it already, frankly, in so many other areas of life.

Consider this: in our country (in others as well, I believe), we have a progressive tax rate. That is, there are "tax brackets." And as your income ratchets up into a new "bracket", that portion of your income is taxed more steeply (that is, the first $50,000 may be taxed at a hypothitical rate of 15%; the next $40,000 is taxed at, perhaps, 22%; the next $100,000 at 31%, and so on). This, effectively, punishes the more successful among us.

There are numerous examples of this-too numerous to mention. Socialized healthcare; citizenship (it appears as though, in this country, you do better across the board if you're here illegally); education.

Or rather, consider this: how many times have you seen a news story where an immensely wealthy, successful businessperson is referred to in a positive light? Generally, the implication is one of corporate greed.

The point is, we, as a society don't like it when others are successful. When someone's on the bottom of the pile, we mollycoddle them, pat them on the back and provide moral support, tell them that it'll all be OK.

But then, it's easy to do that, because pity for the "less-fortunate" feeds our general sense of human superiority. It makes us, at some embarrassing deep, dark level, feel good when others are in circumstances inferior to ours.

But when someone climbs to the top, and we have to look up to see them, it tears at the base emotion--it makes us feel that we've not lived up to some expectation.

Ah! There's the real issue. To see someone else at the top (particularly when they've climbed over us to reach it), we feel as though we've not met our OWN expectations. And there's nothing more painful than disappointing ourselves. Because we know ourselves, and we know what we're capable of. And if we have any self-respect at all, we know that we had more to give--and we didn't give it.

And we can't accept ourselves. So we resent that guy who gave that little bit more (and perhaps we even try to tear them down).

You've probably done it a time or two; we all have--don't feel bad. But I've noticed something. I have an intense desire to win. I want to reach the top in everything I do. So I study winners. And I try to mimic their attributes.

And something that I've noticed of winners is that when they lose, they look at the guy that won, and figure out why. And they do it themselves the next time. They mimic him; they don't resent him, and try to yank him out of the spot.

They use him--and his experiences--as a rung on the ladder to the top.

The hardest part is that winning, invariably, requires repressing that natural human reaction. How much more productive, in general, would we be as a society if we were all to approach losing in this way?

And how much happier would you be if you wasted no energy on resenting the winner, and instead applied that energy to understanding the reasons WHY you lost, and doing it differently next time?

Try it.

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