“[Since your team didn’t win the playoffs, was this past season a failure?]
Michael Jordan played for 15 years and won 6 championships. The other 9 years were a failure? That’s what you’re telling me.
There’s no failure in sports. There’s good days, bad days, some days you are able to be successful, some days you’re not, some days it’s your turn, some days it’s not your turn. That’s what sport’s about. You don’t always win, some other people are gonna win. And this year, someone else is gonna win. Simple as that.”
– Giannis Antetokounmpo
I don’t follow sports all that much. But this quote has been in the news and quite rightfully so, I say. It’s an astute observation of the hidden context and mindsets that (I’d assert) pervades our times, of how quickly we are willing to label things so binarily as winning or failure. And, perhaps even more so, how much importance and single-minded-focus is put on winning, until the notion becomes that winning is the only point. And all to the point where we’re judged by and deemed worthy, or not, based on whether we win.*
But that ignores the ideas of what competition is all about.
It very much misconstrues the ideas of what a game is.
It definitively unnecessarily makes things into zero-sum affairs, very much a false dichotomy.
And we tend to use that concept and language a lot in our own lives in places where it really ought not to. Whether a game or a goal or an idea or a hobby or a practice or a relationship or an interaction or excursion or venture or whatever… it’s success and perfection and a WIN or else… well, yeah, or else, in that kind of dangling threat way. It doesn’t turn out perfect? Then failure is you, and you should feel disappointed and sad and scornful and meek and be in the dumps.
That’s not what life is about! (And, I’d say, not really how life works either…) We can create games, play them, and get some result… and then can either play again, stop playing, or play a different game. And, as Giannis went on to add, everything is a step forward. We learn and grow and can use that in whatever games we play next.
Plus, that’s not even the thing either, really. It isn’t just about the result, or what we can use in the future. It’s about the experience and about being present. It’s the moment-by-moment aspects of it. There’s so much about what we’re experiencing while we’re playing the game, and what we may experience with the result and beyond. (And in the next games we play.)
Nicely said, and a great reminder to check in and, if we’re caught up in that zeitgeist, free ourselves from this prisonous thinking around what victory has to be.
* This is a complete aside, but I also read an article recently on how players are receiving more and more vitriol and death threats from supposed fans because…. Of online sports betting. The ‘fan’ didn’t win their bet? It’s your fault, and you should be punished for it (because you only are here to serve me, the fan, not even to entertain me, but only to make some money). “I’m at a loss for words about how upsetting that is. It so demeans the value of sport — that sport is only for people to be making money out of bets.” — Professor Bruce Kidd