Winning is everything


“How you play the game” doesn’t matter.

It should.  Of course it should.  But it doesn’t.

What triggers me to start this usually cheerful blog with such dour comments?  Read on…

Having just finished the first half of the NBA basketball season and its mostly pointless All Star weekend, I was once again made incredulous over the incessant harping on Lebron James.

Forget the reasons for the criticism this time; talking heads need controversy to maintain viewer interest; lacking it they will manufacture one.  The real cause of my astonishment was the near unanimous claim that once Lebron wins a championship, all the noise goes away.

Excuse me?  It’s perfectly satisfactory to consantly micro-examine and criticize this person but as soon as he wins the NBA finals, all’s good?  What exactly changes in Lebron the man or Lebron the player if his team wins four games in a finals series?  Is he a better friend?  Better person?  Better father?  Better husband (or fiancee)?  Is he a better player?

Winning is everything.

It doesn’t require superstars gunning for high stakes rewards.  Let’s keep it in sports for a little longer.

During my weekday tennis games, we struggle to get four players for consistent doubles games.  Consequently, we often play with a player who is vastly inconsistent and has some frustrating tendencies (such as frequently explaining not going after a ball by saying “I thought it was going out”).  Few of us enjoy playing with him, but we enjoy not playing even less.

As a rule, we rotate partnering with him to help minimize the frustration.  When he plays well, he can be a winning partner (or at least he has been for me).  There is some sniping, but no one blows their top.

This past week, one of the guys grew frustrated almost immediately and could not regain his focus for the remainder of the set, losing 6-1 to me and my partner.  The loss of control was seriously heightened by the losing.  Succeeding partners came in with a pre-conditioned expectation of losing (which they did).  Each one (including the man “causing” the problem) had no fun paying.

Eventually, in order to get a final set in, I offered to switch up (normally the winning team stays together and holds the court).  I determined to keep a positive outlook (winning three sets already made that easier) and laughed, took blame for my mistakes and generally complimented my partner when he did well.  And what do you know but we won the set.

I have been plenty frustrated playing with him previously, but when you’re winning, you put up with a lot more.  Or maybe you just don’t notice the negative as much.

Is this any different in other aspects of life?  When you’re in a “winning” relationship, you chuckle at your partner’s quirks.  When you’re in a losing one, those same quirks irritate you.

How about kids?  Forget sports or extra-curriculars.  When they’re doing well in classes, it’s a lot easier to put up with that messy room or not helping as much around the house.  Crappy school results are going to lead to confrontations at home.  Defining what is a “winning” grade also creates the same dynamic, especially if you’re target GPA doesn’t match theirs.

Are you winning at work?  Good workplace?  Likeable co-workers?  Decent boss?  Prospects for promotion or at least raises?  Makes working a lot easier, your mood a lot better and home life more pleasant.  Start losing at any of these (hopefully not all) and things can head south in a hurry.

Apply this too all the other things you do in life:  your health, driving in traffic, shopping, your budget.  How do you feel when you come in “second” on those?

How you play the game?  More and more, that seems to be a no-win situation.

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