The Zero Sum Aspect of Sports
Sports are awesome, but sports are awful. Sports are awesome because they teach you so many good life lessons. Sports are awful because at their core, they are a zero sum game. The greatest sports battles pit two teams against one another that are perfectly even. Despite a perfectly even matchup, somebody must win and somebody must lose. The participants of both teams can give their all, leaving every ounce of energy on the field and yet, because sports are a zero sum game, one of those teams must endure the sadness of losing. This is a horrible thing, but it is also an amazing thing.
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This past weekend I broadcasted a hockey game between the Endicott College Gulls and the Trinity College Bantams. It was by far the best game I have ever had the pleasure of broadcasting. The Gulls and Bantams were facing off for the right to head to Utica as one of the final four teams in the D-III hockey playoffs. The stakes obviously were huge. Both goalies (Kevin Aldridge for Endicott and Alex Morin for Trinity) stood on their heads for more than 80 minutes. The game went into double overtime before the Bantams finally prevailed at the 4:15 mark.
In other words, the Bantams and Gulls played for 84 minutes and 15 seconds. Both of these teams and everybody involved with the game (every player, each coach and even the athletic trainers who had to deal with numerous injuries and a multitude of cramps) were on top of their game for almost three consecutive hours. The only goals in regulation were power play goals. The best players on the ice for each team were the goalies and yet, one of them had to lose.
The one that took the loss was Aldridge. Aldridge made 67 saves in the loss. That was three off from the Division-III tournament record. The Bantams should have scored seven or eight times, but he was unconscious between the pipes and held Trinity to one goal for 84 minutes and 14 seconds before the Bantams finally scored a five-on-five goal on a great individual backhand flip towards net that caromed in off of a skate. However, in the game of winners and losers, he is the loser this week. In what may have been the best game of his life, he took the “L.”
But do not get it twisted. In no way shape or form is Aldridge or anybody else associated with that game a loser. Losing a game does not in of itself make one a loser. The same way winning a contest does not dictate that person is a winner. What you do after the events and the lessons you take from them determines your plot in life. I highly doubt anybody that was on or near the ice on Saturday night in Hartford, CT is the type of person who rolls over and gives up. When you get knocked down in the sporting arena, the only way to lose is to not get back up. You might get sent packing back onto your rump, but so long as you respond each and every time you will never be a loser. This is all cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason.
Sports teaches these lessons about life. It is why sports are so fascinating to people the world over. It is one of the truest and sincerest forms of battle. Two sides agree to a set of rules before the contest so that they start on even footing. Both sides compete and the competition spells out the victor. You can lose the game, but so too in life do you lose sometimes… those are the facts of life.
What you do after you lose makes you the type of person you are. Are you ok with losing? Is being mediocre acceptable? Are you content with average or below average? If that is the case then you are clearly the loser. However, the only real losers are those that take a defeat and do not want to get better. The losers in life are those that do not try to improve daily and do not try to help out their teammates, their coworkers or their family members. But if you are the type of person who can spend three hours on a field and use every single ounce of your energy in an attempt to win… there is no need to look up at a scoreboard when the buzzer sounds to figure out if you are the loser or the winner.