Once, someone asked Alabama novelist Walker Percy why the South had produced so many good writers.
"Because we lost," he said.
K-State lost their football game with Texas A&M last Saturday. The game was for the Big 12 championship. If you've been reading my columns, you know that KSU hadn't lost a game all year and was well on their way to a possible National Championship. (They also got really screwed in their resultant bowl selection but I won't go into that here...)
At times like these I wonder why I give a shit about football in the first place. It's just a game (tell that to the ticket and ad sellers). So why do I follow the football teams from my native region so closely? I have experience with these emotions thanks to playoff losses by the Kansas City Chiefs in recent years. Indeed, since I refuse to dwell on it, losing like this produces an odd feeling of relief and release. I don't have to worry about my team anymore, and I can get on with life and focus on things that are truly important.
Losing, so it seems, teaches you much more about life than winning. Immediately after the game, I went outside to smoke a cigarette, and reminded myself that I am a happy person, and I that my happiness is unconditional. The result of some dumb football game has no bearing on how I choose to feel. Feeling good is easy when you win all the time. Winning allows you to forget that you choose your feelings.
I think our society loves competitive sport, and the players play, not just to experience winning, but also to experience losing. Nobody likes to lose, but whether you win or whether you lose you're still the same person. And no one will deny the value of picking yourself up and coming back. It makes you stronger.
So, I guess this would make losers better philosophers than winners. But who needs or wants to be a better philosopher? The fact is this K-State team is not a bunch of losers. They only lost one game out of 12 so far. The 1998 KSU Wildcats have done things that no KSU team before them has done. They finally beat Nebraska. They won the Big 12 north division. And they will be better for losing that game. A&M showed Kansas State that they need that dose of character that this loss will give them. Next year, they will be very determined and I wouldn't want to be a team that got in their way -- be it Nebraska, Texas, or especially Texas A&M.
One thing about being a fan: you don't have to take responsibility. Therefore, you can bitch and blame and condemn all you like and for many fans this seems to be their favorite aspect of the game. But I do take responsibility. I just didn't believe in my Cats enough. When that game went into overtime, I thought that they would lose. And they did. Next year I'm never gonna lose faith. You see, A&M never lost faith while KSU's wavered. Who says you can't learn about life from watching a football game?
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