I’m trying to teach my sons how to lose. My parenting philosophy on this is that the best way for them to learn how to lose is to, well, lose. But this is becoming more and more difficult in a society that refuses to allow such a thing.
It goes back to when I was a kid. I played little league baseball for the Rex Indians and the Rex Dodgers. We were terrible but I got two trophies for my troubles. My little league football team was the Jonesboro Yellow Jackets. As you might expect from a team with a yellow jacket as a mascot, we too were terrible. That didn’t stop us from getting a trophy.
Now that I’m a parent, things have gotten worse. I took my sons to a community Easter egg hunt a few years ago. Once all of the eggs were found, the kids had to turn their eggs back in so that they could be evenly distributed amongst all of the other kids. Had I have known this beforehand, I would have made my kids sit on the curb until distribution time. Egg hunting can be exhausting, you know.
This generation has been called the trophy generation. Generations before got a trophy for winning. This one gets one for showing up. And all of those extra trophies do more than sit on a shelf. They produce a generation of entitlement with what Tim Elmore calls, “an overinflated idea of their own importance.”
This all came to a head last weekend when a few teams didn’t get their chance to win. Things got off to a bad start on Friday night in Atlanta when an umpire made a terrible call that helped the Cardinals and hurt the Braves in their one game playoff. The Atlanta fans went nuts. The game had to be stopped for half an hour so that all of the trash that fans threw on the field could be cleaned up. I’m sure that Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce was proud.
The next night the Georgia Bulldogs played a huge game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Both teams were undefeated and ranked in the top ten. It had all of the makings of a classic matchup. The only problem is that the Georgia Bulldogs apparently thought that the game was sometime next month. South Carolina jumped out to a quick 21 to 0 lead and held on to win 35 to 7.
After the game, Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray came home to find that a few Bulldog fans had egged his house. The next morning Murray discovered that his dad had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Murray called it the worst 12 hour stretch of his life.
And then there was Sunday. The Kansas City Chief’s struggling quarterback, Matt Cassel, was knocked out of the game after receiving a concussion. As he was laying on the field, fans of his team were cheering, not to inspire him to get up but because they were happy that he wasn’t likely to finish the game. As he walked off the field, fans continued to cheer and shout the name of the backup quarterback, Brady Quinn.
For the record, the Braves have spent the last two decades finding ways to lose games in October, even without bad calls from umpires. And the Georgia Bulldogs always have high expectations before each football season. Always. And they always forget to show up to a game or two. Or six. Finally, the Chiefs have not had a good quarterback since Joe Montana made a pit stop there on his way to retirement.
But that’s not enough for fans who have been brought up in a culture where everyone gets a turn to win a championship. It doesn’t take too long in the real world to finally realize that the Braves, Bulldogs and Chiefs rarely get their turn. But for fans who have grown up believing that winning is a right, losing is on the same level as theft. Therefore, throw stuff on the field, egg the quarterback’s house and cheer when he gets a concussion.
By the way, these entitled fans get to vote too and don’t think that our nation’s politicians haven’t figured out the best way to pander to their trophy lust.
My sons are going to compete against individuals and teams that are better than they are. I’m trying to teach them that they can still win. Sometimes effort and technique beats strength and talent. Sometimes it doesn’t. And that hurts.
But winning really isn’t everything. Sure it’s fun but it doesn’t mold boys into men.
Maybe that’s why stadiums are filled, not with men, but with boys. Boys who like to throw things and cheer at the wrong time. Boys who are now grown up but never really grew up.
Boys who never learned how to lose.