You Lost. Too Bad. Now Move On And Do Better Next Time.
In the pantheon of bad beats, the NCAA semifinal game between Auburn and Virginia has to rank in the Top 10. After erasing a ten-point Virginia lead in the second half, Auburn held a two-point advantage very late in the game. Virginia’s Kyle Guy heaved up a desperate three-point shot as time expired on the clock. It missed.
Auburn fans went wild. Until it was noticed that referees had called a foul. Because it was a shooting foul on a three-point play, Guy was awarded three foul shots. Then it had it be seen if Guy had released the ball before time ran out. After a video review it was determined he had.
As the boos from Auburn fans rained down, Guy calmly sank all three shots, crushing the Tigers and sending the Cavs to the NCAA Final game.
It was the essence of a tough defeat. Afterward, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl accepted the heartbreaking loss. Pearl told reporters after the loss. “If that's a foul, call it. Call it at the beginning of the game, call it in the middle of the game, call it at the end of the game.”
Pearl’s restraint was remarkable in that Virginia should have lost possession of the ball in the final seconds on a double dribble— a foul refs missed. “There are lots of calls during the game, and you're going to get some, and some you're not going to get,” Pearl said.
His point: Sport is not about winning. Winning is like a bird that occasionally perches on your fence only to fly off to other fields. The essence of sport is learning to lose. Losing is a constant companion if you’re to be a sports fan. Coping with the mind-bending losses of your favourite team is the price you pay to exult in those fleeting moments of bliss.
It’s also the nature of fairness. Fairness is the standard we apply to winning and losing in all things. Without the referee calls and bad bounces winning makes no sense.
Wellington is reputed to have said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. While it might be apocryphal from the notoriously tight-lipped Duke, he likely meant that the lessons of adversity, stoicism and perseverance in the face of pain formed the attitude of the British officer class that day in 1815. It allowed the British to defeat a highly motivated, successful foe in Napoleon’s Grand Armée.
So Montreal Canadiens fans find themselves nursing a hurt. They’re out of the playoffs despite a season’s point total (96) that would have let them into the postseason over Las Vegas (93), Dallas (93) and Colorado (90). Montreal’s points were gained in the highly competitive Eastern Conference while the Knight, Stars and Avalanche took advantage of the Western Conference dynamics.
But Has fans will say a resigned “Dommage”. Maybe next year.
This acceptance of defeat is all the more remarkable in today’s culture where losing is now an invitation to simply re-work the outcome of the game. The Jussie Smollett incident for faking a racist attack in Chicago, where he appears to have dodged legal trouble thanks to a compliant district attorney moving the goal posts for him, is classic denial of outcome.
Then there’s the SNC Lavalin scandal roiling Ottawa. The governing Liberals want to create a pathway whereby the giant Quebec-based contractor be spared the criminal process for its alleged bribing. In their zeal to get the results they wanted they went so far as to fire an attorney general who stubbornly supported the rule of law in the case.
Or consider the infamous Mueller Investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election— and specifically Donald Trump’s possible role in that interference. Having staged, promoted and populated the probe, liberals now wish to disqualify its findings because they failed to receive the outcome— the guilt of Trump— they wanted. Democrats in Congress are hellbent on re-trying the results using a different standard. In essence, playing the game over by new rules that will allow them to win. As opposed to Bruce Pearl there is no room for them to accept losing.
The nature of winning and losing will be on display the next two months as the NHL and NBA playoffs unfold across the continent. There will be bad beats and cruel turns of fate for the teams eliminated along the way. There will be a howl of injustice raised a number of times about referees missing calls and video reviews gone awry.
It’s the nature of fairness that it sometimes take a winding road. But in the end all the participants will accept the winners, however grudgingly.
If only, the example would be reflected in the rest of society.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.