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The Thrill of a Cheap Victory, The Agony of Defeat

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James Martin
September 25, 2012

Last night was the Scandal in Seattle, where the replacement referees committed sports malpractice by making bad call after bad call. Their negligence cost the Packers a win, and Vegas millions. Conversely the Seahawks got a win and some bettors made a bundle. The cheap thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Sports for two millennia have been a metaphor for life; this game was no different. No matter how hard you work, no matter how much you plan or prepare, you cannot account for all of the variables. Sometimes things are beyond your control and you lose. Sometimes there are scapegoats (NFL replacement refs), sometimes there are excuses, and sometimes you just lose. Regardless there are always losses.

I think it is worse to lose when there is an easily identifiable scapegoat. It allows us to assign blame without examination. It is easy to say the game was stolen, but I hope the Packers are examining their poor performance more closely than the horrific officiating. Offensive line, dropped passes, poor passes, poor play selection, all leave room for improvement. The Packers played well enough to win the game, but it was not a well played game. And isn't that the point of sports, to play the game well and then win?

In life we have plans and expectations. We live expecting that we will win, or at least cover the spread. We don't expect to lose, but it happens. Somewhere along our journey our own replacement ref makes a really bad call. Sometimes it is us making the bad call.

The measure of the person is how they respond to that bad call. It is easy, too easy, to be angry and bitter. It is easy to wallow in pity and say "Why me? I don't deserve this." But the time and energy devoted to the bad call detracts from the self evaluation and tremendous growth opportunity that comes from loss.

Loss is never enjoyable and often painful. But in the balance of life, loss gives meaning to winning. It helps us focus on what is valuable. As my journey with ALS continues, I place greater value on things I am losing: time, independence, and mobility. As the game continues, I am still trying to play well and win that which I can.

But I have to tell you, sometimes it would be nice to yell at a replacement ref.



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